In the crisis of refugee dislocation or unwanted migration, it is children who suffer most severely. The sudden displacement of a family and its transfer to a refugee camp or temporary settlement can combine to disrupt the child's security, interrupt his schooling, expose him to serious health hazards and malnutrition, and mar his sense of confidence in his fellow man - all at a critical stage of his intellectual, moral and physical development.
In 1989, of the 13 million refugees of concerned to UNHCR, over half were children and young people of school age who either sought refuge with their families, or had arrived unaccompanied in their countries of asylum. In the regions where UNHCR was working reports of child victims of physical abuse, harassment, torture, abduction, sexual abuse and arbitrary detention were frequent and widespread. Such violations often go unreported and unpunished, and the victims often remain unassisted. Refugee children are not only the victims of violence but sometimes also the participants, whether or not unwillingly. In certain countries, refugee children have been subjected to forced conscription into armed groups. Children are often detailed for illegal entry and then confined in closed camps or centres often located in conflict areas.
Following the panic evacuation of children prior to the Bosnian war, concern has been expressed regarding the whereabouts and situation of hundreds of children who were hastily evacuated to neighbouring countries and beyond without adequate preparation, documentation and mechanisms for continued contact with their families. It is recognized that many of them may never be reunited with their parents especially if they are adopted.