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Geraldine Sadoway

Canada has no national policy to take care of separated refugee children . . . Separated refugee children seem to fall into the gap between federal responsibility for immigration and provincial responsibility for youth protection.1 The Committee [CRC] urges the State party to bring its immigration and asylum laws into full conformity with the Convention and other relevant international standards and reiterates its previous recommendations (CTC/C/15/ Add.215, para. 47, 2003). There are many examples of children and youth who travel alone or with friends, separated from parents or legal guardians, to reach a safe place such as Canada in order to escape danger in their home country.3 According to recent estimates, as many as 3,000 unaccompanied children arrive in Canada seeking refugee status every year.4 Sometimes the children are orphans, or have become separated from their parents due to war or civil unrest. Sometimes the parents (or one of the parents) are the source of danger to the child. Some young people have fled their homes due to abuse by a parent or relative and they cannot obtain effective protection from the authorities in their own country. Children may be victims of illegal trafficking groups or may be targeted for kidnapping in order to extort money from parents or relatives who have travelled abroad to seek employment. Sometimes very young children are sent out of the home country by their parents with friends or relatives or with paid agents, in order to save the life of the child due to serious dangers facing the entire family in the home country, or in the country of first asylum.5 Although there is no single explanation for the fact that children are crossing international borders on their own, it is very clear that such children constitute an extremely vulnerable group of migrants that require special measures of protection.