A study of the long-term health complications of young unaccompanied migrants uncovered damaging effects on physical and mental health.
According to the study in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, unaccompanied migrants are generally between the ages of 15 and 17, with cases having been reported of children younger than ten.
The study was conducted by University College London in collaboration with UN Migration Agency, Harvard University, Lancaster University, and Médecins Sans Frontières.
Several main migration corridors were involved in the study, including the Central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy through Libya; the Balkan route from Afghanistan, Syria, and Iran to Serbia and Greece through Turkey; and Central America to the United States through Mexico.
The study showed that unaccompanied migrants are vulnerable to mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Poor physical health as a result of migration adversities includes nutritional deficiencies, respiratory and skin infections.
“Unaccompanied children and adolescents are exposed to many risks before, during and at the end of their migration journeys, which can lead to lasting mental and physical health problems. Improving their health must be a priority,” said one co-author of the study in a news release.
“This report highlights the need for more comprehensive data gathering globally. Specific methods for data collection are available in existing toolkits, however greater investments in training and coordination between immigration, child protection, and health authorities at the national level are needed.”