Who are the young refugees risking their lives to make it to Europe?

Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Syria

October 14, 2015

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  • Photo: Cristian P Coll for Mercy Corps

“I don’t know where I want to go, but I want to save my dignity and my humanity.” Youth in Lesbos, Greece – September 2015

Of the thousands of refugees arriving every day on Europe’s shores, most are young. In the first seven months of this year, 67 percent of them were between the ages of 14 and 34. These young refugees are travelling from countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, driven from their homes by conflict and instability.

New Mercy Corps research aims to shine a light on why these refugees are moving, what they are looking for, and what is needed to make their resettlement a positive reality.

Following 21 focus groups with over 100 refugees, Mercy Corps found that young people are typically motivated by hope, a desire to build a new life and to contribute in a new country. Crucially, the research also found that youth had reached a tipping point and are determined that they will not stay in war-torn countries or impoverished refugee camps.

Based on the research and Mercy Corps’ extensive experience working with youth in Syria and around the world, the agency has put forward key recommendations:

  • Local and national leaders should adopt policies to enable successful integration of young people into host communities;
  • Governments in the Middle East, supported by institutional donors, should improve conditions and the dignity of refugees, particularly by enabling them to work;
  • European countries should facilitate a range of safe and legal routes for refugees;
  • World leaders from Europe, North America, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific should negotiate a comprehensive plan of action for increasing the number of refuges they collectively resettle from the Middle East.

Read the full report here ▸