A report by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says thousands of unaccompanied children and children who have been separated from their families run the daily risk of sexual and gender-based violence as they travel along the world's migratory trails.
"A child who is migrating alone, without the love and protection of a parent, family member or guardian, is arguably one of the most vulnerable people in the world," said Francesco Rocca, IFRC president.
The report entitled "Alone and Unsafe," is being released ahead of next week's meeting in Marrakech where governments are expected to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The compact, according to Rocca, "is a chance for governments to make life safer for tens of thousands - perhaps hundreds of thousands - of incredibly vulnerable children." He said the agreement is "an opportunity that governments simply cannot afford to miss."
The Alone and Unsafe report said when children travel alone, they are at high risk for being assaulted, sexually abused, raped, trafficked into sexual exploitation, or forced into "survival sex." The children's exposure to these threats is unrelenting and follows them from their countries of origin, through countries of transit and into countries of destination.
The U.N. estimated in 2017 that there were at least 300,000 children traveling alone, but exact figures are not available. The IFRC said it believes the figure is much higher.
"The number of children migrating alone or without their families has grown substantially and alarmingly in the past decade," Rocca said. "Tragically, unacceptably, these children are easy prey for abusers, exploiters and traffickers."