When I hear the phrase unaccompanied minor, the first thought that comes into my head is the little (or not so little) child that is being walked through the airport by an airline official to make sure that they make their connecting flight or meet their parent like they are scheduled to. So when I first heard that term in conjunction with our mission trip, I was a little confused. Maybe you are as well, so let me take just a moment to share about what an unaccompanied minor actually is when it comes to this mission trip.
As of this year, the population estimates for the main Mai Aini refugee camps range widely, depending on the source you find. There are thought to be between 11,000 and as high as 20,000 refugees housed at Mai Aini. Within that camp, there is a separate section for unaccompanied minors, or a child under the age of 18 without the presence of an adult with them. Since the camp was started in 2008, there have been more than 4,000 unaccompanied minors in the camp, and there are between 1100 and 1400 at any one time.
Many of these children come for various reasons…some have family who forced them to flee from Eritrea so that they would not be placed in the army as a child. Others have lost their parents in civil wars. Some want to reconnect with other family members, and use the refugee camp as a stopping place. Whatever the reason, once they are across the border, they are still alone, with great need, and few resources.
It is difficult for me to imagine giving up my child so they can hopefully find a safer future. Even harder is to wonder how many of these children become statistics as they make dangerous journeys through Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, and other African nations. It is our hope that through our trip we can continue to lay groundwork in a partnership with the camp at Mai Aini to help make brighter futures for these children.
I have included below a video that recaps what Jim Tompkins and Rodney Hammer encountered last time they visited. Having no flight, they had the privilege of traveling over the road, and this was something Jim put together afterwords…Enjoy!
P.S. You can read more about unaccompanied minors here!