Protecting children in danger at the Afghan border
I'm writing from a small town in Afghanistan where around 30 unaccompanied children cross the Iranian border every day.
Running from conflict and poverty, large numbers of young Afghans head to Iran in search of work.
Usually aged between 12 and 17 but sometimes as young as 10 years-old, they're extremely vulnerable.
Once they find work, they're paid very low wages. If they complain to their employers, they're likely to get reported to the authorities and deported back to Afghanistan.
Many are arrested, detained and stripped of their belongings before being sent back to Afghanistan by the Iranian authorities.
With no money and no families, they're seriously vulnerable.
Some may wish to return to their families in Afghanistan, but will have no way of contacting them or paying for transport.
Others will fear returning home empty handed. They may even be owed wages in Iran. For these reasons, many will try to find ways back to Iran.
These children are all at risk of being exploited.
Smugglers pretend to help them but are instead abusive, using them as wage slaves. Unfortunately, many children also face sexual exploitation.
We're at the border right now doing everything we can to break this cycle of abuse and exploitation.
At transit centres, we're providing psychological first aid to help children cope with what they've experienced.
Our social workers also help to trace children's families and escort them back to their homes. Once there, they try to speak to families to explain why it's so dangerous for their children to look for work in Iran.
In the first 6 months of the project, we reunited 1,391 children with their families.
Just weeks ago, we were asked to expand our project to another border crossing further South. We're already up and running, reaching children when they're in danger.
In the first three weeks, we've already reunited 60 children with their families. The project is set to continue and we'll be supporting even more children who are forced to make this dangerous crossing.
About the author:
Sam is a Security Advisor at War Child UK. He oversees the security across all of our projects in the Middle East, Asia and Africa and supports in-country operations.