Growing number of refugees arriving in Canada as unaccompanied minors

Elisée Makola was 15 when she fled Congo. Two years later she arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport alone — a 17-year-old refugee claimant. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

With a suitcase no bigger than a carry-on filled with what she describes as “tropical clothes,” Elisée Makola says she fled to Canada for safety.

Makola was just 15 when she left Congo, a country wracked by decades of violent conflict that has killed millions of civilians and displaced millions more. Children have been forced into prostitution, slave labour and military service for rebel groups, and she feared for her future.

“Mostly it was just being persecuted, being killed — because I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. So I was like, if there was a chance of me escaping that, I will take that chance.”

Refugees arriving in Canada as unaccompanied minors face the dual challenge of adapting to their new environment while also being children missing their parents.

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