Research webpage on Migration and children

©UNICEF/ HQ04-0737/Jim Holmes - People prepare to cross the Mekong River into neighbouring Thailand in small boats, at an official border crossing in southern Lao PDR.


Over the past few decades, migration - both international and internal - has increased dramatically. Easier travel, greater access to information about distant places, relatives and friends who have migrated and the opportunities for improving living standards all have fuel movements of individuals and families.

Whilst international migration to industrialized countries is important, evidence indicates that around 40 per cent of migrants leave a developing country to go to another developing country. Migration also occurs within countries; and contributes to urbanization and both formal and informal sectors. Additionally, significant numbers migrate from one rural area to another, sometimes across borders.

Migration presents both opportunities and challenges for societies, communities and individuals. Migration alters the structure of families. While it is true that economic factors are major drivers, migration involves highly diverse groups of people, including girls, boys, women, men, and better-off as well as poorer people.

Experience has shown that children are affected by migration in different ways: children are left behind by migrant parents; they are brought along with their migrating parents; and they migrate alone, independently of parents and adult guardians. Other children do not move, but are nevertheless affected because they live in communities that send or receive large numbers of migrants. Some children are return migrants or have been repatriated.

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