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Children and migration: rights, advocacy and resilience

Children cross borders – within and between countries – in varying circumstances and for different reasons, both voluntary and involuntary. Economic, socio-political and environmental factors can influence children and their parents’ decision to migrate. Poverty has also been a key driver of child migration, particularly from rural to urban locations, but it’s becoming clearer that the poorest cannot so easily migrate to another country. Children are also trafficked to provide labour or are forced to move because of political violence or environmental disasters.

Although domestic migration of children occurs frequently, it is often incorrectly perceived as an everyday phenomenon. International migration of children is now more visible, and because of conflict-induced migration, it is understood as distinct and traumatic. Mobility pathways deeply impact on a child’s development and we need to gain better understanding of their  migration patterns.

While vast amounts of data now exist chronicling the lives of migrants, we have less understanding of the movement of young people. Child-sensitive research in this area is essential and can explain intricate dynamics not captured by more general research. Historically, receiving, transit and origin societies have been more tolerant of the migration of children and youth. Some have an exploitative interest in child migrants and others recognize that the international community must commit to protecting child migrants.

Our new programme builds on Innocenti’s existing expertise and UNICEF’s work on the ground with children in the areas of protection, justice, violence prevention and well-being.
Children and migration: rights, advocacy and resilience

Children cross borders – within and between countries – in varying circumstances and for different reasons, both voluntary and involuntary. Economic, socio-political and environmental factors can influence children and their parents’ decision to migrate. Poverty has also been a key driver of child migration, particularly from rural to urban locations, but it’s becoming clearer that the poorest cannot so easily migrate to another country. Children are also trafficked to provide labour or are forced to move because of political violence or environmental disasters.

Although domestic migration of children occurs frequently, it is often incorrectly perceived as an everyday phenomenon. International migration of children is now more visible, and because of conflict-induced migration, it is understood as distinct and traumatic. Mobility pathways deeply impact on a child’s development and we need to gain better understanding of their  migration patterns.

While vast amounts of data now exist chronicling the lives of migrants, we have less understanding of the movement of young people. Child-sensitive research in this area is essential and can explain intricate dynamics not captured by more general research. Historically, receiving, transit and origin societies have been more tolerant of the migration of children and youth. Some have an exploitative interest in child migrants and others recognize that the international community must commit to protecting child migrants.

Our new programme builds on Innocenti’s existing expertise and UNICEF’s work on the ground with children in the areas of protection, justice, violence prevention and well-being.

LATEST PUBLICATIONS

Current times are characterized by unprecedented migration levels: millions of people are on the move worldwide. Thus, understanding why people decide to migrate is a major goal of policymakers and international organizations, and migration has become a prominent issue on the global research agenda. Traditional migration drivers can be divided into reasons to leave (‘push’ factors) and reasons to migrate (‘pull’ factors), and include income deprivation, dissatisfaction with public services and institutions in the home country, conflict and war, climate change, and social networks abroad. In this paper, we focus our attention on children’s well-being as a potential migration driver. We investigate it by using the Gallup World Poll, a repeated cross-section dataset of a survey conducted in more than 150 countries from 2006 to 2016. We estimate the association between planned and intended migration and children’s perceived well-being using logit models with standardized coefficients, robust standard errors, and year and country fixed effects. Estimates reveal a positive and statistically significant association between child-related concerns, migration intent and plans. In particular, the probability of individuals having migration intent and plans increases where they report lower levels of satisfaction with child-related issues, as measured by the Youth Development Index, an index driven by indicators of respect for children and satisfaction with the education system. Moreover, children’s well-being affects more individuals living in households with children than those without. Finally, migration is a child- and youth-related phenomenon: young individuals would like to migrate, and plan to do so, more than older individuals.

AUTHOR(S)

Sara Burrone; Bina D'Costa; Goran Holmqvist

This paper examines a range of tools, guidelines and formats available to monitor and evaluate various aspects of national responses to migrant children and argues for the need to integrate them into a single coherent, child focused, rights-based framework. Their current disparate application leaves gaps in the child’s protective environment and is not consistent with a holistic, child rights-based approach. Building on an analytical framework adopted by the Council of Europe in March 2018 to support a child-rights based approach by local and regional authorities to migrant and asylum-seeking children, the paper puts forward for consideration an integrated evaluation framework that incorporates and links existing practice models in order to ensure quality child-centred monitoring at each and every stage of the migration process.

AUTHOR(S)

Kevin Byrne

This research, commissioned by the Nordic National Committees for UNICEF, examines to what extent the rights of asylum-seeking children are respected and protected in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. The report reviews relevant national legislative and policy frameworks; examines how these are implemented; documents good practices; and highlights gaps in national standards and their compliance to international standards. It makes some broad recommendations on how to strengthen and extend legal, policy and practice frameworks to ensure the full realization and protection of child asylum seekers’ rights and entitlements in the Nordic region. It further provides country-specific detailed, practical recommendations on how to ensure protection and welfare for asylum-seeking children. It makes country-specific recommendations on how legal, policy and practice frameworks can be strengthened to ensure full protection of children’s rights and entitlements.

Drawing on Europe’s experience, this brief provides a cross-country comparative overview of inequality affecting children in the migration pathway, who are often described as 'children on the move'. Following a brief overview of the policy and practice in relation to various categories of refugee and migration children in Europe, it reflects on the performance of the countries with regard to Target 10.7 of the SDG.

AUTHOR(S)

Emilia Toczydlowska; Bina D'Costa

This brief takes a deep dive in the semantics and conceptual issues in the children and migration discourse, and highlights some of the key implementation gaps. It offers a summary of the risks, vulnerabilities and protection needs of children as refugees and migration in Europe. Using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the normative frameworks, this brief also emphasizes how the voices of children in migration pathway must be heard and respected.

AUTHOR(S)

Bina D'Costa; Emilia Toczydlowska

The extent to which the socio-demographic composition of child populations drives inequality in child well-being depends on which children are most likely to do much worse than their peers. In this Research Brief we present evidence on the socio-economic vulnerability of immigrant children and highlight the relative contribution of immigrant background to the risks of falling behind in household income, education, health and life satisfaction.

AUTHOR(S)

Zlata Bruckauf; Yekaterina Chzhen; Emilia Toczydlowska

This research sets out to understand the why, how and with whom of rural-urban internal migration of children to Ressano Garcia, a border town between Mozambique and South Africa. It addresses the overarching research question of how to strengthen child protection systems for unaccompanied migrant children. By identifying children’s reasons for migrating, it identifies the main risks they encounter once they start living and working in Ressano Garcia. These include: lack of access to educational opportunities, exposure to child labour exploitation, trafficking and smuggling.

AUTHOR(S)

Andrea Verdasco

The study was initiated with twin aims: improving understanding of child trafficking and responses in the region; and contributing to the international discourse on child trafficking by examining the linkages between anti-trafficking responses and child protection systems. Although the study was conceived with a primary focus on trafficking, its scope is much broader. It analyses how the general principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child are applied in relation to those children vulnerable to trafficking and other forms of exploitation. The research finds that many existing gaps may be bridged by consistent and strengthened implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The study was initiated with twin aims: improving understanding of child trafficking and responses in the region; and contributing to the international discourse on child trafficking by examining the linkages between anti-trafficking responses and child protection systems. Although the study was conceived with a primary focus on trafficking, its scope is much broader. It analyses how the general principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child are applied in relation to those children vulnerable to trafficking and other forms of exploitation. The research also finds that many existing gaps may be bridged by consistent and strengthened implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

During recent decades most affluent countries have experienced large increases in the number and diversity of immigrants, and accordingly it is anticipated that children in immigrant families will play an increasing role in these societies. However, while their social, economic and civic integration is of critical policy relevance, there is little statistical evidence available on this segment of the population. The study helps to fill the knowledge gap by presenting internationally comparable statistics on children in immigrant families in eight affluent countries - Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

MORE PUBLICATIONS

Project team

Bina D'Costa; Emanuela Bianchera; Patrizia Faustini; Iolanda Genovese


Conference and Meetings

Annual Meeting Human Rights, Migration and Global Governance (ACUNS)

ASEM Seminar Human Rights and Children

Second Global Meeting on Children on the move

The Migration-Deportation Nexus


Blogs

30.6 million new internal displacements in 2017, children are among the most vulnerable

How voluntary guardianship for unaccompanied minors took root in Sicily

Children and Migration Decision: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll

Migration, hate speech and media ethics

Why research should be a priority in the global response to the child migration crisis

Migrant and refugee children face higher rates of bullying


Podcasts

Protected on Paper? An analysis of Nordic country responses to asylum-seeking children

Bina D'Costa on migrant and refugee children and the role of research


Commentaries

Syrian refugees and child marriage

Life (and death) of Rohingya children - No place to hide

Asia’s Child Migrants


Related Innocenti publications

Economic Transfers and Social Cohesion in a refugee hosting setting

No Lost Generation - cash transfer program for Syrian Refugees


What's new stories

Forced Displacement of Children in the Italian Context


Knowledge Pages

Children and Migration


Related external links

Economic Transfers and Social Cohesion in a refugee hosting setting


External website

Children Uprooted campaign

UNICEF Agenda for Action for Children on the move


RESEARCH WATCH

Children on the move