Children uprooted

Migrant and displaced children are children first

A child is carried in a suitcase, Syrian Arab Republic
UNICEF/UN0185401/Sanadiki

Millions of children are on the move. Some are driven from their homes by conflict, poverty or climate change; others leave in the hope of finding a better, safer life. Far too many encounter danger, detention, deprivation and discrimination on their journeys – at destination or upon return.

It doesn’t  have to be this way. The suffering and exclusion of migrant and displaced children is not only unacceptable, but also preventable. A child is a child, no matter why she leaves home, where she comes from, where she is, or how she got there. Every child deserves protection, care and all the support and services she needs to thrive.

Yet, too often migrant and displaced children face numerous challenges in transit, at destination and upon return, often because they have few – or no – options for safe and regular pathways with their families. They often encounter violence, abuse, exploitation or discrimination. They miss out on education and proper medical care, and don’t find it easy to feel at home in the communities they arrive in; trying to learn a new language and integrate into a new culture can make things especially hard. These difficulties have lasting physical and psychological effects and prevent children on the move from reaching their full potential.

The solution

Children should be safe from violence and be able to grow up with their families. They shouldn’t have to miss school or be scared to visit the doctor. They shouldn’t be discriminated against because of where they come from . They should be able to feel at home – wherever they find themselves and wherever home is.

Children around the world, regardless of where they are from and why they have left their homes, should be treated the same

UNICEF works around the world to make sure migrant and displaced children and their rights are protected. We provide lifesaving humanitarian supplies in refugee camps. We run child-friendly spaces – safe places where children on the move can play, where mothers can rest and feed their babies in private, where separated families can reunite. We support national and local governments to put in place laws, policies, systems and services that are inclusive of all children and address the specific needs of migrant and displaced children, helping them thrive.

Ecuador. A young girl sits in a UNICEF-supported child friendly space.
UNICEF/UN0326766/Moreno Gonzalez

UNICEF also collects, analyses and disseminates data and gathers evidence about the situation and individual experiences of children and young people on the move. We help keep families together. We work to end child immigration detention by helping governments put in place alternative community- and family-based solutions. We work with governments, the private sector and civil society. We empower children and youth on the move with cutting-edge solutions, partnering with them and making their voices heard.

The solutions exist, and they’re attainable. Learn more about our Agenda for Action to support children on the move.

The Global Refugee Compact

The Global Refugee Compact is an international agreement that sets the building blocks for a stronger, more predictable and more equitable international response to large refugee situations. The Compact, adopted in 2018, gives the international community and host countries a roadmap to better include refugees in national systems, societies and economies, to enable them to contribute to their new communities and to secure their own futures. The four key objectives of the Compact are: to ease pressures on host countries; increase refugee self-reliance; expand access to resettlement and other solutions; and support conditions in countries of origin for refugees to return in safety and dignity.

UNICEF is strongly committed to the Global Compact on Refugees and is working to help reach its objectives. We have documented good practices from our work around the world in support refugee children and young people, as well as those of host communities.

 

The Global Compact on Migration

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is a landmark agreement that for the first time recognizes that children are central to migration management. It shows that UNICEF’s six-point Agenda for Action is doable and provides a framework to bring it to life. UNICEF actively participated in the 18 months of negotiations that led to the final document – including by facilitating the active participation of young migrants in this process. The Compact was adopted at an intergovernmental conference in Marrakech, Morocco, in December 2018.

Voices of migrant and refugee children

Hope and support for young refugees and migrants arriving in Italy

Education – and dreams – displaced in Mali

Walking in Ángel Gabriel’s shoes

Help UNICEF protect and provide for migrating children 

Resources


Action for refugee children: Good practices

More than half of the world’s refugees are children, but displacement should not prevent any child from exercising their rights or achieving their full potential. This booklet explores some of UNICEF’s most successful programmes to support refugee girls and boys all over the world, bringing the Global Compact on Refugees to life.


Child Alert: Children uprooted in the Caribbean

Stronger hurricanes are devastating communities, uprooting lives and putting children and their families at risk. This child alert takes stock of the link between a changing climate, extreme weather events and the forced displacement of children and families in the Caribbean Small Island Developing States.


The Global Programme Framework on Children on the Move

This paper explores the Global Programme Framework, which builds on existing UNICEF programming on migration, adjusts it to cover identified gaps, increase coherence and establish priorities and guiding principles, and provides guidance on UNICEF's work on global migration. 


Child-sensitive return

Many European governments increasingly seek to return migrant children to their countries of origin or transit, but this is often not undertaken in full accordance with international obligations on children’s rights, nor with respect for children’s best interests. This report highlights the human rights obligations and commitments of four governments.


Children "Left Behind"

Millions of children are “left behind” by one parent or both parents migrating to find work, continue their studies, or seek a better life. This UNICEF working paper argues that the link between child well-being, labour and migration policies needs to be clearly established to ensure children “left behind” can reach their full potential.


Alternatives to Immigration Detention of Children

Immigration detention of children is never in their best interests, is a violation of their rights, and should be avoided at all costs. This UNICEF working paper looks at the negative effects of detention on children and offers recommendations for prevention.


Family unity in the context of migration

All children, regardless of their or their parents’ refugee, temporary protection or migration status, have the right to grow up with their families. This working paper looks at why family unity needs to be at the heart of political negotiations.


Protecting and supporting internally displaced children in urban settings

Urban displacement has emerged as a new challenge in meeting the needs of internally displaced children. This report looks at key challenges on the issue.


Equitable access to quality education for internally displaced children

Too many internally displaced children grow up deprived of an education and the long term opportunities it affords. This report looks at some of the challenges and offers recommendations.


Data Snapshot of Migrant and Displaced Children in Africa

More international migrants move within Africa than beyond the continent. This brochure has the latest figures on migrant and refugee populations within Africa.


African Action Agenda for #ChildrenUprooted

By coalescing efforts and investments around the African Agenda for Action for Children and Young People Uprooted, African leaders, civil society, the private sector, multi-lateral partners and young people themselves can unlock and harness the enormous potential that lies in Africa’s children and young people.


A Right to be Heard: Listening to children and young people on the move

As part of a poll conducted in September and October 2018 by UNICEF through U-Report, a social messaging tool for young people, migrant and refugee children provided insights into their experiences leaving their homes.


Children Uprooted: What Local Governments Can Do

Recommendations for concrete actions that local actors can take – and are already taking – to advance the rights of every refugee, migrant and IDP child living under their jurisdiction.


Child Alert: Uprooted in Central America and Mexico

Every day, children and families from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico leave their homes and communities to set off on the perilous journey northward. They risk their lives for the promise of a better future.


Call to action for data

Protecting children on the move starts with better data. Read more about how UNICEF proposes better data on children.


Uprooted

UNICEF paints a global and regional picture of the lives of millions of children and families affected by migration.


Harrowing Journeys

Children and youth on the move across the Mediterranean Sea, at risk of trafficking and exploitation.


Beyond Borders

In this report that compiles good practices and solutions, UNICEF shows that protecting migrant and displaced children is right in principle and practice.