Children uprooted

Migrant, refugee and displaced children are children first. They have rights and deserve protection.

A child is carried in a suitcase, Syrian Arab Republic

The challenge

Millions of children are on the move. Some are driven from their homes by conflict, poverty or disaster; others are migrating in the hope of finding a better, safer life. Far too many encounter danger, detention, deprivation and discrimination on their journeys.

It shouldn’t have to be this way. The suffering and discrimination of migrant children is unacceptable and preventable. A child is a child, no matter why she leaves home, where she comes from or where she is and how she got there. And every child deserves protection, care and all the support and services she needs to thrive. But too often that’s not the case.

Migrant and displaced children face many challenges in transit and at destination, often because many of them have limited options to move through safe pathways and with their families. They often encounter violence, abuse, exploitation or discrimination. They miss out on education and proper medical care. The fact that they are newcomers can hinder their inclusion – especially hard as they try to learn a new language and integrate into a new culture.

These difficulties have lasting physical and psychological effects.

 The Global Compact

The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration is a landmark agreement that recognizes for the first time that children are central to migration management. It proves 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 the involvement of young migrants in discussions. The compact is being  adopted at an intergovernmental conference in Marrakech, Morocco on 10-11 December.

The solution

Children around the world, regardless of where they’re from and why they’ve left their homes, should be treated the same.

Children should feel safe from violence and exploitation. They should be able to stay with their families. They shouldn’t have to miss school or not be able to go to the doctor. They shouldn’t fear xenophobia or discrimination. They should be able to feel at home – wherever home is.

UNICEF works around the world to help make sure migrant and refugee children are protected and that their rights are respected. We provide lifesaving humanitarian supplies in refugee camps. We run child-friendly spaces – safe places where migrant and refugee children 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 public services that are inclusive of refugee and migrant children, address their specific needs and help them thrive.  We collect, analyse and disseminate data. We help keep families together and provide support to family-based solutions that are alternatives to the detention of migrant and displaced children. We work with governments, the private sector and civil society. We want to empower children and youth who are uprooted with cutting-edge solutions, and make their voices heard.

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


Voices of migrant and refugee children

Uprooted journeys: The role of an object

Risking it all to reach the United States

Seeking asylum in Europe


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.


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.