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UNICEF and migration

UNICEF, guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, takes the position that the impact of migration on children, adolescents and women must be seen in the broader context of poverty, regional conflict, gender issues and children’s rights.

UNICEF is committed to protecting children the world over, including the millions of children who are affected by migration.  With interagency cooperation between the United Nations, government and civil society partners, UNICEF provides leadership at the country and global levels in developing evidence-based, action oriented policy to secure the basic rights of children, adolescents and women affected by migration.

UNICEF is particularly concerned with reducing the often severe social costs of migration and remittances for children in developing countries, and engages in local capacity-building efforts and policy dialogues aimed at generating social protection measures and legislative reforms that in UNICEF’s view are fundamental to the realisation of the rights of affected children and women as well as to effective development.

Migration in context: a multidimensional perspective is crucial to securing the well-being of children and women affected by migration processes

International migration has grown exponentially in recent decades. Globalization and economic development have benefited from migration trends while at the same time fuelling them. Today, over 214 million migrants live outside their country of birth, and women make up nearly half of all migrants around the world. 

Children are affected by migration on multiple levels: when they are left behind by one or both migrating parents, in migrating with parents (or born abroad), or when they migrate alone. 

Migrant children, who are crossing borders in greater numbers, face serious risks at every stage of the migration process. Children and women, especially those migrating without documentation, are vulnerable to trafficking, abuse and exploitation. In countries of transit and destination, migrants and their families often find themselves victims of discrimination, debilitating poverty and social marginalization. The millions of undocumented migrants often have difficulty accessing educational and basic social services, and must live in fear of arrest and repatriation.

In countries of origin, a growing number of children are left behind by one or both parents. While remittances (funds sent home to the country of origin) may help reduce poverty and spur economic development, the effects of “brain drain” and parental absence can take their toll. Children and women left behind must frequently take on full household responsibilities and endure social stigmatization. UNICEF country studies also suggest that children and adolescents left behind may be at greater risk for drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, psycho-social dysfunction and criminal behaviour.

UNICEF and UNDESA develop Migration Profiles Common Set of Indicators

Migration Profiles Common set of Indicators (MPCSI) was acknowledged, during the thematic Workshop on “Migration Profiles: Developing Evidence-based Migration and Development policies,” held by the 2011 Swiss Chair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development , as an efficient tool that could “facilitate international comparisons” for more coherent migration and development policies.

As member of the Global Migration Group (GMG) on Research and Data, UNICEF in collaboration with the Population Division of UN/DESA has compiled and developed a common set of indicators on international migration and development.

GMG member agencies have endorsed the common set of indicators presenting data at the national, regional and global levels which are relevant to understanding the levels, trends and age profiles of children and adolescents within the context of South-South and South -North migration. This includes in particular, estimates of the global stock of international migrant children by age and sex and human development indicators such as life expectancy at birth (in years). Furthermore the MPCSI also covers topics that are relevant to understanding the condition of children, adolescents and youth in the context of migration, including remittance flows and the adoption of legal instruments related to international migration (such as the Convention on the Rights of the Children- CRC). The data was collected from a range of internationally recognized sources including UN/DESA’s World Population Prospects and World Urbanization Prospects, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP). UNICEF is committed to this work and will continue to update the database regularly to ensure its reliability and relevance for the design of evidence based policies.  To access the Migration Profiles (MPs) common set of indicators please visit: http://esa.un.org/MigGMGProfiles/MPCSI.htm   



Documents and publications

  • Global Economic Crisis and Recovery
  • Child Poverty and Disparities
  • Social Protection
  • Migration
  • Social Budgeting

Latest news

The Road to Pratolino
Global Consultation on Social Policy, Equity, Rights and Development
21-24 Feb 2012

Migration, Development and Children Left Behind
Rodolfo de la Garza

This working paper examines the relationship between migration and development from a multi-faceted perspective.

Children, Adolescents and Migration
Rhea Saab, Bela Hovy and Rogel Nuguid

Cooperation between developing countries has sought to develop and exchange resources, technology and knowledge on how to address the needs of those impacted by migration.

Mainstreaming Migration, Development and Remittances
Susanne Melde and Dina Ionesco

Migration flows continue to grow and diversify and have yet only in the past years gained increased attention in development debates. UNICEF and UNDESA develop Migration Profiles Common Set of Indicators