Working paper: Family unity in the context of migration

For all children in nurturing families, separation from them is deeply traumatic.

Serbia. A boy carrying his belongings in a large cloth bag over his shoulder crosses from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.


  • All children, regardless of their or their parents’ refugee, temporary protection or migration status, have the right to grow up with their families.
  • Family unity protects children’s lives, their development and their well-being. By physically being together, migrant and refugee families thrive and contribute more productively to host communities, thereby encouraging their acceptance and integration. Family unity also lessens the need for irregular migration, trafficking and smuggling and supports the global efforts towards a safe, orderly and regular global migration management system.
  • In the context of migration and displacement, respect for family unity and the right to family life involves: allowing families to move together; for separated families to reunify; and to take into account family unity and the best interests of the child when considering returns.
  • The 2018 Global Compact on Migration (GCM) offers an opportunity to address and remove existing legal and practical barriers to maintain and achieve family unity.