Regional Situation Analysis on Children Affected by Migration in ASEAN Member States
Understanding how children are affected by migration to inform migration policies and practices that are in the best interests of the child
Until recently, children were invisible in migration literature. Migration was viewed as an adult experience, with child migrants typically being seen only as an extension of their parents. As a result, little is known about the unique realities of migration for children, or about the impact of migration policies on them. As such, this Situation Analysis aims to serve as a major contribution to this field of literature, paying particular attention to ASEAN Member States.
This publication places the child at the center, allowing us to better understand how children are affected by migration to inform migration policies and practices that are in the best interests of the child. Importantly, it supports the implementation of the landmark ASEAN Declaration on the Rights of Children in the Context of Migration and the subsequent Regional Plan of Action 2021-2030 that was developed to support its implementation.
While the Situation Analysis provides a comprehensive overview of children affected by migration in ASEAN, the strength of this package lies in the parts that make it up —namely, a legal review, a series of country briefs, five in-depth case studies and a business policy brief.
This annex to the Situation Analysis consists of a comparative review and analysis of bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding (MOUs) related to the protection of children affected by migration between two or more of the 10 ASEAN Member States. It also outlines a review of national laws related to the protection of children affected by migration in each ASEAN Member State against international child protection standards. Its findings, conclusions and recommendations were used to inform the main report.
“Last October I met with two kids who were aged 5 and 9 years old when they were detained. They were detained in Tawau for 1.5 years. Their father and uncle died in detention beside them in March 2021, so for six months they were without a guardian in a detention centre together with adults.” – NGO Representative in Malaysia
In this series of country briefs, the situation of children affected by migration in all ASEAN Member States besides Brunei Darussalam and Singapore is summarized through key findings from the Situation Analysis. Through these findings and data snapshots of migration trends in these states, we get a foundational understanding of the profile of children affected by migration; the drivers of child migration; protection risks; policies, and the laws and services in place for children affected by migration in each state. Each country brief then presents suggested next steps around data and research; laws and polices; and programmes to help address gaps and barriers identified in the research.
These five case studies drill down into pressing issues pertinent to the situation of children affected by migration in five ASEAN Member States. Migration and family separation are explored in Cambodia, specifically the needs, challenges and access to services for children left behind in Battambang province. A deep-dive examination of child labour and other protection risks faced by migrant children living in palm oil plantations in Sabah takes place in the Malaysia case study, while in the Philippines, the focus is on responses to the protection needs of internally displaced children and families in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The impacts of lacking domestic legal status on the protection and wellbeing of migrant, urban refugee and unregistered stateless children in Bangkok comprises the Thailand case study and in Viet Nam, we take a look at child trafficking and exploitation in the context of migration, exploring drivers beyond poverty and the role of businesses in protecting migrant children from such risks.
Business Policy Brief
It is well established that businesses have a corporate responsibility to respect children’s rights wherever they operate. This ‘responsibility to respect’, which is affirmed in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights 2011 (UNGPs) and elaborated by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child applies no less to the rights of children affected by migration. ‘Human rights due diligence’ is an essential part of a business’ responsibility to respect human rights, including children’s rights. Indeed, over recent years, there has been a growing emphasis in the international policy arena on the steps that businesses should – or even must – take to implement this responsibility. The growing emphasis on human rights due diligence will have implications for how businesses respect the rights of children affected by migration in ASEAN. This Policy Brief explores the role of businesses in this context, using industry and country examples.
“At first, we brought our children with us. They were there for about a week but the [company] did not allow us to keep children there because the workplace was dangerous for children. So, we brought our children back here to keep them with my mother.” - Cambodian migrant parent