Migrant and displaced children
Children on the move are children first.
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 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 to move through safe and regular pathways whether on their own or with their families. They may be forced into child labour, pressed into early marriage, exposed to aggravated smuggling, subjected to human trafficking, and put at risk of violence and exploitation or. They often 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 fit into a new culture can make things especially hard. These difficulties have lasting physical and psychological effects and can prevent children on the move from reaching their full potential.
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 help protect the rights of migrant and displaced children. We provide life-saving 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.
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. UNICEF has developed a ‘Blueprint for Joint Action’ with UNHCR to renew our common commitment to the rights of refugee children and the communities that host them, and to support their inclusion and access to vital services. The blueprint documents good practices from our work around the world in support of refugee children and young people, as well as those of host communities.
The Global Compact for 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. UNICEF is working to translate the commitments that governments agreed to in the Compact document into real change and positive impact in the lives of children on the move around the world, including as a member of the UN Network on Migration.
Uprooted Children and COVID-19
The spread of COVID-19 poses yet another threat to uprooted children. Even without a pandemic, migrant, refugee and internally displaced children are regularly confronted with threats to their safety and well-being. But the frequently cramped conditions many of them live in – with limited access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) – make them particularly vulnerable to the immediate and secondary impacts of infectious diseases like COVID-19.
Migrant workers, refugees and their families often live in the most disadvantaged urban areas, where access to essential services is already limited – services under even heavier strain as COVID-19 spreads. Migrant and refugee children can also be confined in detention centres, live with disabilities, or be separated from their families, making them difficult to reach with accurate information in a language they understand.
Compounding all this, misinformation on the spread of COVID-19 exacerbates the xenophobia and discrimination that migrant and displaced children and their families already faced. Read UNICEF’s agenda for action on COVID-19. Read UNICEF’s agenda for action on COVID-19.