Children on the move

Protecting children affected by migration

UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Daniele Romeo

The challenge

Migration is a significant and longstanding feature of Myanmar society.  Around 4.25 million migrants from Myanmar are believed to be living in other countries, many in neighbouring Thailand. Internal migration is also widespread. Inside Myanmar, one in five people are lifetime migrants, according to data from the most recent national census. 

While migration can benefit children and their families, it can also place children in situations of risk.

This is particularly the case where children are moving outside of safe and legal pathways. In such situations children may be unable to access basic services, and legal recognition, by host governments. They can become more vulnerable to exploitation by smugglers and traffickers. Their rights may be violated in a context of repressive responses to immigration control.

Migration, by its nature, is challenging to track. In Southeast Asia and other regions, there is a great need for more data on migration, including on how migration affects children. Better data helps the development of policies that can ensure children receive the protections they need.

UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Daniele Romeo

The solution

UNICEF’s emerging focus on children and migration complements our ongoing advocacy for inclusive national child protection systems.  

In Myanmar this includes strengthening the capacity of social workers to address the needs and rights of children affected by migration. 

UNICEF Myanmar is participating in a multi-country programme co-funded by the European Union (EU) to ensure that children affected by migration are protected and their rights recognized by regional and international bodies, as well as national bodies. 

The programme works to ensure that all child protection systems include children affected by migration, and their needs and rights to access basic services such as education and health. For children who come into contact with the law or other authorities, we advocate for alternatives to detention, as well as for an end to child immigration detention. We also advocate for decisions about children’s long-term-care to be evidence-based and in the child’s best interests.

In addition, the programme works to ensure that the rights and protection of migrant children are prioritized by key ASEAN intergovernmental bodies – and that regional child protection networks and cross-border collaboration mechanisms are established, including for case management and information-sharing to do with family tracing and re-unification.

UNICEF advocates for more data and evidence on children and migration, to support policy making.

UNICEF Myanmar/2016/Daniele Romeo


UNICEF’s long-standing collaboration with the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Department of the Myanmar Police Force, and the Department of Social Welfare, works to ensure the development of legislation and procedures on trafficking takes into account the rights and needs of child victims. 

Protection and reintegration services for trafficking survivors are funded, and capacity building for frontline staff working in prevention, protection, and law enforcement is supported.

In conflict-affected areas, we support partners and NGOs to include child protection measures in all programming, including increasing awareness among frontline workers and communities around the risks of trafficking. UNICEF has also supported the police and civil society organizations to design information materials aimed at preventing trafficking of women and girls to China.

Other vulnerable children

Together with the Government and partners, UNICEF works to address the situation of children living away from home in residential facilities.

With UNICEF support, guidelines on minimum standards of care and protection for children in residential facilities have been developed.

The first national foster care guidelines have also been developed, and a small pilot project with nine foster care households is underway.