Migrant Children: subject of special protection (Part 2)

Our previous blog entry briefly presented the 4 guiding principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the importance of its application in migratory contexts. This article focuses on offering practical recommendations for the protection of migrant children.

The attention of migrant children from a human rights perspective entails the recognition of children and adolescents as subjects of rights. It should be considered that situations such as being an unaccompanied migrant, separated from their family or in an irregular migratory situation can pose specific challenges for the protection of migrant children. The migratory authorities and directors of the childhood sector must design interventions and preventive actions that allow to reduce the risks of violence, promoting at the same time the integral development of children in all stages of the migratory process.

The different experiences, conditions and needs of children and adolescents must also be analyzed and taken into account. Avoid thinking of children as a homogeneous group. For example, the age of the child has important implications for the services and attention it requires. The ethnic group or origin to which they belong can also present significant challenges to establish communication, identify their protection needs and guarantee their access to information about the migratory process, especially if their native language is different from the countries of transit and destination. Similarly, an unaccompanied child has different experiences from those who travel with their families. Other factors, such as having experienced violence along the route, as well as belonging to minority groups could place migrant children with higher associated risks of violence and in this sense demand from the authorities differentiated responses.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

In many cases, the particular needs and rights of migrant children and adolescents are not adequately addressed by the systems of migration governance and child protection due to the lack of coordination and cooperation. IOM offers 4 recommendations to strengthen the services and attention provided to migrant children.

  1. Promote a comprehensive approach in national child protection systems, as well as access to basic services for migrant children. The actions carried out must prioritize the prevention of violence, exploitation and abuse, promote the collaboration between various national and international actors. In this area, it is important to guarantee the access of child protection systems to migrant children in the same conditions as any national child, avoiding the creation of a parallel care system. Likewise, attention must be given to basic services at all points of the migratory cycle, especially to health facilities, safe lodging, education, legal advice, recreation, participation, protection, social security, health and psychosocial attention.
  2. Protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse during the immigration process. Children must be identified as soon as they come into contact with immigration authorities. Migration officials should receive training to identify indicators of vulnerability linked to trafficking, trauma and exploitation. In addition, discrimination and xenophobia must be combated in countries of transit and destination.
  3. Advocate for alternatives to detention. Detention for immigration reasons is contrary to the best interest of children and, even if it occurs for very short periods, has severe repercussions on the welfare and psychosocial development of the minor. Detention must not be justified by the child's immigration status or by the fact of being an unaccompanied minor.
  4. Strengthen the protection of children and friendly procedures for voluntary return and reintegration processes. The opinion of children and adolescents must be heard in processes aimed at determining the best interests of the child. The return must be made only after completing a tracking and assessment of the family, confirming the identity of the parents or guardian, the size of the family nucleus, the composition, its dynamics and the socioeconomic and health conditions of its members, as well as indicators of possible abuse or neglect, or participation in trafficking networks.

The practices previously described demonstrate the need for greater collaboration between government institutions specialized in childhood and migration to respond to the challenges associated with the protection of migrant children. Likewise, more training is required to identify protection needs and design solutions for all stages of the migratory process of this population.

If you are interested in deepening your knowledge about the protection of migrant children, IOM and the Inter-American Children's Institute have developed the "Specialized Course on Migrant Children in the Americas", which is free of charge through the Learning Platform on Migrant Children.

For more information please contact: 

Alexandra Bonnie, Regional Program of the IOM Mesoamerica, Email: abonnie@iom.int

Esteban de la Torre Ribadeneira, Inter-American Institute of Children, Girls and Adolescents, Email: edelatorre@iinoea.or


Sofía Guerrero holds a Communications degree of the University of Costa Rica and a Master in International Human Rights of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies of the University of Denver. She was a journalist at La Nación, Advocacy and International Cooperation Coordinator at Fundacion Paniamor, Communications Coordinator for Executive Education at INCAE Business School, and consultant for the Central American Integration System and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Wordship of Costa Rica. Recently, she worked as a Foreign Policy Attaché at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Costa Rica. 

7 recommendations to promote the inclusion of migrants in host communities through social and cultural activities.

Categoria: Pacto Mundial sobre Migración
Autor: Carlos Escobar

The promotion of social and cultural activities as a mechanism to encourage interaction between migrants and host communities with the aim of advancing in the construction of more just and peaceful societies, is currently a topic of special interest in studies, policies and programs on migrant inclusion and social cohesion.

Taking Intergroup Contact Theory (IGCT) as a reference, different researches argue that the interaction of people from different places and contexts, under the right circumstances, favors trust and the change of xenophobic or discriminatory perceptions. Thus, intergovernmental agreements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration have integrated this perspective into their theoretical and conceptual body. In particular, Goal 16 "Empower migrants and societies to achieve full inclusion and social cohesion", calls for the creation of community centres or programs at the local level to facilitate the participation of migrants in the receiving society by engaging migrants, community members, diaspora organizations, migrant associations and local authorities in intercultural dialogue, exchange of experiences, mentoring programs and the creation of business linkages that enhance integration outcomes and foster mutual respect.

Based on the analysis and review of different research, the IOM, in its publication The Power of Contact: Designing, Facilitating and Evaluating Social Mixing Activities to Strengthen Migrant Integration and Social Cohesion Between Migrants and Local Communities – A Review of Lessons Learned, proposes a series of recommendations, based on empirical evidence, to encourage the participation of migrants and receiving communities in social and cultural activities.

1). Fun and goal-oriented

Designing and incorporating fun and exciting activities leads to a lighter and more welcoming environment for people to meet, interact and create social bonds. At the same time, setting common goals, which neither group can achieve without the participation of the other (cooperative interdependence), makes the activities more engaging and participatory.

2). Mutual appreciation

Participants should understand, recognize and appreciate culture, traditions and history as part of the process of bridging differences, maximizing each other's strengths and identifying commonalities. It is important that all individuals are able to identify how their contributions can have a positive impact on the achievement of common goals.

3). Shared ownership

Involving migrants and local communities in all phases of activities will increase their participation. This ownership empowers them, raises their self-esteem and opens up new opportunities for responsibility and commitment.

4). Guided Reflection

Dialogues and activities that allow for a certain degree of reflection help to create an atmosphere that is perceived as trusting, friendly and warm. Processing information and sharing personal and sensitive stories, which can evoke memories, are of utmost importance as long as they are carefully guided and accompanied by facilitators or project members.

5). Supervision and Trust Facilitation

Those responsible for group interactions, such as team leaders, facilitators, project staff or event planners, must play an active role in promoting equality within intergroup relations and creating an inclusive environment for all. This deliberate effort is crucial to overcome the natural tendency of participants to group themselves according to their most salient characteristics and status.

6). Sustained and regular intervention

It goes without saying that the more frequent, prolonged and intensive the participation, the better the attitude of each individual towards others. This means adopting an approach that rethinks the role of the people involved, who in turn will define the needs of their communities and ultimately take part in the design and organization of appropriate interventions.

7). Institutional support and partnership

The support of institutions such as local governments, media, government agencies and intermediary organizations is critical to promoting and facilitating constructive efforts to strengthen intergroup relations. The coordination of these institutions creates a system that can provide resources and incentives to promote and strengthen intergroup relations.

Social and cultural activities, understood as a programmatic intervention strategy to facilitate the inclusion of migrants in receiving communities, are important to the extent that they offer non-institutional spaces for interaction, where through spontaneous human contact, social ties are built based on experiences, stories, emotions and life trajectories of the participants. This facilitates the generation of trust between individuals, greater degrees of social cohesion and, of course, peaceful coexistence in communities, understood not only as the absence of conflict, but also as a positive, dynamic and participatory process in which dialogue is promoted and conflicts are resolved in a spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation, through the acceptance of differences, the ability to listen, recognize, respect and appreciate others. (UN, 2021).