Pressing Need


The concern for children on the move is a global one. Risk to children on the move include, drowning on sea crossings, malnourishment and dehydration and all forms of violence and abuse including rape, trafficking, smuggling, kidnapping, sexual, economic and criminal exploitation and murder.

Of particular concern is the heightened vulnerability of unaccompanied and separated children who are deemed at even greater risk of protection failures than their accompanied counterparts. Detention of children due to their migration status also remains a concern - indeed, in some countries detention is being utilised as a form of ‘alternative care’. Effects of such detention include ‘excess rates of suicide, suicide attempts, self-harm, mental disorder and developmental problems’ [1]. According to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, children in immigration detention have been tied up, gagged, beaten with sticks, burned with cigarettes, given electric shocks, and placed in solitary confinement, causing severe anxiety and mental harm’ [2]. 

Moreover children both move because of risks of abuse of violence, including sexual violence – and move towards these risks [3]. Risks of sexual abuse and exploitation can occur in the country of origin, en route in transition countries and in destination countries. The Committee on the Rights of the Child with the Committee on Migrant Workers has recognised that a child’s right to life and survival may be at stake at any point during the migratory process, noting specifically:
“Unaccompanied and separated children may face further vulnerabilities and can be more exposed to risks, such as gender-based, sexual and other forms of violence and trafficking for sexual or labour exploitation. Children travelling with their families often also witness and experience violence. While migration can provide opportunities to improve living conditions and escape from abuses, migration processes can pose risks, including physical harm, psychological trauma, marginalization, discrimination, xenophobia and sexual and economic exploitation, family separation, immigration raids and detention”  [4, emphasis added].

These risks will persist without the appointment of suitable and protective care for unaccompanied and separated children – incorporating forms of alternative care that are in the best interest of each child’s needs, circumstances and wishes, decided upon with their full participation and, in full accordance with the UN Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children (the Guidelines). Implementing the Guidelines and other international standards requires dedicated processes to determine the best interest of an individual child, provision of a range of suitable care options and a collaborative multi-sectoral process within national child protection and care systems. To consolidate such responses however, the expertise of all individuals and professionals in contact with unaccompanied and separated children  is essential. There is wide agreement among stakeholders about the urgent need to build the knowledge, competences and skills of this important group of people.


[1] IAWG to End Child Immigration Detention (2016) Ending Child Immigration Detention. IAWG.
[2] ibid.
[3] A child is a child, at p 14,15
[4] Joint General Comment No. 3, at para 40; See also, Joint General Comment No. 4, at Part F your social media marketing partner