Protection of children in migration contexts

The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in migration due to a higher number of crises and conflicts. Children along migration routes are exposed to important protection risks, such as exploitation and child trafficking. They have special needs that are to be recognised and met - yet migrant children are often invisible as a group even though they can constitute almost 50% of a displaced population.

Reasons for children to migrate can be many: conflict, poverty, climate change, lack of access to basic services, persecution and discrimination in country of origin or transit. Being on the road is dangerous and unsafe, especially for minors. While often unaccompanied, they may stay temporarily in cities or at country borders, and may engage in movements presenting serious hazards for their safety and security.

Often, they are exposed to risks such as family separation, trafficking, child marriage, lack of access to basic services and psychological distress. Those risks are even greater for unaccompanied and separated children lacking direct protection from siblings or parents. Depending for example on their age, nationality, ethnicity, religion or the specifics of their family situations, the needs of migrant children can vary greatly. In their journey, girls and boys are also exposed to different risks ranging from sexual and gender-based violence to child labour.

The existing challenges of addressing complex, cross-border, rapidly-evolving migration phenomena require humanitarian and development actors to develop new intervention logics and approaches. In order to adequately respond to the protection needs of migrant children, we are becoming more agile in how we operate (e.g. adjusting to changing routes and evolving political environments) simultaneously in the countries of origin, transit and destination.

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We operate flexible and agile In order to adequately respond to the protection needs of migrant children, we are becoming more agile in how we operate (e.g. adjusting to changing routes and evolving political environments) simultaneously in the countries of origin, transit and destination.

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Switzerland as a destination country With our National Program in Switzerland we support migrant children in Swiss asylum centres. We support the operator organisation to set up child friendly spaces where children have a safe place to play and learn and get psychosocial support to overcome traumatic experiences from their migration journey. This includes guiding and advising the staff in asylum centres for child protection issues.

Protection for children on the move

Bilal (12) takes his younger brother Faisal (5) to the learning center in a refugee camp in Jordan.

Child Migration Platform

The Child Migration Platform is a platform established at Save the Children Switzerland dedicated to facilitating research and the implementation of project in the field of migration, children and protection.

Since 2016, we have designed, managed and monitored migration projects in Switzerland, Europe, Middle East, East Africa and Latin America. This experience has contributed to advance the cause for children along migration routes and has led to innovative protection initiatives.

The core objective of the Child Migration Platform is to translate knowledge from research into practical and innovative interventions in migrant children’s countries of origin, transit and destination. The other way around, the aim is also for new models of project tailored to migrant children to inform the field of study, and make greater contributions to how we protect children in their journeys.

It is critical to question how we operate in the field of children and migration to ensure we understand, and can respond to, protection needs of a new nature.

Sofyen Khalfaoui Head of Child Protection and Migration at Save the Children Switzerland

Migration projects in focus