Worldwide, 1 in every 8 migrants is a child. Children migrate for multiple reasons: to flee persecution, war and violence, to reunite with family members abroad or to seek better economic and educational opportunities.

At all stages of the migration process, migrant children are disproportionately vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation, trafficking and detention. Different factors contribute to migrant children’s vulnerability, including:

  • Pre-existing risk factors at individual, household, community and structural levels;
  • Specific reasons why they have migrated;
  • Specific conditions they face during travel, transit and at destination.

This vulnerability is moreover intensified for unaccompanied or separated migrant children. We thus address these children’s needs with strengthened care and specific solutions.

Children and youth are at the heart of IOM’s global mandate on migration. IOM’s actions are guided by international law in this field, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), in particular. We strive to address children’s unique individual needs which may encompass access to education, health care and psychosocial support as well as family unity and various protection measures to ensure children’s safety.

In Belgium, we advocate to promote child-sensitive migration policies and programming, alternatives to detention of migrant children and to facilitate children’s access to protective and assistance services that address their specific needs regardless of their migratory status. IOM also works with partners to encourage responses to migration crises recognizing that children are entitled to specific rights, including protection.

Lack of awareness of the rights of children and migrants, along with limited child-sensitive skills and practices, can contribute to rights violations against migrant children, as well as difficulties in identifying vulnerable children within migration flows. Therefore, we work to enhance governmental and non-governmental capacities to prevent, assist and integrate child protection systems for migrant children.

IOM commits to the following principles in its work with migrant children:

  • Non-discrimination
  • Best interests of the child
  • Life and full development
  • Family unity
  • Non-refoulement
  • Evolving capacities
  • Participation
  • Confidentiality

For more information on the topic, please go the EEA Office website.

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