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Inclusion of Children in the Context of Migration into National Child Protection Systems

Child migration can be voluntary or forced, temporary or permanent, and it can occur with or without the accompaniment of a parent or adult caregiver. Children in the context of migration1 include those who are migrating within their own country, across borders, as well as children who remain behind while their caregivers migrate. Some children migrate due to armed conflict, violence, poverty and economic shocks, the effects of climate change, or to reunify with family. Others are drawn to move in pursuit of better opportunities. Too often, the journey increases their risk of exploitation, abuse, neglect or violence.

The rights set forth in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) apply to all children within a State’s jurisdiction “without discrimination of any kind” (Article 2). However, children in the context of migration do not always enjoy in law and in practice the same rights as children who are citizens of the host country. As a result, they are often excluded from national child protection systems. A whole-of-government approach is necessary to ensure that the rights of children in the context of migration are promoted and protected through inclusive systems.

This technical note considers how states can strengthen child protection systems to be inclusive of children in the context of migration. It is based on the joint commitment that IOM and UNICEF have made to advance the rights of children in the context of migration under the IOM-UNICEF Strategic Collaboration Framework (2022-2023). The technical note is designed to build on the complementary mandates and comparative advantages of each agency. The note explains how UNICEF’s Child Protection Systems Strengthening (CPSS) Approach applies to children in the context of migration. It provides promising practices from IOM and UNICEF, government partners, and civil society and offers recommendations for how national child protection systems can deepen synergies with migration systems through coordinated policy, programming, and partnership. The note is organized around the seven ‘elements’ of child protection systems, namely: (1) legal and policy framework; (2) governance and coordination structures; (3) continuum of services; (4) minimum standards and oversight mechanisms; (5) human, financial and infrastructure resources; (6) mechanisms for child participation and community engagement; and (7) data collection and monitoring systems. 

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