One in four youth migrants is African

Youth migrants

Youth migrants

The recent unrest in North Africa in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya has increased the number of children and youth fleeing from conflict, moving in search of work and freedom. Out of the 35 million young migrants worldwide, one in four is African.

This week delegates and child safety experts met at the United Nations for a conference on youth migration to discuss how to protect children and youth on the move. 

Radmilla Suleymanova reports, 

One in four young people who migrate is African. And 27 percent of them are children- between the ages of 10 and 14 years old. 

A conference was held at the UN this week to discuss how to protect children on the move and enhance their contributions to development.  

Ambassador William Lacy Swing is the Director General at the International Organization for Migration

"Much of what you see happening in North Africa and the Middle East relates to youth and youth unemployment and the fact that youth today with access to the internet have much information and generally can know what's going on anywhere at any time." 

The global economic crisis is causing more young people to move in search of work. Ambassador Swing says that there are two options in approaching the situation. 

Swing: "There is a high road scenario and there's a low road scenario. The low road scenario basically says we don't believe these realities; we deny them and we're going to manage somehow without migration. We close our doors; we tighten our visa regimes and say you stay home. That's part of the low road scenario. The high road scenario says we need these people, we should not only control our borders but we should facilitate the movement of people to the jobs that are there waiting for them."

 Olivier Ferneyrol from Terre dos Hommes, an international non-governmental organization, spent ten years on the ground in West Africa working with child migrants.

 "They are looking for a better life and a means to help their family. But sometimes you have also very personal reasons. Children who are abused in their family, they feel exploited or they are dreaming of another life and they are willing to leave even if it's very risky."

 Without protection or papers, child and youth migrants often face many dangers which include trafficking and prostitution.

 Oliver: "It's very dangerous to cross mountains, to cross different places without any protection and especially because they want to be invisible. They don't want the authorities, the NGOs, the agencies to know that they are leaving because it is forbidden." 

Ferneyrol says that a new approach should be considered. Instead of looking at children and youth migrants as a problem, he says, international child protection organizations should set up an open dialogue with children so that they are not secretive above their movement and possibly exposed to danger.

Radmilla Suleymanova, United Nations

Duration: 2’27″

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