UN Migration Agency Seeks Better Protection for Unaccompanied Migrant Children in South East Asia
Bangkok – Migrating alone or being separated from parents, relatives or guardians can be a devastating experience for children. Without the care and protection of their usual caregivers, unaccompanied and separated children are at increased risk of physical and psychological harm, abduction, trafficking and exploitation.
In Southeast Asia, data suggest that trafficking of minors continues to exist in most countries in the region, with children typically representing between 30-90 per cent of the total caseload in any country.
To encourage dialogue and cooperation on the issue of unaccompanied and separated child migrants, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is hosting a two-day workshop (28-29/06) in Bangkok for government officials and civil society representatives involved in child protection from six Southeast Asian countries.
The workshop aims to promote better understanding of the specific protection needs and long-term options available for assisting unaccompanied and separated migrant children. Topics discussed include the identification and referral of children, data protection, case management, family tracing and verification, and reunification and reintegration.
Speaking at the opening of the event, IOM’s senior regional migrant assistance specialist for Asia and the Pacific Jonathan Martens highlighted the need for heightened focus on the issue at the opening of the event.
“Child migration is a growing phenomenon in today’s global and mixed migration flows,” he noted. “Although we don’t know the global numbers, over 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in 80 countries in 2015–2016 – a near fivefold increase from 66,000 in 2010–2011.”
IOM migration assistance specialist Chissey Mueller welcomed the workshop as an opportunity for regional exchange and dialogue around common challenges.
“Unaccompanied and separated children are among the most vulnerable categories of migrants,” she said. “They have a right to be protected from violence, abuse and exploitation and it is important that countries have strong protection mechanisms in place to provide the assistance they need and act in their best interests.”
The workshop is part of IOM’s Regional Migrant Assistance and Protection Programme (MAPP), which is funded by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), and implemented in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam.