UN World Youth Report



WYR 2013 Chapter Five

Awareness and Engagement of Young Migrants

First things first: awareness and engagement go hand in hand

In order for young people to be engaged in migration discussions, they first must be aware of their own circumstances as well as the circumstances of other migrants. But before all that can happen, they need to have basic, reliable information at all stages of their own migration process. During the pre-departure stage, youth need to understand their options and be aware of the potential risks and dangers associated with migration.


Upon arrival in a destination country, they should strengthen social networks and know how to access local resources and services for health, housing and employment. Young people who intend to embark on voluntary return need reliable and accurate information on safe transit and on opportunities in their home countries.

Information can be especially critical during the decision-making, planning and preparation stages. Youth who lack reliable information on safe migration may resort to illegal travel options, which can expose them to risks including abuse, exploitation and even death. A number of organizations dealing with migration issues have made it a priority to develop information campaigns for youth. Young people today tend to have easy access to information—much of it inaccurate or deliberately misleading—and they may be persuaded by traffickers to pursue irregular migration.

Making reliable information readily available to prospective youth migrants is key to preventing and combating risky forms of irregular migration, including trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants. The most effective way to protect potential migrants and trafficking victims is to ensure that they are conscious of the possible dangers. Some of the awareness-raising activities carried out by the International Organization for Migration and other international organizations in various countries target students through school exercise books, cartoons, posters, websites, T-shirts, youth radio stations and newspapers. There is some evidence that these activities have been effective in preventing irregular migration.

Youth-led awareness 101: Young people know how to reach other young people

Youth involvement in advocacy campaigns benefits both the concerned organizations and the young people themselves, as the latter have the opportunity to develop leadership and communication skills while promoting social change. Youth can be involved in advocacy campaigns in both countries of origin and destination that promote the rights of youth migrants, challenge negative public perceptions about migrants and migration, support safe migration among youth, and endorse public policies focused on the well-being of young migrants. Boxes 5.1 and 5.2 offer examples of how youth have contributed to making advocacy messages more relevant and accessible to targeted youth populations.

Box 5.1

HIV/AIDS awareness—undertaken by and for youth

Youth Media: Our Response to HIV/AIDS is an initiative undertaken by Associação Bué Fixe in partnership with the MTV Staying Alive Foundation and several non-governmental organizations in Portugal. The project uses contemporary media resources to promote HIV/AIDS prevention strategies and to help youth between the ages of 18 and 30 cope with being HIV-positive. It specifically targets young migrants from Portuguese-speaking African countries who are living in the disadvantaged neighborhoods of Amadora Village outside Lisbon. The tools this programme uses to get its message across include radio talk shows, text messages, a Facebook page, capacity-building workshops and condom distribution. The radio shows are broadcast not only in Portugal, but also in five African Portuguese-speaking countries—Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Cape Verde and Guinea-Bissau.

Source: Bué Fixe (2013).

Box 5.2

Promoting diversity and social inclusion through video messages

In this age of mobility, as societies become increasingly diverse and cultural and religious intolerance poses a growing threat, youth can serve as agents of social change. The PLURAL+ Youth Video Festival, organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the International Organization for Migration, has been held annually since 2009 to allow young people to share their perspectives on migrant integration, inclusiveness, identity, diversity, human rights and social cohesiveness at the local and global levels. The winning videos are broadcast on a number of platforms and have the potential to influence policies, challenge stereotypes and xenophobia, and promote migration and diversity.

Source: United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (n.d.).


Sociocultural engagement among youth in destination countries

Various factors shape youth migrants’ engagement in sociocultural activities and activism, including their country of origin and background, their status in the destination country, time and resource availability, language skills, the social costs and benefits of participation, and their interest in intercultural relations. The personal attitude of young migrants can also mediate social and community relations. There are a number of young migrants worldwide who engage in social and civic activities such as fundraising for non-profit organizations, environmental conservation, migrant rights advocacy, and participation in national and community events such as festivals. Several young migrants share their experiences below.

Youth Voices- Engagement and Awareness

Pawser, female, aged 19-25 years, refugee, Thailand → United States: I [participate in] many community volunteer activities that are aimed at enhancing the capacity of refugees in Utica and at my school in particular.

Fiona, female, aged 26-29 years, Austria → Singapore: I collect donations for abused migrant workers in safe-houses. I also participated in Ramadan on Wheels—an initiative supporting lower-income Malay Muslims in Singapore during the Hari Raya festivities.

Kelly, female, aged 26-29 years, migrant worker, United States → Australia: I am actively involved in global health and human rights activities within the community.

Although there is some evidence that migrant youth participate in social and civic activities in destination countries, there is little information about the level of youth engagement in migration-related activism in places of origin. Young people appear to be largely unaware of the role of youth and youth organizations play in such endeavours in their respective countries. Nevertheless, they have shown a strong interest in civic engagement as well as an awareness of their potential role in confronting the challenges and exploring the opportunities associated with youth migration.

Rueben, male, age 30, Ghana

I'm not aware of what any youth organizations have been up to in terms of information dissemination to curb irregular migration or other social activities related to migration. However, I believe young people can play a critical role in information campaigns at the organizational level and through peer-to-peer mechanisms.



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The UN Focal Point on Youth aims to build awareness of the global situation of young people, as well as promote their rights and aspirations, working toward greater participation of young people in decision-making as a means for achieving peace and development.

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