UN World Youth Report



WYR 2013 Chapter Three


Figure 3.1 Key migrant routes from Africa to Europe

Source: BBC News (2007). Key facts: Africa to Europe migration.

Migration does not necessarily involve a direct move from a home community to a final destination. Some international migrants transit through a third country on their way to a preferred destination. Many of them remain in transit locations for a considerable length of time—sometimes several years. This is most apparent in certain migration corridors; for example, migrants from sub-Saharan Africa often transit slowly through North African countries as they make their way towards Europe, and South American migrants must endure a long journey through Mexico to get to the United States of America.

Some researchers refer to transit migrants as sojourners, focusing attention on their journey and what happens to them during that period. In travel terminology, the term transit is typically used in contexts that imply a relatively rapid transfer; transit visas are usually issued for three days or less, and transit passengers generally expect to remain in an intermediate country for no more than 24 hours. These examples might suggest that transit migration is, by definition, a short-term phenomenon—a brief stop along a migrant’s pre-planned route. That is sometimes the case. However, with the increase in the scope and scale of human movement, transit migration has correspondingly become more complex and diverse, and there are now wide-ranging categories of transit migrants moving willingly or unwillingly, regularly or irregularly, from one country to another over a period of time. Such growing complexities have drawn increased attention to irregular migration—perhaps diverting attention away from regular forms of transit migration and the situation of youth migrants—and the risks to which transit migrants are exposed in the migration process.

This chapter focuses on the factors that influence the choice of transit countries in the migration process, the features of transit migration, and the challenges and opportunities young migrants are presented with while in transit. Special attention is given to the unique vulnerabilities of certain categories of young migrants in transit and how they should be addressed.



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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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