UN World Youth Report



WYR 2013 Chapter Two

Preparing to Move: Information, Costs and Dreams

The need for information during migration planning and preparation

Information is essential for youth planning to venture, quite literally, into unknown territory. At the pre-migration stage, young people need to know how to obtain a visa, choose and secure a means of travel, and make accommodation arrangements in transit and destination countries. Nowadays, many potential youth migrants have access to mobile phones, the Internet and other ICT tools to obtain travel-related information, to communicate with others in destination societies, and to acquire important information about the socio-economic conditions and lifestyle in the areas where they plan to live.

Research shows that family members are the principal sources of information for many young migrants. These sources may be reliable or unreliable. Inaccurate information and a lack of awareness about the legal and administrative requirements for migration can delay or complicate the process and may put youth migrants, especially young females, at risk.

Migration information and training

It is becoming increasingly clear that initiatives developed to disseminate reliable migration information to prospective youth migrants and appropriately train migration counsellors can significantly reduce the negative effects and enhance the positive outcomes of migration (see box 2.2).

Youth-friendly information campaigns in countries of origin can change common misconceptions about migration among potential youth migrants, providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to make informed decisions. Campaigns in countries of destination can also influence public opinion about migration and the contribution, rights and responsibilities of migrants. These campaigns may discourage illegal or irregular migration among youth, make young migrants aware of their rights and responsibilities abroad, and foster dialogue and action on a wide range of youth migration challenges. Reliable information is also critical for raising awareness on the possibility of voluntary return among young migrants.

Accessing electronic information on migration

The Internet and other ICT resources offer young people fast and easy access to a wealth of migration information (see box 2.1). Youth can familiarize themselves with visa requirements, immigration regulations, transportation options, and information about transit and destination societies. They can also communicate directly with individuals already living in their desired locations via social media networks such as online blogs, Facebook or Twitter.

Box 2.1

IOM migrant training and pre-departure orientation programmes:

making migration-related information available for youth

Programme overview

  • The migrant training programmes developed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) provide
    targeted, practical guidelines for practitioners assisting migrants preparing to travel to a new country.
    Between 2001 and 2010, more than 350,000 migrants benefitted from the briefings. The training
    programmes have evolved over a period of 60 years to meet emerging needs. IOM works
    closely with Governments and relevant institutions on training design and undertakes regular reviews
    and assessments to improve services for migrants.

  • In terms of programme methodology, IOM promotes an interactive, learner-centred approach that encourages
    participation and creates a sense of ownership and belonging among participants. Interaction with peers and
    experts and space for self-expression are vital components of the training. Psychosocial well-being is a
    priority of the training programmes; treating young people with dignity and compassion increases their
    confidence and their chances of successful integration.

Programme content

  • Pre-departure training is designed to help migrants with the logistical aspects of their travel abroad.
    Migrants learn about the required documentation and what to expect at each stage of their journey
    (departure, transit and arrival).

  • Cultural orientation is provided to educate migrants about the cultural norms and values of the
    host society and to acquaint them with the positive and negative aspects of living in a particular
    country. Young migrants often experience culture shock, and the training teaches them coping
    mechanisms that can facilitate their cultural adjustment.

  • Migrants are given practical information about the host country so that they are better prepared to
    deal with the requirements of daily living. Areas of focus within this framework include physical
    geography and the environment, legal rights and responsibilities, education and training,
    employment, banking and budgeting, housing, health care and transportation.

  • Prior to their departure, migrants are informed about the services they might expect to receive
    from (re)settlement agencies in their host countries.

  • The migrant training guide published by IOM includes additional guidelines for trainers
    addressing the needs of special groups of migrants, including youth, children, parents,
    the elderly, non- or less-literate individuals, women and escorts. The section relating 
    to youth focuses on issues such as dating and sex, fashion and consumerism, illicit drugs and
    alcohol use, employment, education and family relations.

Sources: International Organization for Migration, Migrant Training: Generic
Guide for Practitioners
(Geneva, 2005), available
; and  International
Organization for Migration, “Migrant training—introduction: key issues,
challenges and essential facts and figures”, available from
Also see International Organization for Migration, “Best practices: IOM’s
migrant training/pre-departure training programs”,
available from


For those with access to electronic resources, self-education has become relatively simple and straightforward; however, youth are often faced with the challenge of ascertaining the reliability of information from these sources. It has been argued by some that limitations stemming from the digital divide and the poorer trustworthiness of virtual connections can create a number of hazards for youth migrants. In some respects, migrants who rely on social media resources are at a relatively high risk of becoming victims of certain form of abuse, or of serving the personal interests of the information provider. Virtual connections (weak ties) may often be more information-rich, but personal connections (strong ties) are often more trustworthy.

Many Governments publish lists of registered and approved businesses and may have information on how to verify offers of employment in destination countries. Although embassies and consulates are considered reliable sources of information, most of the consultation and survey participants report that easily accessible and verifiable information on safe migration is unavailable in certain languages. Below are a number of comments relating to the availability of information for migrants.

Youth Voices on Information Pertaining to Migration

Zain, male, age 26, family migrant, currently living in Denmark: Zain is a young man—age 26. His family migrated to Denmark thirteen years ago. The main purpose was to gain access to better opportunities. They were partially aware of migrants’ rights, and they learned about them mainly through news and social networks. Denmark is a welfare state, so his family was provided with all their basic needs, and it has become like home. 

Raluca, female, age 26 Romania → Belgium: The European Youth Portal provides a lot of useful information on work and volunteer exchanges. Indeed, the Internet remains the best option for ensuring awareness of migrant rights [and opportunities].

Technology is rapidly becoming a key component of the migration process for many young people. ICT resources can streamline migration planning and facilitate integration. They can be used to reduce bureaucracy and reach larger numbers of potential young migrants. One suggestion provided by a participant in the online consultation process relates to the creation of smartphone-friendly applications and websites for government institutions dealing with migration issues. Of course, online resources such as these would only benefit those with access to the necessary technology and equipment.

Youth Voice on Technology

Rima, female, age 29 Dubai Technology should be able to streamline these processes. The world is at our fingertips. If each country's ministry of interior produced a smartphone app or website for potential youth migrants, this could simplify the process and ensure that fewer people fell prey to untrustworthy travel agents.


The Cost of Migration

Young people planning to migrate must have sufficient funds to cover pre-migration expenses, travel-related costs and settlement requirements. Many migrants consider international migration more lucrative than internal migration, but the costs of the former are significantly higher. Expenses for international migration may include official fees for travel documents and clearance, payments to intermediaries, travel expenses, and in some cases the payment of bribes. Evidence suggests that migration costs are often high for unskilled workers—especially those on temporary contracts—relative to their wage expectations abroad.

Distorted perceptions or insufficient information about economic and social realities in the desired destination country can lead to poor decisions among young migrants. The online consultations and survey results suggest that young migrants who lack information on legal migration procedures are more likely to travel without the proper documentation. Some rely on ‘travel agents’ who may charge exorbitant fees for services never (or only partially) rendered and who may deliberately lead migrants into forced labour or trafficking situations. This issue is explored in some depth later in the chapter.


Box 2.2 ICT tools empower youth with information relevant to all stages of the migration process

ICT resources: empowering youth with information on the migration process

Information and communication technology (ICT) can offer young migrants access to valuable support at every stage of the migration process, from planning and preparation at home to integration at destination.

Pre-departure planning and preparation

Once youth have decided to migrate, ICT resources are often central to their pre-departure planning. They might search for online information about their desired destination or contact people already living there. In some cases, youth must use the Internet for their pre-migration preparations, particularly when they need to obtain a visa. Many embassies now require online appointment scheduling and visa application submission.


The use of ICT tools may reduce travel risks. While in transit, youth migrants can maintain regular contact with family members back home or in destination societies using mobile phones or other portable electronic communication devices.

Arrival and integration in destination societies

Upon arrival, youth migrants can use ICT to familiarize themselves with their new environment. Some might use the Internet to find jobs or housing or to access government services. ICT can also serve as a means of empowerment; youth migrants can establish links with other members of their diaspora community in the host country, and with greater collective bargaining power, they may be in a better position to demand their rights and to protest discrimination or mistreatment.

Maintaining connections with places of origin

With the multitude of ICT options available, most youth migrants can maintain regular contact with their home communities. Cheap communication provides the “social glue” for transnational connections.a These links have implications on two levels. First, young migrants who are able to stay in touch with family members and friends back home may find the transition to a new society less difficult and the overall migration experience less emotionally taxing, as feelings of distance and separation are not as acute as might otherwise be the case. Second, young migrants who become part of home-based virtual communities can join their compatriots in lobbying for political change or reform in their places of origin.b

Sources: (a) Vertovec, 2004; and (b) Brinkerhoff, 2009.

Millions of young people have the desire to migrate, but only those who secure the necessary funding can realize their dreams. Some youth are unable to obtain the required legal documents to move and may or may not choose to attempt irregular migration. It is the lack of financial resources that may constitute the largest obstacle to young migrants, however. In addition to travel costs, young people must be prepared to cover their expenses when they arrive, often for an extended period. Labour migrants need to support themselves until they find employment, and international students must be able to pay their school and living expenses. As shown in table 2.1, tuition and fees for foreign students can be quite high, and many youth are unable to study abroad without a scholarship or grant assistance.


Table 2.1

International student fees


Annual student fees (US dollars)


25 375

United States

25 226

United Arab Emirates

21 371

United Kingdom

19 291


18 474


14 885


6 522


3 983

Russian Federation

3 131


1 002



Source: HSBC Bank Canada, August 2013; Note: The research was conducted in 13 countries around the world. Fees represent the average tuition cost for international students based on the top 10 largest institutions in each relevant country (sourced from individual institution data).

There is agreement among most respondents to the Survey on Youth Migration and Development that moving abroad is an expensive undertaking. This is especially true for migrants who have no immediate source of income on arrival.

Youth Voice on Financing Migration

Laz, male physician/student migrant, age 30 Nigeria → United States Financial dependence among young people significantly affects their migration decision. Some young people … make the choice of using a cheaper but illegal route to move to another country when they are faced with the… paucity of funds.

Prolonged application processes, the cost of engaging travel intermediaries (see figure 2.1), and the payment of bribes for routine services in some countries can make applying for vital records and basic travel documents very expensive. There are often major differences between government-approved fees and the actual cost of migration, reflecting the existence of several tiers of rent-seeking intermediaries located in both countries of origin and places of destination.


Figure 2.1 The cost of intermediaries for selected migration corridors in terms of annual income per capita, 2006-2008

Sources: Adapted from 2009 Human Development Report (Bangladesh to Saudi Arabia: Malek (2008); China to Australia: Zhiwu (2009); Colombia to Spain: Grupo de Investigación en Movilidad Humana (2009); Philippines to Singapore: TWC (2006); Viet Nam to Japan: van Thanh (2008).

Intermediaries are engaged to provide potential migrants, including youth, with travel-related information and assistance. They may familiarize clients with visa requirements and help arrange travel accommodations, and some even offer short-term loans to cover the initial costs of the move. Many of these ‘middlemen’ afford genuine support, but some are untrustworthy and may be involved in smuggling and/or trafficking syndicates. There are numerous cases of fraud and abuse, where the potential migrant pays high fees for travel arrangements or an employment contract but is ultimately denied a visa or finds that the promised contract does not exist. In such cases, youth migrants may be unable to seek legal redress because of their inability to trace the whereabouts of the middleman or to obtain documentation that lays out the terms and conditions of work and monetary transactions. When intermediaries offer assistance with illegal or irregular migration and fail to deliver the services promised, migrants have virtually no legal recourse.

Youth Voice on Intermediaries

Mohammed, currently a lawyer (continued): Egypt → Italy The man told me he would act as a ‘mediator’, and that I needed to give him 5,000 Egyptian pounds. I arranged to pay him the money, and he did arrange a meeting with the intended person, who wanted 15,000 Egyptian pounds in order to help me travel to Italy. Of course, I paid the amount as agreed. The date of travel was set at two weeks after the payment day, then the date and the venue were selected and I was informed of those details. We travelled on a fishing boat to the [sea] border of Italy, then we were requested to get out in the middle of the sea and ... swim to reach the Italian shores. I reached the shore with God's help; I was the only survivor from that illegal immigration trip. Because I was a good swimmer, I arrived in Genoa, Italy.

Mohammed was fortunate to have survived and reached his destination after the perilous journey and the fraudulent actions of the intermediaries. Young people such as Mohammed are often sought out by travel intermediaries or actively engage their services at the migration planning stage. Migrants in irregular situations, in particular, are often compelled to seek help through unofficial channels, and because they have little recourse against dishonest middlemen, they are in an extremely vulnerable position. The ignorance or desperation that drives the decision to rely on unknown intermediaries can literally cost some young migrants their lives.

Financing migration

Youth migrants finance their travel and resettlement in a number of different ways (see figure 2.2). Almost 60 per cent of the respondents to the Survey on Youth Migration and Development indicated that their main source of funding was their savings, while about 42 per cent received support from their relatives. Nearly 6 per cent of the respondents sold household assets to defray the cost of their move. Other sources of funding were often tied to the type of migration undertaken; student migrants were sometimes able to secure scholarships from their Governments or universities, while many young labour migrants relied on financial support from their employers or personal savings from their income.

Figure 2.2.Sources of financial support for migration

Source: United Nations, Survey on Youth Migration and Development (undertaken for the 2013 World Youth Report).

Note: Totals exceed 100 per cent because respondents were asked to select all options that applied.

The gap between migration dreams and reality

Gallup conducts ongoing surveys to provide up to date data on potential migrants worldwide. A recent study indicates that potential migrants are often young, educated, single, underemployed and relatively financially well-off (Esipova, Ray and Pugliese, 2011). Findings from the studies reveal wide gaps between those who express the desire to emigrate, those who are planning to move within the succeeding 12 months, and those actively engaged in preparations to migrate.

A 2011 Gallup World Poll carried out in 146 countries estimated the number of individuals dreaming of permanently leaving their countries at a staggering 630 million. However, out of that total, only 48 million were planning to move within the year, and only 19 million were actively preparing to emigrate (see figure 2.3).

Figure 2.3. Global migration: the gap between desire and reality

Source: Gallup, World Poll Findings (2011). Based on interviews with 401,490 adults in 146 countries (96 per cent of potential global migrants) between 2007 and 2010.

Features of young migrants’ mobility

Once youth migrants have secured the necessary travel resources, there are different ways they can proceed. Their move may be short or long in terms of time or space; some may choose to move internally before migrating abroad. They may use legal or illegal channels. Young migrants may travel by air, on water or on land, arriving after a comfortable one-day flight or an arduous months-long journey. They may migrate accompanied or unaccompanied. The migration journey significantly influences the extent to which they are vulnerable to or protected from risk. There is some evidence that young men often migrate alone, whereas many young women try to migrate with one or more friends or family members to limit their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse or due to cultural norms.

Depending on social and economic circumstances in the place of origin and the motive for migration, potential youth migrants may choose to relocate within their countries before moving across national borders. Young migrants who opt for temporary internal migration may be able to build social and financial capital that will support their international migration.

There is some evidence that poor youth may be more likely to move shorter distances, as the costs tend to be lower. Consequently, those with limited financial resources often engage in internal (rural-rural, urban-urban or rural-urban) migration.

Age is another factor influencing the distance young people are willing to migrate. Younger migrants, particularly girls, tend to remain closer to their places of origin, while older ones often move farther away.





Read 17268 times Last modified on Tuesday, 04 February 2014 18:46
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