UN World Youth Report

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WYR 2013 Chapter Two

Challenges Facing Young Migrants

Challenges at the pre-migration stage

Many young people are excited at the prospect of leaving home to settle in another place. However, the period leading up to their departure may present a variety of challenges. One of the challenges cited most often by participants in the online consultations and survey was the difficulty youth faced in obtaining accurate information about their intended destination. One refugee offered her views on what could be done to improve the pre-migration process for youth.

 

Pawser, female, aged 26-29 years, refugee currently living in the United States:

Young people have no options [in terms of where they move]. It is the parents’ [choice], and they follow their parents. There is no education ... to teach them the process. There is no information ... to [help them] make a decision. Some time in the future, I think the United Nations should have a programme only for youth, if they really want to support them, to teach them about the country they are going to. Not just a few weeks, but a lot [more, so they can learn about] the history [and] the people, and [they can take] people outside the camp so they can learn more. I want them to do that for refugee camps around the world

Fulfilling practical requirements—obtaining the necessary documents, engaging a travel agent or intermediary, and making arrangements for travel and accommodations—can be expensive and time-consuming. Young people trying to complete travel-related paperwork are often faced with delays; these may be caused by bureaucratic red tape but can also be linked to the payment of bribes for document processing. Young people who feel the need to engage a third party to provide migration assistance may be taking a huge risk, as there are numerous intermediary scams being perpetrated against vulnerable youth. Irregular migrants are particularly susceptible to fraud; they have little legal recourse if they are cheated or placed at risk, and many are unaware of the potential consequences of ‘unofficial’ migration—including increased vulnerability to human trafficking and criminal attacks, sexual and labour exploitation, the inability to secure decent work, deportation, arrest, low self-esteem, insecurity and deprivation.

Along with the practical challenges, young migrants must deal with the emotional anxiety of leaving their families and communities to face new responsibilities and unknown risks—often alone.

Raluca, female, age 26 Romania → Belgium

The first challenge young migrants need to face before starting their journey is to be prepared to adapt to a new culture, within a different environment from what they were used to, and to continually be informed about their rights and obligations as ‘newcomers’.

Once young migrants have overcome pre-migration obstacles and embarked on their journey, they face a new set of challenges in transit and at destination. Nicholas, a former child soldier forced to migrate, shares some of the challenges he faced and highlights some of the dangers and risks associated with migration. He also makes some useful suggestions to help migrants in similar irregular or forced migration situations.

Nicholas, male, refugee Liberia → Ghana → Philippines

I faced unique challenges migrating as a young person. I was vulnerable to any situation at that time. People took advantage of me. I [travelled] with a former female child soldier named Sarah. Life for her was really difficult, and [I heard later] that she was murdered. From my experience, I would advise youth, if they have family, to get some advice from them concerning their decision to migrate. Also, reading some books and searching on the Internet to know more about the country you want to migrate to can help. If any citizens of that country are [available], try to reach out [to them] and ask them about migrants in their country and the laws about migration there—how life [is for] migrants and how are they coping. Make sure to have the cash and documents you need [for] that country, and try your best to stay there legally.

Young people relocating within their own countries, internal migrants, may face many of the same challenges as youth migrating abroad. Internal (especially rural-urban) migrants must often deal with the high cost of living in cities, increased noise and congestion, the unavailability of affordable and decent housing, and the lack of employment and economic opportunities. Female migrants may be subject to socio-cultural norms that interfere with their migration or settlement abroad. Once they migrate, they may encounter special constraints with regard to their movement or abuse in the workplace.

Rakesh, male, age 23, internal student migrant Eastern India → Delhi

Many [Indian] youth who migrate from rural to urban areas for a better education or employment ... face problems such as a lack of decent accommodations and food. Some [of my friends who have come] from north-eastern parts of India to Delhi [have faced] sexual as well as racial harassment. Small living quarters usually cost $30-$40 per month, but as a young migrant you have to pay more than $100. Many times students ... who come from rural areas of the country need to pay illegally for basic [services such as] electricity or an Internet connection.

Recommendations for addressing the challenges facing youth migrants

The participants in the online consultations and Survey on Youth Migration and Development highlighted many of the challenges faced by young migrants, but they also offered a number of useful suggestions and recommendations for future action (see box 2.3).

 

Box 2.3 - Recommendations

The recommendations below—offered by youth participating in online consultations and a survey undertaken in support of the World Youth Report—are intended to help other young people, youth organizations, and relevant stakeholders address the challenges associated with youth migration.

- Readiness assessment tools need to be developed to facilitate decision-making and planning among young people considering migration. Potential youth migrants should complete a self-assessment to determine whether migration is the right option for them. During the pre-migration stage, they should take time to think through the entire migration process, developing plans for travel, settlement and (in some cases) return to their countries of origin. A pre-departure checklist might be developed for youth to support safe migration.

- Youth-centred initiatives should be developed to ensure migration readiness. These might include peer-to-peer initiatives, pre-departure orientation programmes, and awareness-raising campaigns that inform potential youth migrants about the challenges and opportunities associated with regular and irregular migration. Information on international migrant rights and human rights should be integrated in such initiatives.

- Potential youth migrants must carefully research all aspects of the migration process applicable to their particular circumstances so that they can make informed decisions. Any information they obtain should be verified with organizations dealing with migration or relevant government institutions.

- Youth feedback indicates a general lack of knowledge about what youth organiations are doing in any given country to raise awareness about safe migration. If such organizations are to be effective in reaching youth, further research on migration trends and effective outreach methods must be conducted globally, as youth compires a diverse group. Rueben a 30 year old respondent from Ghana, suggested that youth becomes part of the solution in addressing the challenges of youth mirgation noting that 'life does not necessarily get better when we migrate. The conditions surrounding us that make us want to leave may get better only if we try to improve them'

 

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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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