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The Perils of Abuse and Exploitation Threaten Migrant Children from Latin America and the Caribbean

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8 November 2010|Press Release

One of every five migrants in the region is a minor and there are no immigration policies that protect the rights of these children, say experts.

(5 November 2010) Nearly six million people in Latin America and the Caribbean have migrated within the region and approximately 25 million have migrated to the United States or Europe. One of every five migrants is estimated to be a child or adolescent who may be exposed to abuses, according to data from the Newsletter Challenges Nº 11, published today by ECLAC and UNICEF.

Although their migration to other countries may bring some benefits, many children may also be exposed to risks like abuse, exploitation and violation of their rights, warn experts of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in the article Children and international migration in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Rut Feuk, Nadine Perrault and Enrique Delamónica state that millions of minors are suffering severe constraints to their human rights due to the migration status of their parents.

The authors explain that migration affects children in different ways throughout their life cycle, by migrating with their parents or alone or being left behind by one or both of their migrating parents. However, the impact of this migration on children should be examined in the broader context of the poverty and inequality between and within countries.

The study notes that restrictive migration policies, xenophobia, discrimination and human trafficking are some of the main perils migrants face, especially if they are illegal migrants.

On the positive side, the research indicates that children who migrate with their parents or those who receive financial assistance through remittances may have better opportunities of development in terms of education, health and psycho-social adaptation. Remittances can also help reduce child labour.

The study asserts that the main challenges pending for the governments in the region on this issue are: enacting migration policies that protect children's rights, especially of those migrating under irregular conditions, and ensure the economic, social and cultural rights of children; access to the right to an identity at the time of birth; and avoiding the detention of migrant children and adolescents due to their illegal entry to a country.

Lastly, the authors suggest recommendations to protect the rights of migrant children and adolescents and foment the positive effects of migration. They include avoiding taxes on remittances and implementing measures to facilitate transactions; exploring alternatives of international cooperation to enforce the economic obligations of separated or divorced parents with their children, even if they live in different countries; and amend national legislation to include measures and policies to protect the social, economic and cultural rights of migrant children, among others.

The Newsletter Challenges is a joint publication of ECLAC and UNICEF that monitors progress on the compliance of the Millennium Development Goals regarding children and adolescents.

The Newsletter Challenges Nº 11 is available in English on ECLAC's webpage.

The Spanish-language version will be published shortly.

 For inquiries, please contact Tamar Hahn at UNICEF's Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. Email:, telephone: 507 66763216; or ECLAC's Public Information and Web Services Section. Email: dpisantiago; telephone: (56-2) 210-2040.