“No mother wants her child to migrate”

Vulnerability of children on the move in the Horn of Africa
Forced migration Immigration Children and young people Africa

This study draws on 282 qualitative interviews and focus group discussions with children and parents on the move. Data has been uncovered on problems encountered in transit and how responses can be improved. Interviewees included internally displaced persons, refugees, migrants and returnees.

Recent assessments by IOM suggest that that there are close to a million internally displaced persons in Somaliland and it is estimated that approximately 450,000 of this number are children. In Somaliland, children are moving from rural to urban areas in response to poverty, persecution, disruption of families and/or human rights abuses, war and environmental conditions, such as devastating drought.

Other children choose outward migration, usually to Europe, in order to escape unemployment and lack of access to education. Tahriib, is an Arabic term describing the pattern of young people on the move in search of a better life. Children leave for various reasons and usually without the consent or knowledge of their parents.

The study found that children and young people are usually facilitated by smugglers in their attempts to move. They are identified through their networks of friends who have either undertaken a journey themselves or know someone who has. Technology and social networks help provide information to children who want to move. The research revealed that smugglers and traffickers operate on a ‘go now, pay later’ basis which lays the foundations for children to endure harsh conditions, often denied basic provision (such as food and water), traveling long distances by foot or by crowded cars and boats.

All children on the move in Somaliland, regardless their particular struggles, face significant difficulties. The study reveals chidlren on the move are likely to be poor, undocumented and unable to access education or other services. They are also more likely to be victims of violent crime, including sexual and gender-based violence (GBV), abuse and exploitation - before, during and after they move. Those that make a move are likely to be held for random, beaten and/or abused to compel their relatives to pay And if chidlren leave without parental permission, which the study found is often the case, they can be arrested by Somaliland authorities internally and by immigration authorities abroad. Even once they’ve reached their destination children face long immigration or asylum procedures, uncertainty and discrimination.

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