New UN report highlights experiences, challenges faced by young migrants worldwide

Migration is appealing for many young Iraqis, but they have limited knowledge about how to go about it, and the risks and challenges migration poses. Photo: IOM

14 February 2014 – A new report launched today by the United Nations spotlights the significant impact of young migrants on origin, transit and destination countries and communities, as well as the challenges they face, as told in their own voices.

According to the latest UN estimates, there are 232 million international migrants worldwide, representing 3.2 per cent of the world’s total population of 7.2 billion.

There are 35 million global migrants under the age of 20, up from 31 million in 2000, and another 40 million between the ages of 20 and 29. Together, they account for more than 30 per cent of all migrants. Females account for approximately half of all global youth migrants.

Published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), the latest World Youth Report outlines the global situation of young migrants by highlighting some of the concerns, challenges and successes experienced by young migrants.

“Recognizing the diversity of youth migrants is important for understanding the impact of migration on the human development of young men and women as well as on their countries of origin and destination,” states the report.

“It is also essential for designing specific interventions that address their unique vulnerabilities and enable them to realize their hopes and aspirations.”

According to the report, the impacts of youth migration are mixed. When young people migrate, they tend to improve both their own financial situation and the economic circumstances of their families through the income they earn and the remittances they send home, while destination countries benefit from greater economic efficiency.

However, countries of origin can suffer from negative impacts of human capital flight, or brain drain, notably of health and education professionals, the report states.

It goes on to say that the process of migration itself brings different challenges and experiences and can affect overall outcomes for young people. Prior to migration, young people may be excited at the prospect of leaving home and discovering a new place, while they also face challenges.

Participants in online consultations most often cited the difficulty of obtaining accurate information about their intended destination. Similarly, practicalities such as obtaining the necessary documents and arranging travel and accommodation can be complicated, expensive and time consuming. Without accurate information, young people can fall vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

To ease the preparatory stage, young people recommended the development of tools to help those thinking of migration to assess their readiness and to facilitate decision-making and planning, including peer-to-peer initiatives, pre-departure orientation programmes and awareness-raising campaigns.

Once they reach their destination country, the report continues, the experiences of migrant youth vary greatly depending on migration motives, gender and migration status. Recent arrivals often experience culture shock and loneliness. They also have to cope with finding accommodation, employment, deal with transport and may have to overcome communication barriers. In the longer term, they may face stereotyping and discrimination at work and in society at large.

“Overall, migration outcomes vary widely. While youth are especially vulnerable to the risks and dangers associated with migration, their capacity as agents of social change and development should not be underestimated,” states the report.

“Some young migrants return to their country of origin, either voluntarily or involuntarily, whereas others remain in the destination. Whatever they decide, young people typically find that the migration experience has transformed them.”

The report’s launch at UN Headquarters in New York will feature Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Lisa Russell, along with young people retelling diverse migration stories through theatre, dance, poetry and music.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Marking Youth Day, UN officials spotlight rights and potential of young migrants

Related Stories





In-depth Interviews