Children on the Move

Millions of children are on the move, both within and between countries, with or without their parents. They are part of large-scale population movements currently taking place in many parts of the world.

Children on the move are those children moving for a variety of reasons, voluntary or involuntary within or between countries, with or without their parents or other primary caregivers, children who have been trafficked, children seeking asylum, children who migrate for economic reasons, and whose movement might place them at risk (or at an increased risk) of inadequate care, economic or sexual exploitation, abuse, neglect or violence.

Read our new case study: In Search of a Better Future

Quick Stats

  • In 2013, 3.2 % of the world's population were living outside their country of origin
  • In South Africa, more than half of the 3 million immigrants come from within the sub-region
  • At least 3/4 of migrants originate from within the African continent
  • It’s estimated that 30% of all migrants in Africa are children and adolescents, the highest proportion in the world
  • Download our new factsheet for more information

Learn more about our recent Critical Thinking Forum on Child Migration

Children on the Move in South Africa

These children often move in and out of different categories within the same journey or over time and, as such, need protection and support mechanisms that are holistic, coherent and coordinated within and between countries.

The number of children on the move is very difficult to estimate, as almost all who enter South Africa do so in an irregular fashion. Over and above this, the lack of a proper registration and tracking system for those who have been identified as entering in an irregular fashion places further constraint on establishing sound and reliable statistics on this vulnerable population.

Because of their immigration status, children on the move are extremely vulnerable to violence, abuse and various forms of exploitation during their journery or in the country of destination. They also face great difficulties when seeking assistance, protection and basic services such as education and health. 

Read about the many risks faced by children crossing borders 

Children Telling Their Story of Migration

In the video below, children tell their story of migration. Young people from Save the Children programmes in South Africa, Myanmar, Mexico, Serbia, Mozambique, and Italy provide a powerful account of the reasons they left home and the challenges and the risks they faced during travel and when they reached a new country. They speak about their hopes and dreams that hoped would be realised by migrating.

What is Save the Children South Africa doing to help

Since the influx of people from Zimbabwe, following the political violence in 2008, Save the Children South Africa has been working with local stakeholders in Limpopo at the border with Zimbabawe to build their capacity in dealing with unaccompanied migrant children and ensure that they are adequately supported and protected.

  • We train social workers, border officials and community members on the identification and referral of these children and the specific procedures that need to be put in place to assess their needs and identify an appropriate long-term solution.
  • We provide material educational support to unaccompanied migrant children residing in shelters in Musina and sensitise communities to their specific needs.
  • We work with national departments to build a more inclusive, safer and sustainable child protection system to ensure that children on the move avoid drifting in the system for years with their legal status being unresolved. 
  • We work closely with our regional office to ensure that harmonised policies and procedures are introduced and implemented across borders.

The South African Development Community (SADC) governments have recently endorsed a regional action plan in that regard and we are committed to supporting its implementation. 

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