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Types of Migration
Internal Migration
Global Labour Mobility
Child Migration
Skilled Migration
Forced Migration
Return Migration

Key Themes
Modelling Causes and Consequences
Links between Migrations
Rural Poverty and Livelihoods
Social Protection
Gender and Generations
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Child Migration

Child MigrationResearch and policy discussion on child migrants commonly concentrate on children who have been coerced into cross national or transnational movement to work in situations which are either abusive or exploitative in themselves, or are abusive or exploitative because of the young age of the children. In contrast, the vast majority of independent child migration (that is where the child moves without his or her family) is children who move within their own countries or between contingent or nearby countries to work in a wide variety of occupations or to go to school.
The DRC research focuses on this kind of child migrant and seeks to investigate which kind of children migrate, why they migrate, what their experience is of migration and what impact it has upon them and their links with their families. So far, detailed field studies have been carried out in northern Ghana, Burkina Faso, the southern state of Karnataka in India and in Bangladesh, whilst related work of Sussex doctoral students is taking place in Brazil and elsewhere. Much of this work is qualitative and ethnographic in nature, seeking to trace movements of children and understand the experience of migration from the perspective of children themselves. However, quantitative surveys have been carried out in source and destination areas in Karnataka, and in destination areas in Ghana, and follow up surveys in villages of origin in northern Ghana are planned for 2006.

These studies find that high rates of child migration occur from relatively impoverished areas where many adults use migration as part of survival or livelihood strategies. In these circumstances many children migrate to meet their own ambitions and aspirations or out of their own sense of responsibility to their parents. They are certainly not simple pawns in family livelihood strategies, nor are they the victims of traffickers. Each of the studies aims to explore the incentives and motives children have for migrating, the child's role in the decision making processes and the arrangements made to facilitate migration and to access work and education. Each study also looks at the impact on children's wellbeing and the risks and dangers they face.

Conceptualizing children as exercising agency in these decisions to migrate and the findings that there may be some positive outcomes for children are both controversial and challenging, particularly in the context of the policy implications of this research. Our dissemination plans include specific efforts to consider how policy priorities for improving outcomes for this kind of child migrant might be integrated with child protection policies and into the trafficking framework which dominates international development discussions. As part of this strategy, RMMRU in Bangladesh held a workshop In December that presented the findings of their project (3b(3) below) to an invited audience.

Individual researchers are currently preparing a number of papers for publication and the whole team will be presenting their work to the research and policy communities in a series of workshops. The research findings will be brought together in a landmark edited volume on autonomous child migration.


  Key Projects

3a: Child Migrants, Rural Poverty and Livelihoods in Burkina Faso

3b(1): The North-South Migration of Children in Ghana

3b(2): Autonomous Child Migration in Ghana

3b(3): Autonomous Child Migration in Bangladesh

3c: Autonomous and Other Child Migration in South India

3g: Re-integration of Return Migrants in the North-South Independent Child Migration in Ghana

Also: Child Migration Research Network


Segmentation and Social Network Multipliers in Rural-Urban Migration (WP-T9)

Exploring the Linkages Between Children’s Independent Migration and Education: Evidence from Ghana (WP-T12)

Voices of Child Migrants

Independent Child Migration: Introducing Children's Perspectives (BP11)

Child Migration, Child Agency and Inter-generational Relations in Africa and South Asia (WP-T24)

Coping Strategies of Independent Child Migrants from Northern Ghana to Southern Cities (WP-T23)

'If Only I Get Enough Money for a Bicycle!' A Study of Childhoods, Migration and Adolescent Aspirations Against a Backdrop of Exploitation and Trafficking in Burkina Faso (WP-T21)

The Positives and Negatives of Children’s Migration: An Assessment of the Evidence From Ghana and the Debates (WP-T16)


Workshop on Independent Child Migrants: Policy Debates and Dilemmas, 12 th September 2007

‘Children who “choose” to migrate’ at the Childhoods 2005 conference in Oslo in June-July 2005

Ann Whitehead also presented an overview of findings on autonomous migration at a DFID lunchtime seminar entitled 'Independent Child Migration: Reconciling Children’s Experiences with Policy' in November 2005. RRMRU presented their research to an audience of Bangladeshi researchers, policy makers and activists in December 2005. Ann Whitehead and Iman Hashim provided a background paper for the DFID migration team entitled 'Children and Migration'.


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With thanks to IOM and Claudia Natali for the photographs