Many child migrants end up in agriculture or services such as domestic work.
Some of them, but not all, are victims of trafficking.
Youth account for a large share; about a third of the migrant flow from all developing countries is in the age range of 12 to 24.
This includes millions of children under the age of 18 who migrate internally or across national borders, with or without their parents.
Back to top Defining who is a child and who is an irregular migrant is not straightforward.
If we take the definition adopted by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as a starting point, a child is ‘every human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier’ (Art 1).
In the case of irregular migrant children, this may be even more complicated because of the policy and practice implications (e.g.
duty of care by local authorities) that the recognition as a child may bring to the migrant.
The tension between, on the one hand, a universal image of childhood embodied for example in the UNCRC and rooted in what Hart terms ‘the project of saving the children’ (Hart, 2006) and, on the other hand, more contextualised, culturally-aware and localised accounts of childhood which challenge the ‘seeming naturalness of a conceptual boundary between childhood and adulthood’ (idem: 7) is recognised in the literature (Boyden 1997, James and Prout 1997, Baker and Hinton 2001, Punch 2003, Heissler 2009, Sigona and Hughes 2010).
To define irregular immigration is equally difficult (see the briefing on ‘Irregular Migration in the UK: Definitions, Pathways and Scale‘ for a detailed discussion).