Lost in Translation | Youth in Migration | The Youth Cafe


At first glance, the word youth feels too broad to be defining all people under the age of 30.  However, this age group is defined by a common denominator. It’s in the answer to this question:

What are some hopes and aspirations you have for the future—in the next year, five years, or even ten years?  

The Right to Thrive

The course of the next five years for children can carry the weight of his or her next ten years. It’s a period of life where one is flexible, impressionable, and vulnerable.  Depending on the kinds of opportunities that were available in the communities they live and the kinds of values and skills that were taught as they grew up, their lives could change for the better or for worse.  It’s easy to agree that in the first couple decades of one’s life, a lot of societal support, investment, and protection is required so that one may reach independence and maturity. Since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights set a standard for human rights in 1948, the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989 has specified what this means for children.  In a nutshell, Convention rights outline that children have the right to protection, provision, and participation, summarized here:

“The provision and protection of children’s Convention rights is the primary responsibility of governments at all levels, and realizing the promise of the Convention is an ongoing, progressive commitment.”

— Unicef on the CRC

Young Asylum Seekers

Unicef released “Protected on Paper?” in March 2018, reporting on how Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) have been responding to migrant and refugee asylum-seekers.  Despite a world-leading record commitment to human rights, there were significant gaps in protection and services when it came to children seeking asylum.

“Noorullah, an Afghan boy living in Norway, talks about his experience in his new country,” by Unicef Innocenti

According to the report, there is a reported tendency in all five Nordic countries to prioritize migration laws over the international obligations outlined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child.  This means that even though there are proper legal and procedural measures in place, the implementation is not always consistent, leaving certain children exposed to risks during the asylum-seeking process.

“The Nordic countries covered in this report all have well-deserved reputations for protecting children’s rights. Nonetheless, our research reveals significant challenges in the care and treatment of asylum-seeking children across the five countries,” said Sarah Cook Director of the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti. “This is a powerful reminder that the global community must take seriously the commitment to protect all children’s rights, without regard to their migration or asylum status.”

From Paper to Practice

The policies to come out of the adoption of the GCM will grow to shape this transitional period of life for many youth around the world.  It’s imperative that youth carry a sense of ownership over the discussions surrounding the GCM. Rights to protection, provision, and participation can be a good start.  As the Unicef report clearly shows, just having good policies isn’t enough. How effectively these policies can be implemented hinges upon continued involvement, review, and feedback amongst the various levels of governments, institutions, and migrants.