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Situational Analysis: The impact of migration on children’s rights in Ukraine

“Nobody asked me how I feel about moving”

Terre des hommes | Terre des hommes | 53 pages
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The present research looks at the main migration patterns and trends of internal and outward migration from Ukraine trying to assess the push and pull factors for regular and irregular migration which affect children. It focuses on the impact of migration on children’s human rights, on the risks, and on the vulnerabilities that children are confronted with at different stages of migration. Also, we sought to identify and analyse specific systemic failures and gaps, the needs and the rights violations of children and families, and whether these elements are specific to a particular group or to a migration pattern. Our conclusions are based on the analysis of available data (grey literature, legal and policy frameworks, and other documents) and of the information collected during four focus-groups and 51 semi-structured interviews with children affected by migration, as well as in several cases with their families, with teachers, and with statutory and non-statutory stakeholders (government officials and staff from supporting NGOs).

The first chapter captures different migration patterns and trends in, to, and from Ukraine. There are two types of migration within Ukrainian territory: the voluntary movement of people and the forced internal displacement caused by the armed conflict in the Eastern regions of the country. The main reasons of continuous emigration of Ukrainians appear to be related to the need for more work and education opportunities. One of the most serious problems induced by parental migration is its distressing psychological impact on the children left behind. As a result, these children often have to face an increased psychological stress; they can get in difficult life situations, and have to deal with behavioural problems. The immigration trends towards Ukraine are declining because of the economic, social and political situation, which makes it less attractive for foreigners. Moreover, persistent obstacles to access the asylum procedure, the lack of legal assistance, and the risk of detention are some of the factors that dissipate the will to seek asylum in this country.

In the second part, we analyse the legal and policy frameworks related to children’s rights in the migration field. The multiplicity of international conventions, domestic laws, and other regulations do not effectively guarantee the right of children to protection, let alone the rights of those affected by migration. Particularly difficult situations such as the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism, trafficking of children for the purpose of sexual or labour exploitation, and the forced displacement of children produce persistent problems which are not met with adequate responses from Ukrainian authorities. The gaps in regulations, in practice and procedures, and the scarce understanding of these phenomena by both authorities and society are among the main obstacles in solving these problems.

The third part reflects the children’s narratives on their migration experiences. We used children’s rights as a grid for structuring the interviews with children. The results of our empirical study show how important the ideas of ‘belonging’, ‘parenting’, ‘understanding’, ‘home’, ‘friendship’ and others are for the children and youngsters. Their perception about their ‘human rights’ supports many transformations in various environments: ‘home’, ‘school’, ‘origin country’ or ‘host country’. Our focus was on how mobility between these environments can shape their sense of human rights, and to what extent the protection or the violation of these rights influence their wellbeing in everyday life. We found that the majority of them have some knowledge about their rights and are capable to express with their own words whether these rights are protected or not, respected or violated in different circumstances.

Our conclusions are based on the analysis of legal and policy frameworks on migration and children’s rights and on the findings of our empirical research with concerned children. Some of the structural and institutional failures and gaps that we uncovered have a direct impact on children’s rights; others are more linked with the adults but also have indirect repercussions on children’s rights.