Children on the Move (COM)



Save the Children defines children on the move as:

“Children moving for a variety of reasons, voluntarily or involuntarily, within or between countries, with or without their parents or other primary caregivers, and whose movement, while it may open up opportunities, might also place them at risk (or at an increased risk) of economic or sexual exploitation, abuse, neglect and violence”.

Categories of children on the move

Trafficked children

Irregular child migrants

Children on the streets

Asylum seekers


It is for the following reasons that the equipping of frontline workers becomes important

  • Children are better protected when Frontline officers are skilled, motivated and trained to provide high quality services.
  • Support influencing policies that aimed at protection of all children (Budget allocation, Inclusive service provision etc.)
  • Effective identification, referral, and provision of protection services to all Children –Especially unaccompanied and separated children in a child friendly manner.
  • Strengthen case management and referrals among service providers &Frontline workers.

In caring out their work, there are guiding principles that are to be considered when working with Children on the move. These principles are to be adhered to by frontline state and non-state service providers

  1. Best Interest of the child
  2. Non Discrimination
  3. Participation
  4. Confidentiality
  5. Non – Refoulment
  6. Informed consent
  7. Do no harm
  8. Child Safeguarding
  9. Ensure Accountability

The duty to protect

The duty to protect lies primarily with frontline service providers and secondary, with everyone who could come in contact with children on the move. Who are frontline service providers? These are officers whose function puts them in high contact with children on the move to provide child friendly services in line with the Standard Operating Procedures for Handling Unaccompanied migrant children – (based on country policy)

Have the role of ensuring that all vulnerable children s are protected and receive required services, through the National Case Management System (NCMS).

Why should we protect children in migration?

Children, irrespective of their migratory status, should be protected. Their migratory status does not remove the responsibility to protect from. Children on the move, especially across the borders are more often stripped of protection by virtue of the migration, particularly those migrating irregular. As such Eswatini is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and many other regional and international instruments; and consequently the protection obligations should be ensured. The duty to protect COM lies not only with Frontliners, who are state agents, but with everyone who may come in contact with children in migration.

What mechanism has been established to protect and respond to cases of children in migration?

We advocate that regions establish response teams and cascade it to national level. Their function will be to receive and resolve cases. Such functions are tracing and assessments, repatriation and reunification. In carrying out the function to protect we are guided by the best interest of the child. Article 3.1 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child each child has the right to have their best interests taken into account as ‘a primary consideration’ when decisions affecting them are made by ‘public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies.

Best interest for the child should be a primary basis for all decisions and actions taken, and for the way in which we interact with and respond to children. Committee on the Rights of the Child in the CRC General Comment No. 14 best interests  ADVISES Best Interest ‘should be adjusted and defined on an individual basis, depending on  specific situation of the child or children concerned, taking into consideration their personal context, situation and needs. State and non-state actors should always remember, what is best for one child will not necessarily be best for another so we must respond to each child individually

The role of communities

Everyone can and should play a role in protecting migrant children as and when they are identified. Furthermore, we are to ensure that state actors carry out their protection function with such diligence. No one should exploit the situation that children in migration find themselves in.

Causes for children to migrate (push-pull factors)

Push factors

Poverty (hunger and starvation)

Family breakdown

Lack of basic needs

Peer pressure

Seeking adventure

Culture/customs e.g. forced/ child marriages, Female Genital Mutilation

Political violence

Escaping abuse (family or societal)


Natural and man-made disasters



Child headed households

Parental insistence

School-related problems

Family/ social contribution and/or obligations

Doubts on usefulness of education

Employment opportunities

Better education prospects

Pull factors

Health care

Political stability

Freedom safety

Reunification with friends and family

Since children move within and between borders, these factors require different interventions depending on the kind of migration undertaken and the risks associated with it.

There are risks associated with children migrating from one territory to another, for whatever reason. They include the following, among others:

Sexual exploitation (abuse) and (pregnancy for girls)




Child labor and exploitation

Lack of access to education

Lack of Access to health services


Lack of documentation


Negative attitudes towards children in situations of migration or displacement

Loss of identity and nationality

Repatriation and Reunification

Since children move from one place to another for a number of reasons, some of the services to that are rendered by frontline service providers are family tracing, repatriation and reunification. In repatriating children in migration it is in the best interest of the children to be assisted by relevant social workers in the company of other stakeholders. In reunifying children with their families, it is important to do no harm to the situation that is already strained.

Cross Border mechanism

Cross-border coordination is an effective strategy for improving the care and protection of children on the move. For the past decade, state and non-state actors in Southern Africa have deliberately built bilateral cross-border mechanisms for coordinating the protection of children in situations of migration or displacement

These mechanisms function across borders, between neighboring governments and along key migration routes and borders

Improved communication between cross-border stakeholders at all levels, such as policymakers, social workers and border officials

Harmonized standard operating procedures between countries

Continuous protection for children who are without care

Benefits of Cross border coordination for COM

Cross-border coordination can address these challenges by improving coordination and communication between national and international stakeholders and ensuring consistent access to care, protection and services for children on the move

Family tracing and repatriation

Frontline border officials being aware of child protection policies; and • Social workers understanding processes for determining children’s best interests and supporting family tracing and reunification

Children having to access the documentation required for essential services

Children in situations of migration or displacement being included in the national protection systems instead of relying on “special provisions” alone