On Friday, 14 February the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs presented their World Youth Report, focusing on migration. Seeing that migration has increased steadily over the years, and that some 30% of the current 232 million international migrants worldwide are young people, this report emphasizes the perspective of young migrants themselves. The report presents the concerns, challenges and successes of different phases of international migration in the words of young migrants, while also aiming to raise awareness and engagement of youth on these issues. With thousands of AFS exchange students travelling abroad and participating in youth exchanges, this topic is of relevance to our daily work.
The report is based on participatory consultations, which included on-line events, surveys and artistic contributions. The report acknowledges the diversity of young migrants as well as their reasons for migration and outcomes of this process. In any case, young people are recognized as crucial agents of social change and development.
One of the prominent reasons for youth migration are educational and job prospects, one of the reasons many young AFSers get out of their comfort zones and participate in intercultural exchanges. Personal, socio-economic and political circumstances are also significant factors impacting migration, including forced migrations due to natural or man-made disasters. The impacts of migration are seen in the both positive and negative effects for the economic situations of the countries of origin, destination and migrants’ families, gender equity and a possible brain drain.
One of the greatest challenges young migrants expressed is acquiring accurate information about their intended destination, documents, travel and accommodation arrangements which can make them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Suggested development tools include better access to peer-to-peer consultations, awareness-raising campaigns and pre-departure orientation programs. AFS participants are thus protected from this vulnerability due to the existence of a strong support network and the Orientation framework which facilitate their transition from one country to another, and the return home. Social networks and the educational activities provided by AFS help the students face culture shock and better integrate into the host society. The transformational impact of this kind of a migration experience is in this way enhanced.
Even though it exists, for example in AFS, youth engagement and knowledge about migration still remains exceptional. The World Youth Report advocates for an increased commitment among young people, youth-led organizations and decision-makers for a meaningful youth participation in migration and development policy planning in order to enhance the migration experience and empower young people to take ownership of their contribution to development.