Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward

Helene Hoedl (holding pamphlet), the United Nations Informations Centre Deputy Director, chats to one of the participants at the Mail & Guardian Critical thinking forum. (Lwazi Hlophe)

Helene Hoedl (holding pamphlet), the United Nations Informations Centre Deputy Director, chats to one of the participants at the Mail & Guardian Critical thinking forum. (Lwazi Hlophe)

In today’s increasingly globalised and interconnected world in which more people migrate than ever before in human history, young migrants between 15 and 24 have become powerful agents of change and development.

By mid-2010, the total number of migrant youth was estimated at 27 million, representing an eighth of the 214 million international migrants in the world today.

Young migrants, either alone or accompanied by family members, leave their homes for different reasons. Some leave in search of jobs, others to flee persecution.

On International Youth Day 2013, under the theme ‘Youth Migration: Moving Development Forward,’ IOM highlights the importance of engaging, enabling and empowering youth to fulfil their development potential.

The infusion of young migrants represents a potential demographic gain that can be reaped by destination communities through human capital investments and strong integration policies; earlier investments generate higher returns.

Young people as they migrate under various circumstances, be it through regular or irregular channels face a number of challenges during the migration process.

Safe and regular migration must be promoted to reduce the risk of exploitation and abuse among youth migrants.

Female young migrants in particular experience high levels of sexual and gender-based violence at different phases of their migration.

To ensure that young people with migration backgrounds acquire skills for managing risks, exercising their creative talents, and becoming productive citizens, investments in their social development and physical wellbeing are essential.

It is also important to understand how migration improves or diminishes the life chance of these young people.

IOM together with UNFPA and other partners focused this year’s International Youth Day on promoting dialogue on barriers that young migrants face in accessing health services, in particular reproductive health services.

Though the relationship between migration and health is well-documented, very little is understood about the consequences of international migration on the psychosocial, physical and economic wellbeing of young migrants.

Health is a fundamental human right and is critical for development and achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Access to health care services, including reproductive health and HIV prevention, is also key agenda of the MDGs.

"The right to health goes beyond the right to health care but also youth friendly health care service to mitigate stigma and long term social costs," says Dr. Erick Ventura, IOM South Africa Chief of Mission.

South Africa has made great strides in reducing the HIV incidence through its progressive policies and programmes, which includes implementation of youth-friendly services. Additionally, the National Strategic Plan (NSP) for HIV/AIDS/STI&TB recognises migration as one of the key structural drivers of the epidemic (i.e. the risk of HIV infection is higher amongst individuals who either have personal migration experience or have sexual partners who are migrants…) and migrants are included amongst the key populations at risk in the NSP (NDoH, 2012).

Although this is a huge achievement, there is still a need to look at migration from a governance perspective, to see how it can be mainstreamed penetrated into the overall response, including working with young people affected by migration.

IOM is implementing the Ripfumelo Project through financial support from U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and USAID to provide technical assistance to the government of South Africa to address migration issues in the context of HIV and TB.

The Ripfumelo project has been implemented since 2009 in selected districts of Mpumalanga and Limpopo province, focusing initially in the commercial agricultural sector.

The second phase of the project started in April 2012 aiming at scaling up interventions to reduce HIV and TB vulnerability of migrants and host communities affected by migration in South Africa’s Limpopo, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga provinces.

This year’s international youth day provided a platform to explore through this project how the issue of youth migration can be put on the agenda.

The expanded project has scaled up HIV prevention and care interventions for different migrant populations, including labour migrants, mobile workers and irregular migrants, and the communities that they interact with.

“The Ripfumelo project is a strategic partnership with NGOs and government at all levels that facilitates access to health services and programmes, specifically HIV, STIs and TB prevention, care and support services.

"It addresses structural barriers to reduce vulnerability and generates strategic information for evidence-informed policy development and programming,” says Dr Erick Ventura, IOM Migration Health Regional Coordinator and Chief of Mission in South Africa.

Over the initial three years of the project, USAID and PEPFAR have supported IOM to build extensive networks and collaboration with various stakeholders, including government, to ensure accessibility and availability of services and programmes to the hard-to-reach populations such as farm workers. 

About IOM
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is a dynamic and growing inter-governmental organization, with 149 member states, committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society.

Established in 1951 and now active in over 440 field locations worldwide, IOM works with partners, government and civil society to:
• Assist in meeting the operational challenges of migration and mobility
• Advance understanding of migration issues
• Encourage social and economic development through migration; and
• Uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants and mobile populations IOM in South Africa works in six areas
• Migration and Health
• Regulating Migration
• Movement and Resettlement
• Assisted Voluntary Returns
• Counter Trafficking
• Emergency and Humanitarian

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