Having experienced substantial international migration since the 1970s, countries in East, South, and Southeast Asia have developed laws, institutions, policies, and programs to govern various aspects of international migration. Children, however, who comprise a significant share of the world’s international migrants, have not received as much policy attention as adults. Children are part of the region’s international migration experience (e.g., children left behind in the countries of origin when their parents migrate for work, children as migrants, and children as members of multicultural families). This article provides an overview of the challenges faced by children as migration actors, and the policy responses and programs that select countries in the region have developed to address children’s experiences and concerns.
The Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees, which many Asian countries have endorsed, set forth objectives, commitments, and actions, informed by the principle of promoting the best interests of the child and child protection, which specifically address the needs of children. These include actions to promote universal birth registration, enhance access to education and health and social services regardless of migrant and legal status, and otherwise create inclusive and socially cohesive societies. Most countries in Asia have yet to meet these standards. Endorsing the two compacts was a first step. The good practices that have been implemented in a number of countries provide a template for how to translate these objectives into action and how to ensure that the full protection and best interests of migrant children, the left-behind children of migrant workers, and those who are part of multicultural families remain a priority.