Jan 24, 2021

Hidden Voices: Exploring the health experiences of children who migrate


Changes in international migration over the past few decades have been characterised by diversification of migrants from non-European backgrounds concentrated in a ‘shrinking pool of prime destination countries’ (Czaika & de Hass, 2015; 283).

Increased rates of immigration result in increasingly heterogeneous populations with a diverse array of needs and can pose both challenges and opportunities for host countries in terms of housing markets, labour markets, education and health systems. Children present a particularly vulnerable group of migrants.

However, little is known about the impact of migration on their health experiences, despite it being recognised that mortality and morbidity of migrants is influenced by their country of origin, their destination and the process of migration itself (McKay et al., 2003). Of the little research that has been undertaken in this area, children’s and their parents’ migration status are often conflated and there is a tendency to draw on predefined health outcome measures, rather than qualitative work that seeks to explicitly forefront children’s perspectives and experiences.

The classification of a ‘child migrant’ is also highly problematic given that official statistics group children who migrate with families for economic reasons, children who migrate with families seeking asylum and unaccompanied minors together. We propose to define children as those aged between 0 and 18 years of age.

In terms of health experiences, we are interested in exploring migrant children’s experiences of their physical health, mental well-being and health-care use. UNICEF have made clear that research is needed to better understand how migration affects children. Our WUN collaboration intends to address this by specifically exploring the impact of migration on children’s health experiences.

Our collaboration brings together academics and broader NGO’s interested in the field of children’s research, health, and migration. Our group is committed to the value of children and young people’s perspectives and seeks to explore the health experiences of children and young people as a result of their migration.

Over the year of our funding, we propose to:

1. Undertake three region-based systematic reviews (Africa, Americas and Western Pacific regions) on the health experiences of migrant children, building on the European review carried out by the applicants.

2. Hold a three-day workshop in Sheffield in September 2017 to include:

  • A research prioritisation exercise with our network partners and key stakeholders based on the findings from systematic reviews;
  • Work exploring methodological challenges to working with child migrants and showcase/discuss potential methodological and participatory approaches.

Selected outcomes

WUN Child Migrant Health workshop, The University of Sheffield 11th-13th September 2017. 15 Academics and 5 NGO guests attended and presented papers.

Refugee Council, Leeds 14th December. Thompson, J and Fairbrother, H presented results from review undertaken as part of the network.