Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age

Why, despite massive public concern, is child trafficking on the rise? Why are unaccompanied migrant children living on the streets and routinely threatened with deportation to their countries of origin?  Why do so many young refugees of war-ravaged and failed states end up warehoused in camps, victimized by the sex trade, or enlisted as child soldiers? This book provides the first comprehensive account of the widespread but neglected global phenomenon of child migration, exploring the complex challenges facing children and adolescents who move to join their families, those who are moved to be exploited, and those who move simply to survive.

Spanning several continents and drawing on the actual stories of young migrants, the book shows how difficult it is for children to reunite with parents who left them behind to seek work abroad. It looks at the often-insurmountable obstacles we place in the paths of adolescents fleeing war, exploitation, or destitution; the contradictory elements in our approach to international adoption; and the limited support we give to young people brutalized as child soldiers. Part history, part in-depth legal and political analysis, this powerful book challenges the prevailing wisdom that widespread protection failures are caused by our lack of awareness of the problems these children face, arguing instead that our societies have a deep-seated ambivalence to migrant children—one we need to address head-on.

Child Migration and Human Rights in a Global Age offers a road map for doing just that, and makes a compelling and courageous case for an international ethics of children’s human rights.

Jacqueline Bhabha is professor of the practice of health and human rights at the Harvard School of Public Health, director of research at Harvard’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, and the Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Lecturer at Harvard Law School. Her books include Children without a State: A Global Human Rights Challenge.


"This is an important book on a much neglected subject. Not only is the massive problem of involuntary child migration in our chaotic world greatly underappreciated, but also the gigantic policy challenges involved are often wrongly perceived and widely misunderstood. We have reason to be grateful to Jacqueline Bhabha for bringing this powerfully informed, clear-headed analysis to a global problem of extreme urgency."--Amartya Sen, coauthor of An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions

"Courageous, remarkably erudite, and deeply moving, this important book is the work of a thinker and activist at the height of her powers. Read it for rich historical perspective, wise legal analysis, and practical policy recommendations that address the vulnerabilities of children in the international landscape today."--Linda K. Kerber, author of No Constitutional Right to Be Ladies: Women and the Obligations of Citizenship

"Bhabha challenges the wisdom of current approaches to the protection of children in the context of migration. This book is a major contribution to the field. Never before has so much rich material been pulled together in a single, easily readable, and enticing volume that has the rights of children at its core."--Susan L. Bissell, chief of child protection, UNICEF