HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights, HSPH; Jeremiah Smith Jr. Lecturer in Law, HLS


Dramatic reductions in refugee resettlement numbers, restrictions on asylum access and growing externalisation of humanitarian protection have significantly curtailed legal migration pathways for distress migrants. This continues to be the case despite well-established international legal obligations requiring states to protect humanitarian migrants and afford children, in particular, a series of protective procedures. We argue that unaccompanied child migrants are disproportionately disadvantaged by these restrictive measures because other avenues for legal migration – for work, for family reunification, for educational and cultural activities – are generally not open to them. As restrictions increase, unaccompanied children adopt self-initiated, challenging strategies to pay the significant costs of the journeys they embark on, a departure from more linear, “traditional” trajectories towards safety. This article presents qualitative data collected in Greece, site of the largest European distress migrant arrivals in recent years, to discuss the growing cost of irregular mobility for unaccompanied children and the role that exploitation-funded earning plays in enabling their migrations today.


Digidiki, Vasileia, and Jacqueline Bhabha. "The Hidden Costs of Unaccompanied Child Migration." The International Journal of Children's Rights 31.1 (April 2023): 114-136.