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


The global population of unaccompanied minors—children and adolescents younger than 18 years who migrate without their legal guardians—is increasing. However, as data are not systematically collected in any region, if collected at all, little is known about this diverse group of young people. Compared with adult migrants, unaccompanied minors are at greater risk of harm to their health and integrity because they do not have the protection provided by a family, which can affect their short-term and long-term health. This Review summarises evidence regarding the international migration and health of unaccompanied minors. Unaccompanied minors are entitled to protection that should follow their best interests as a primary consideration; however, detention, sometimes under the guise of protection, is a widespread practice. If these minors are provided with appropriate forms of protection, including health and psychosocial care, they can thrive and have good long-term outcomes. Instead, hostile immigration practices persist, which are not in the best interests of the child.


Corona Maioli, Susanna, Jacqueline Bhabha, Kolitha Wickramage, Laura C N Wood, Ludivine Erragne, Omar Ortega García, Rochelle Burgess, Vasileia Digidiki, Robert W Aldridge, and Delan Devakumar. "International migration of unaccompanied minors: trends, health risks, and legal protection." The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health 5.12 (December 2021): 882-895.