One in every 8 migrants is a child. Migrant children therefore represent a significant percentage of all refugees and migrants worldwide. Ca. 161,000 children lodged asylum applications in the European Union in 2017 (until September), representing one third of all asylum applications that year. Around 25,600 of those children were unaccompanied.

In Austria, 1,751 unaccompanied migrant children applied for asylum in 2017. There are also separated children who seek international protection, i.e. children who are not accompanied by their parents, but by other family members. Also, not all migrant children applied for asylum.

Whatever their status and whether they are accompanied or not and by whom, these are first and foremost children and their rights must be respected and protected.

IOM’s approach

In line with the increased attention paid to the migration of children as part of a larger phenomenon of family migration, transnational families and family reunification, the work of IOM has grown substantially in relation to providing assistance to children on the move, particularly to those who are unaccompanied.

IOM operates within the relevant international legal framework for the protection of migrants and children, in particular in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. IOM is dedicated to migrant children’s well-being and the consideration of their best interest.

Following the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrant in September 2016 and the launch of intergovernmental negotiations towards the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and since migrants children are the most vulnerable migrants, being – among other risks –  at risk of being trafficked or exploited, IOM supports the creation of an additional global compact aiming at producing principles and voluntary guidelines to protect migrant children. Also, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, IOM contributes to identifying the gaps in international child migrant protection by supporting states in achieving their commitments to the SDGs and relevant targets related to the overall well-being of child migrants.

IOM programmes address children’s individual needs; they include protection measures and advocate for better child protection and child sensitive migration policies.

IOM endeavors to reflect the principles of non-discrimination, the best interest of the child, family unity and participation in all its activities; most IOM child and youth oriented programmes fall under the following six pillars:

  • Data and research
  • Policy and advocacy
  • Protection and assistance
  • Capacity building
  • Prevention
  • Child protection in crisis response.

Migrant Children in Austria

In line with IOM’s global approach, the Country Office for Austria participates in and carries out various activities involving migrant children that are tailored to address the Austrian context by offering its expertise and support to national child protection stakeholders. In addition, IOM cooperates and liaises with various relevant stakeholders – including UNHCR and UNICEF – to support the respect and realization of migrant childrens’ rights. 

The Counter-Trafficking Unit is currently implementing a project on child protection that offers specialized training for various actors dealing with migrant children, aiming to sensitize first responders to the topic of child trafficking, raising their awareness regarding the difficulties related to the identification of trafficking and empowering them to perform their tasks in a child friendly manner and to always act in the best interest of the child.

IOM Austria also advocates for the safeguarding of children’s rights during AVRR procedures: no child should return voluntarily without a proper best interest assessment and determination. Therefore the AVRR Unit offers support to those responsible for determining whether voluntary return is in the best interest of the child by conducting family assessments on a case by case basis. In some cases, the AVRR Unit is also able to provide reintegration assistance to migrant children returning to their country of origin or another country where they can rightfully reside.

The Integration Unit offers capacity building in the area of fostering for unaccompanied and separated children.

Currently the IOM Country Office for Austria implements projects that focus on children rights and child protection via capacity building and via institutional support through inter alia family assessment as part of the best interest determination.

Apart from implementing specific projects, IOM Austria is active in awareness-raising activities and liaison with relevant stakeholders, in particular in relation to capacity building, integration, research, as well as family assessments and voluntary return of unaccompanied minors.


Andrea Götzelmann-Rosado
Focal Point for Migrant Children
International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Country Office for Austria
Nibelungengasse 13/4
1010 Vienna

Tel: +43 1 585 33 22 22