SAHM Statement on Refugee and Migrant Adolescents and Young Adults: Compassionate ‎Receptions that Optimize Positive Integration

May 19, 2023

SAHM Statement on Refugee and Migrant Adolescents and Young Adults: Compassionate Receptions that Optimize Positive Integration

More than 40 million adolescents and young adults are international refugees and/or migrants [1]. The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) embraces our professional responsibility to assure that all adolescents and young adults, including refugee and migrant youth, have access to stable family relationships, housing, education, health, well-being, and a positive future. SAHM recognizes that adolescent and young adult “migration has been part of the human experience throughout history, and we recognize that it is a source of prosperity, innovation and sustainable development in our globalized world, and that these positive impacts can be optimized by improving migration governance” [2]. To optimize positive impacts, SAHM encourages compassionate adolescent and young adult migration policies and practices that are consistent with the vision and guiding framework of the Global Compact for Migration [2,3].

The Global Compact for Migration is an internationally negotiated global agreement on a common holistic approach to migration. It is grounded in the values of state sovereignty, responsibility-sharing, non-discrimination, and human rights. It recognizes that a cooperative approach is needed to optimize the overall benefits of migration. It also addresses the risks and challenges for individuals and communities in countries of origin, transit, and destination [3].

Persistent and Recurrent Risks and Challenges that Promote Migration
Over the course of countless generations, adolescents and young adults have migrated to and from countries throughout the world seeking to achieve a better life through their industry and creativity. Persistent and recurrent risks and challenges drive adolescents and young adults to leave their countries of origin and embark on hazardous journeys. Whether by walking and/or being transported on trains, in semi-trailer trucks, in freight containers, and/or overcrowded boats often for thousands of miles and for many months, these young people hope for survival and are in search of a better life.

Many young people leave their home for work, but millions are driven away due to conflict, violence, and climate change [1,4]. Many regions throughout the world have a long history of political and societal violence, often directly related to former and current foreign policies of other countries. Many young people live in areas where they experience chronic dictatorial repression, civil wars, genocide, assaults on oppressed marginalized groups and communities, and violence at the hands of groups engaged in organized crime. Recurrent and increasingly catastrophic storms, hurricanes, floods, drought, and crop failures caused by climate change also worsen endemic poverty and cause mass population displacement.

Recommendations for Compassionate Receptions that Optimize Positive Integration
To promote compassionate receptions that optimize the health, well-being, and positive integration of adolescent and young adult refugees and migrants, SAHM calls upon law and policy makers at all levels to work toward the following recommendations that echo the objectives of the Global Compact for Migration [2].

  1. Maintain family unity by prohibiting the involuntary separation of adolescents and young adults from their refugee and/or migrant families.
  2. Use the harmful practice of detention of adolescent and young adult refugees and migrants only as a measure of last resort and prioritize the use of non-custodial, community-based alternatives that promote compassionate reception, protection, and care [2,5].
  3. Ensure that refugee and migrant adolescents and young adults have full and equal access to national education, physical and mental healthcare, legal/justice, and social protection systems without fear of deportation or being reported to migration authorities [2,5].
  4. Invest in adolescent and young adult skills and workforce development and ethical job placement by providing access to vocational training and apprenticeships; formally recognizing and certifying previous education and qualifications; facilitating fair and ethical job recruitment; and safeguarding labor conditions that ensure decent work [2,6].
  5. Recognize and value the existence of individual and collective strengths and positive societal contributions of adolescent and young adult refugees and migrants [5].
  6. Promote public discourse that shapes positive perceptions of adolescent and young adult refugees and migrants; counter negative stigmatizing age, gender-based, xenophobic, and/or racist portrayals; and eliminate all forms of social, legal, and policy discrimination and exclusion [2,5].
  7. Empower adolescent and young adult refugees and migrants and members of receiving communities to mutually realize full social inclusion, cohesion, and integration by promoting intercultural dialogue around mutual respect for traditions, customs, and history in diverse societies while also fostering a deeper understanding of the specific situation of young refugees and migrants [2,6].
  8. Enhance the availability and flexibility of pathways for regular migration for adolescents and young adults and bring national frameworks in line with international human rights and humanitarian standards to ensure that undocumented adolescents and young adult refugees and migrants are not criminalized [2,5].
  9. Minimize adverse structural factors that compel adolescents and young adults to leave their country of origin [2].
  10. Strengthen international cooperation and partnerships to make migration less traumatic for adolescents and young adults.

[1] Edmonds C. (2020). Global migration, by the numbers: who migrates, where they go and why. Agenda. World Economic Forum. Available at: Accessed May 6, 2023
[2] United Nations. (2018). Global compact for safe, orderly, and regular migration. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on December 19, 2018, Available at:  Accessed May 7, 2023.
[3] United Nations, 2023. Global compact for migration. Refugees and Migrants. Available at: Accessed May 8, 2023.
[4] International Organization for Migration (IOM), 2021. Migration and migrants: A global overview. In: World Migration Report 2022 (M. McAuliffe and A. Triandafyllidou, eds.). IOM, Geneva. Available at: Accessed May, 6, 2023.
[5] Joint communiqué: Putting children’s rights at the heart of the Global Compact for Migration’s implementation in Asia-Pacific. Relief Web. Available at: Accessed May 8, 2023.
[6] Council of Europe. (2019). Supporting young refugees in transition to adulthood. Available at:  Accessed May 8, 2023.

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