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Prof. Julia Sloth-Nielsen awarded Schim van der Loeff grant by the Leiden University Fund

Prof. Julia Sloth-Nielsen has been awarded the Schim van der Loeff grant by the Leiden University Fund to conduct research on unaccompanied migrant children in Zambia.

Prof Julia Sloth-Nielsen was awarded a 2015 Schim van der Loeff Grant by the Leiden University Fund to undertake a research study on the protection needs of unaccompanied migrant children in Zambia. The field work for the trip has already taken place, in August 2015, during which the principal researcher was accompanied by co-researcher and former Leiden LLM student and staff member, Jill Stein. 

Zambia is a peace loving country that has never itself been at war, but is situated alongside conflict torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and (increasingly strife ridden) Burundi.  Zambia also lies along a well known transit route for migrants from East Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia), mostly comprising  migrants and refugees en route to South Africa.

Since Zambia has an encampment policy, it was relatively easy to track unaccompanied migrant children in the two large camps in the country, and the (temporary) urban transit centre in the capital Lusaka.  In the transit centre, children interviewed were all from  the DRC and Burundi, ranging in age from 7 to 17 years. Some older young people in the sample interviewed had entered as children but were now aged over 18 years.  The children’s past exposure to extreme levels of violence in their country of origin was the norm, and all of the children were permanently deprived of parental care, ie orphans. One sibling group was awaiting potential placement in the main refugee camp with an aunt. Three older girls - still teens - were awaiting resettlement to the US. The search for durable solutions, it seems is an uneven one, fraught with difficulties, as illustrated by the situation three boys whose application for refugee status had twice been refused, leaving them in legal limbo with no prospect of return to the DRC, yet having no legal status in the country of refuge.

Jill Stein visited Maheba refugee camp further north to better  understand the dynamics of migration for unaccompanied children, and the responses of role players such as NGOs, UN agencies and the Government of Zambia. The results of this research will be written up as part of this Zambian project, and included in a broader regional one examining child migration in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa as well.

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