“Leaving my country for a better life, looking for something to eat, looking for some place to learn and some place to live. Not finding these things. Instead it is a painful life to liveBeing a child does not protect me.”

Children on the move who reach South Africa face incredible challenges as they fight for their survival. They leave their home countries often because of extreme poverty. They may not have enough food, access to education or they (and sometimes their families) are looking for a better life. Although on paper South Africa has a good framework of protection for children, such as laws that guarantee all children no matter where they are from to enjoy the same rights, the reality is far from it.

“South Africa is not home. Here we are unwanted. Police come at night demanding to see our papers. We are always afraid of being beaten, thrown into jail, being deported.”

Destination Unknown campaign member Terre des Hommes works with local partners such as the University of South Africa on programmes supporting child and youth migrants in the country. One of their latest projects explores empowerment and digital technology by using digital storytelling – mixing images, sound and video footage to tell a short story. The ‘handmade’ quality is purposefully done to convey the idea that everyday people can express themselves with this medium – even marginalised groups or individuals.

The idea is to encourage people to use their voice – their voice as talk, their voice as identity and their voice as power.


As part of the project, a group of six undocumented migrant youth from Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe created a video where they look back at the loss of their childhood when they were forced to leave their home countries – re-experiencing their childhood through more mature eyes as emerging adults. The young migrants tell stories of abuse and negligence, of having to grow up fast, of having to be parents to their younger siblings and losing their hopes and dreams. When asked why they decided to participate in this project, the young people involved said they did it to share their experiences, be listened to and understood, and to heal.

The Destination Unknown campaign believes that every child, no matter their immigration status, should be treated as a child and protected against all forms of discrimination. We believe that all children have the right to life, survival and development. We strongly oppose the detention of children as it is never in the best interest of the child and is a violation of children’s rights.

Read more about Terre des Hommes’ 9 recommended principles to guide actions concerning children on the move and other children affected by migration here.

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