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For several years Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have been the main corridors for refugees and migrant and refugee children transiting the Balkans route, hoping to reach Western and Northern European countries. It has been reported that violence is both the trigger for migration and an intrinsic component of a migration journey, stretching also to the countries viewed as destination countries. Evidence of physical violence against children on the borders is most often reported in the local media, while there is a striking gap in the existing body of literature regarding other forms of violence refugee and migrant children face while transiting the Balkan route.

Violence, Migration and Children: A Research and Advocacy Project

Having this in mind, Save the Children North West Balkans and the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of the University of Sarajevo jointly developed a research and advocacy project that aims to investigate various forms of violence against refugee and migrant children transiting the Balkan route, focusing particularly on Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The qualitative research methodology envisages in-depth interviews with around 40 children currently residing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, striving to include a diverse sample as possible in the transit context.

Ethically Centering the Voices of Children

While it is essential to hear what children need and have to say about experiences on the route, robust ethical considerations must guide and inform the entire research process. After clearance was obtained from the Ethics Committee of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies, field researchers were carefully chosen from the pool of experienced child protection professionals who were not previously engaged in direct work with children participating in this research to avoid bias and potential hindering of research results. Keeping in mind the vital role of cultural mediators who facilitate communication with children, they were also included in the training.

Child Friendly Approaches

Some of the main aspects covered during the training were related to obtaining informed consent from both parents and children in a transit context, culturally appropriate and child-friendly interviewing techniques, as well as the protection of the child’s privacy and COVID-19 risks mitigation. A special focus was placed on gender dynamics, gender inequality and gender-based violence in the context of forced migration. A thorough protocol for field researchers was carefully developed to address possible scenarios and actions to be taken to ensure full child safeguarding during the field research in line with Save the Children policies.

Full, prior and informed bilingual written consent forms (in local language and most usual languages of refugees and migrants) were prepared for parents, legal guardians, and children in child-friendly language. While consent from parents/guardians was obtained to reach out to a child, children themselves were given space to decide whether they wished to be included in the research. The interviews are being conducted in safe spaces for children, interactively allowing children to freely express their experiences and views, using a child-centred framework. The protection of staff conducting the interviews from vicarious secondary traumatisation were also addressed during training, and debriefing sessions will be held after each day of research.

Research Impact: Child Sensitive Programmes

The research findings will establish a foundation for a national and regional framework for the design, implementation and evaluation of culturally-sensitive child protection and support policies and practices. Such evidence would support the development and adaptation of effective, tailored, and child-sensitive prevention and intervention programs for children in migration in the Balkan region and beyond.





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For more information contact: Nikolina Milic, Research and Data Analysis Coordinator at Balkans Migration and Displacement Hub, Save the Children in North West Balkans – E-mail: Phone: +381649732162 Address: Save the Children, Simina 18, Belgrade, Serbia

#16DaysofActivism 2021 Blog Series

Written by Nikolina Milic

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