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Numerous children and teenagers leave their country of origin on their own and are consequently confronted with dangers and an uncertain future. Every year, several hundreds of these children and teenagers arrive in SwitzerlandISS Switzerland supports UM in exercising their rights and finding durable, individual solutions. These can consist of an integration in the host country, an integration in a third country or the reintegration in their country of origin.

UM are children first
Underage migrants traveling on their own are first and foremost children. They need to be treated according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified by Switzerland in 1997), which promotes the child’s best interest as its core concept. ISS Switzerland is committed to draw the attention of the responsible authorities, professionals and political decision-makers to the need for protection of UM by providing information and raising awareness.

Harmonisation of standards
In Switzerland, the cantons are responsible for the accommodation and care of asylum seekers, resulting in different regional systems and standards which can affect the development of prospects for the future of UM. ISS Switzerland works towards a harmonisation of standards in the accommodation and care of UM throughout Switzerland and assists professionals in using child-centred approaches in their work.

Support into adulthood
Transitioning into adulthood entails significant changes for UM, especially regarding their legal situation, their accommodation and their opportunities for education. UM are therefore in need of support beyond the age of majority. Additionally to institutional support, members of civil society can offer young adults important assistance by maintaining stable and long-term relationships with them through mentoring.

Our services

Individual support for UM

  • Transnational services
  • Educational opportunities: scholarships
  • Reintegration in the country of origin
  • Our lawyer who specialises in asylum and immigration law is mandated by the Geneva Child and Youth Protection to provide legal assistance to UM. This includes appeals and requests for reconsideration, requests for family reunification, conversion of F permits (temporary admission), residence legalisation or citizenship, recognition of stateless persons or the search for documents abroad.
  • Projects
    • MYSELF is an online platform for unaccompanied minors who are about to reach the age of majority. The transition to adulthood is an important period in life that entails a number of challenges. This is especially true for young people who are not surrounded by their family. The platform MYSELF, created in cooperation with the French-speaking cantons, aims to support young people on their journey towards independence. The platform includes interactive and informative worksheets on health, relationships, projects and daily life, useful services for UM in the cantons, and other content such as news and videos. A German and Italian version of the platform is planned for 2021.
    • MY PERSPECTIVE is a project in cooperation with the association Peer Campaigns and UNICEF Switzerland and Liechtenstein. In workshops of one week, UM discuss their questions and wishes for the future. Based on these discussions, video interviews are made with young adults who, like them, fled to Switzerland as UM. Through these interviews, the teenagers receive advice from the young adults and can draw conclusions from their experiences for their own pathways of integration.



      • UM journal: During a summer camp that brought together a dozen teenagers from different French-speaking cantons, the UM journal "Ma voix pour toi" was created for young people by young people. The objective of this journal was to describe the daily life of these young people, their journey and their worries. The second issue dealt with the education of the teenagers. The third issue was produced in the form of a blog in collaboration with Païdos association and students from the interdisciplinary Master's programme in children's rights (MIDE).
      • Video workshop "Ici mon futur": The goal of this workshop was to create several short films produced by young migrants and young people from Geneva. The participation and collaboration between teenagers from Geneva and UM was intended to strengthen social integration by emphasising the relationship with others and community life. The workshop was based on a participatory and creative approach that aimed to understand the daily life and realities of young migrants. In 2018, a screening took place at FIFDH in the presence of the young directors and in front of a sold out house.
      • Support for the West Africa Network for the Protection of Children (WAN)
      • Best Interest Determination for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers: In a pilot project, ISS Switzerland, together with UNHCR Switzerland and Liechtenstein, tested how elements of a best interest determination and the development of a durable solution for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers could be integrated into the Swiss asylum procedure. The project was carried out from 2018 to 2019 at the test centre for the new asylum procedure in Zurich in cooperation with the State Secretariat for Migration and the Berner Rechtsberatungsstelle für Menschen in Not, which was responsible for the legal assistance to unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.

Support for professionals


  • The advocacy group for young people with a negative asylum decision consists of members of the Geneva Asylum Coordination, including ISS Switzerland, as well as affected minors. The group was formed following various motions adopted by the Geneva Grand Council. The asylum coordination decided to set up working groups and engage in discussions with the minors concerned, as well as to conduct a survey of all young people born after 1995 who are staying in Geneva and are receiving emergency aid. The aim of the survey is to know the background of these young people in greater detail, especially with regard to their schooling and vocational training. The young people are working together with the Geneva network to find individual and collective solutions. The results were published in 2021. In addition, there has been mobilisation within the framework of the campaign "Education for All - Now!" by Solidarity Across Borders.
  • ADEM was formed in 2006 by an alliance of ISS Switzerland, the Institut International des Droits de l'Enfant and Terre des Hommes with the aim of building a network of organisations and professionals committed to the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Switzerland and thus the observation of the rights and interests of migrant children. In 2016, the Swiss Refugee Council joined the network as a partner. From 2006 to 2018, ADEM organised various national conferences, wrote statements on current developments and provided information on the issue of unaccompanied minors. In addition, ADEM directly addressed the children and teenagers concerned with information about various areas of life such as the right of residence, the transition to adulthood or contact with the family. Summaries of the national conferences are available under Documentation (French and German).
UM and ex-UM were supported legally, socially or financially by ISS Switzerland in 2020
122 people participated at the intercantonal conferences in 2020