Different analytical lenses can be used to understand the phenomenon of UYAS looking for liaisons among older local women, each of which can produce various policy recommendations. The common knee-jerk response is to analyze this phenomenon from a child trafficking perspective that casts UYAS as passive victims. This approach tends to result in policies that are punitive and limit the freedom of mobility of the UYAS. The authors of this chapter acknowledge the possibility of exploitation occurring within these liaisons while pointing to the fact that the structures put in place by asylum-seeker policies contribute to the vulnerability of UYAS to exploitation. At the same time, the data show that unaccompanied young asylum-seekers are not merely passive victims but also active participants in using functional relationships to navigate the structures that limit their liberties and to make the most of the few options available to them. Further, it is important to understand the circumstances of the lives of UYAS in transit in order to design policies that provide appropriate, rather than prescriptive, protection for them.
To understand the reality of the circumstances of UYAS during their long journeys in search for effective protection, more ethnographic, longterm studies of underaged and young unaccompanied asylum-seekers are needed. The analytical approach taken in designing social interventions that respond to the actual needs of UYAS and the priorities of the child migrants may need to set aside the West’s preference for “protectionist narratives” that, after all, often are rooted in perceptions of Western moral superiority and purity (Mai 2011, 1251). Without downplaying the injustices that take place during migratory encounters, it seems advisable to think outside the categories of “child exploitation” and “child trafficking,” at least until UYAS have more viable choices during their journeys in search of better lives. A more nuanced approach is needed in an attempt to understand the possibilities. One step ahead towards a durable solution would be to make a greater effort to explore the perspectives of the UYAS than has been made so far.