IOM Launches Reference Checklist with Special Measures for the Evacuation of Migrant Children Caught in Natural and Man-Made Disasters

Migrants, many of whom from Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, are lining up to board buses that will evacuate them from Libya (IOM, 2011).
  Date: Thursday, April 13, 2017
By Katherine Williamson and Laura Lungarotti, Save the Children and IOM

Poorly organized humanitarian evacuations or population relocations that do not follow protocols and guidelines can result in children becoming separated from their family. It is critical to raise awareness on the risks of inappropriate actions regarding the evacuations of children caught in natural or man-made disaster situations. All the more, special considerations are needed when migrant children are to be evacuated, particularly if they are unaccompanied and separated children (UASC).

Special Measures for the Evacuation of Migrant Children: A Reference Checklist is a part of the toolkit developed by IOM to provide technical guidance for the operationalization of the MICIC Initiative Guidelines, including Guideline 13: Relocate and evacuate migrants when needed.

This practice-oriented reference check-list is particularly welcomed, given the lack of practical guidance available on this often unexplored – and yet recurring theme. States and Organizations alike are often confronted with challenges and protection dilemmas when evacuating from crisis-hit countries groups of endangered migrants including children and among them, UASC.  These include, for example, how to ensure that family groups are kept together throughout the evacuation, and how to ensure that UASC are identified, receive care and support during evacuation, and are received by appropriate authorities across the whole operation and in destination countries.

The value added of this checklist lies in ensuring that it contains practical guidance for those in charge of planning or implementing evacuations whilst also making sure that legal obligations to protect all children involved are upheld.  It is recognized that the highest standards of care and protection may not be achievable in the context of fragile states, particularly when evacuations from crisis-affected areas are necessary at very short notice.  Guidance is therefore included to ensure the minimum level of care and protection for children caught up in such rapidly evolving circumstances. The checklist can be considered comprehensive as it speaks to such difference in capacity and circumstance, whilst maintaining the best interests of the child as the guiding principle. Acknowledging the wide range of consultations and expert advice received from IOM practitioners, various child protection actors, including within Save the Children and other key stakeholders in the development of this reference checklist, we recommend it as a critical tool to support evacuations of migrant children and families from humanitarian crises whenever such evacuation is necessary.

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Katherine Williamson is Senior Humanitarian Child Protection Advisor at Save the Children

Laura Lungarotti is Senior Protection Officer at IOM