Thailand: Improving Coordination to Better Assist Migrants in Emergencies

© IOM Thailand
  Date: Tuesday, March 7, 2017
By Siriwan Limsakul, IOM Thailand

Over the last decades, Thailand, an upper middle-income country with an impressive history of economic growth, has attracted migrants from Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and countries further afield. Migrants currently account for an estimated 6‒8 per cent of the Thai labour force – mostly working in factories in the construction sector or in informal jobs in agriculture, fisheries, services and domestic work.

In recent times, Thailand has faced a number of crises, such as the economic shocks in 1997 and 2008, the tsunami in the Andaman Ocean in 2004, the 2011 floods, as well as the still ongoing, decade-long period of political turmoil. Experience during these crises has shown that addressing the needs for assistance of vulnerable groups, and migrants in particular, remains a major challenge.

Thailand has adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and actively engages in its implementation. One of Thailand’s main focuses is to engage all stakeholders, including migrants, in disaster risk reduction efforts to address their vulnerability and build resilience. Due to the significant presence of migrants in Thailand, including them in prevention, preparedness and response efforts should be a key concern for authorities at all levels.

To this end, over the past two years, IOM Thailand has implemented a series of activities under the pilot MICIC capacity building programme to support national authorities in reducing the vulnerability of migrants present in the country. The project has helped disaster prevention and mitigation authorities build networks with migrant communities and engage them in local disaster preparedness and planning.

In close coordination with the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) of the Ministry of Interior, this project has successfully put the protection of migrants and their access to assistance on the agenda of disaster prevention and miti­gation in Thailand. The project enhanced understanding among relevant local government agencies on the causes and impact of migrants vulnerabilities in disaster, and proposed potential policies and measures to address their particular vulnerabilities.

In March 2016, DDPM and IOM Thailand have co-hosted a pilot trai­ning of trainers to familiarize a pool of DDPM staff with the training materials and methodologies of IOM’s MICIC capacity building pro­gram. The course also provided an opportunity to provide inputs to, and refine the materials.

DDPM trainers contributed to the further adaptation of the training materials to the Thai context and integrated a community based disaster risk management element, in order to roll out more targeted local level training events. An exercise on disaster response for local authorities, migrant communities, private sector actors, local rescue foundations, and civil society organizations was also included in the training methodology, to foster experience sharing and coordination among disaster response actors.

Local-level trainings were organized between June and September 2016 in four provinces: Ranong, Kanchanaburi, Chonburi, and Samut Sakhon. More than 230 participants were trained on migrants’ specific conditions of vulnerability in disasters and on ways to integrate this knowledge into their work. Most of the participants were personnel from relevant provincial government agencies and local administrative bodies. Migrant representatives were also involved.

The training sessions were designed around participatory, active methodologies and allowed participants from different agen­cies to share their experience and build a network of practitioners. Practical exercises based on local crisis scenarios enabled partici­pants to understand and test roles and coordination procedures in emergency response.

Following these trainings, the DDPM decided to include a brief version of the course into their regular induction training for senior level officers at the Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Academy. The 3-hour course will equip DDPM officers to understand migrants’ specific conditions of vulnerability and identify basic measures they can take to better assist migrants in disaster situations.

The training workshops also fed into the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) on the coordination of all stakeholders to better assist migrants in crisis. The SOP developed by IOM at the request of DDPM reflect the roles various relevant agencies should play in a disaster and the measures each should take before, during and after an emergency to ensure the protection of migrants. The DDPM welcomed the draft SOP and will now work to adapt them for the use of government agencies in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

The training activities of the MICIC Initiative in Thailand initiated a great learning process to understand the correlation between disaster management and migrant vulnerability. IOM Thailand is very pleased to continue its collaboration with the Royal Thai Government to provide further technical support and future collaboration to enhance coordination among government institutions, as well as building disaster resilience among migrant communities in Thailand.

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Siriwan Limsakul is a Project Assistant with IOM Thailand.