Colombo Process States Seek Better Protection for Asian Migrants Caught in Crises


Location: Manila, Philippines

Governments in Asia are taking steps to better protect migrants caught in countries experiencing humanitarian crises, like natural disasters, conflict and armed violence.

From 22-23 May, ten governments, who are part of the Colombo Process (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand), and the UN Migration Agency (IOM) gathered to discuss practical approaches to protecting nationals abroad in the context of crises in Manila, Philippines. The Government of Nepal currently chairs the Colombo Process, which is also known as the Ministerial Consultation on Overseas Employment and Contractual Labour for Countries of Origin in Asia.

“People living and working outside of their countries of origin are vulnerable to becoming stranded abroad in times of crisis,” said Marco Boasso, Chief of Mission of IOM Philippines. “They may lack the necessary resources, and access to services and information to address the challenges brought by unforeseen crises,” added Boasso.

The two-day regional Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) inter-governmental meeting was organized to enable States involved in the Colombo Process to exchange lessons learned on assisting nationals stranded abroad in countries experiencing crisis, and to encourage the set-up of a “collective preparedness mechanism”. This mechanism will be a consular protection collaborative with the aim of promoting mutual solidarity among Colombo Process countries.

This regional meeting was held in response to the call made by the 2016 Colombo Process Ministerial Declaration on developing collaborative consular mechanisms, sharing information, and promoting the political commitment of the different countries to these issues.

“The Delegations at the meeting expressed readiness to recommend to tackle migration crisis interventions in a number of standing Colombo Process Thematic Working Group meetings, such as those, which refer to the Pre-Departure Orientation and Empowerment, Skill Training and Ethical Recruitment, among others,” noted Gahendra Rajbhandari, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal. 

IOM already supports several Colombo Process countries in further strengthening their consular capacities, namely Vietnam, Afghanistan and Philippines, with regards to assisting migrants caught in crisis. The latter, Philippines, co-chaired the MICIC Initiative, alongside the United States, and shared their valuable experiences throughout the consultative and evidence gathering process. Many of their practices and lessons learned are exemplified in the MICIC Guidelines.

States that are part of the Colombo Process have considerable capacities to protect their nationals abroad during crises, as evident by their efforts to protect their nationals affected by the recent crises in Nepal, Syria and Libya. The overall aim of the two-day meeting was to enhance the regional capacities of Colombo Process Member States to address the needs of migrants in countries experiencing crises. This meeting was funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM).

For further information, please contact Lorenzo Guadagno from the MICIC team at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 22 7179 566, Email: LGuadagno@iom.int