GUIDELINE 5: Involve migrants in contingency planning and integrate their needs and capacities

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States, employers, recruiters and placement agencies, international organizations, and civil society have contingency plans and procedures to react to and mitigate the risks associated with crises. Many States of origin have contingency plans to assist their citizens abroad. If contingency plans do not exist, they should be developed during the pre-crisis phase to provide sufficient time to consider and test options.

Contingency plans should take into account and integrate migrants’ presence, potential needs, and capacities. Plans should anticipate migrants’ requirements for relocation, evacuation, communication, emergency shelter, food and non-food relief, health care, and psychosocial support. Plans should address ways to identify and respond to the needs of particularly vulnerable populations, such as migrant children, including unaccompanied and separated children, children of migrants in an irregular immigration status, migrant victims of trafficking, elderly migrants, and migrants with disabilities. Plans should also address the protection of migrants in detention. Contingency plans should be flexible, actionable, clear, and adapted to relevant regional, national, and local dynamics.

Involving migrants and civil society in the preparation of contingency plans can be particularly useful. Migrants and civil society can identify circumstances where targeted approaches are necessary to address the specific needs of migrants, such as language requirements. Employers and recruitment and placement agencies should be involved in contingency plans for migrant workers and their families.

Regularly updating and testing contingency plans can also be helpful to identify gaps and weaknesses in actions towards migrants and to ensure those charged with protecting migrants have the authority and capacity to do so. Joint contingency planning between emergency response actors and those working primarily with migrant populations can facilitate resource sharing and common understanding of risks, migrant populations, and local infrastructure. Contingency plans can include a crisis management structure that identifies responsibilities of different actors.

Sample Practices

  • Multi-stakeholder contingency plans to share resources and capacities to assist migrants, including by undertaking multi-stakeholder asset mapping exercises.
  • Crisis alert systems that monitor crises in host States and direct authorities to act based on the intensity of the crisis, such as obligation to evacuate migrants.
  • Evacuation plans that set out clear rules and criteria for carrying out evacuations, such as document requirements and eligibility for evacuation.
  • Emergency drills involving migrants to test contingency plans and identify obstacles and challenges.
  • Inter-agency contingency plans that take into account migrants’ potential needs in crises.

Local level responses and coordination

Engagement and coordination with a variety of institutional and non-institutional actors is a core element of contingency planning efforts. Such actions allow stakeholders to share resources and leverage capacities. Relevant actors include:

  • Consulates and other representatives of the migrants’ States of origin in the host State (e.g., labor attachés);
  • Non-governmental, community, and faith-based organizations working with migrant communities;
  • Leaders and representatives of migrant groups and associations;
  • Employers, recruiters, placement agencies, unions, and worker associations that are particularly relevant to migrant populations;
  • Tour operators, hotels, and their associations;
  • Translators, interpreters, and cultural mediators.

Support for multi-stakeholder contingency planning

International organizations and civil society may be well placed to lead joint contingency planning processes. Industry or employer associations could serve the same role with employers, particularly small businesses or individual employers who have limited resources for planning. Supporting multi-stakeholder contingency planning includes:

  • Establishing multi-stakeholder platforms to coordinate contingency plans;
  • Leading multi-stakeholder asset mapping exercises;
  • Negotiating multi-stakeholder agreements with service providers;
  • Developing standard plans that individual actors can join or adopt.

Drills and tests involving migrants

Drills to test contingency plans can serve multiple purposes. Such activities help to identify obstacles and challenges to implementation in the context of crises and raise awareness of preparedness and response measures amongst relevant stakeholders. In testing plans with migrant communities, factors to consider include:

  • Timing exercises to facilitate maximum engagement;
  • Providing incentives for participation;
  • Coordinating the organization and advertisement of contingency plan drills with institutions migrants trust;
  • Repeating drills to improve the knowledge and preparedness of short-term migrants, those in transit situations, and newcomers;
  • Barriers faced by migrants in an irregular situation, including in the context of clandestine employment arrangements where employers restrict the ability of migrants to participate.

Regional and cross-border contingency plans

Bilateral or multilateral contingency plans on cross-border crisis coordination can improve responses. Such plans may be particularly valuable for areas that have nomadic populations, such as pastoralists or indigenous people who regularly cross international borders as part of their traditional way of life. Engaging cross-border populations and the communities who host them improves their sense of ownership of plans and can enhance responses. Mapping existing resources and pre-establishing joint asset pools can mitigate competition for resources during crises and leverage limited resources. In developing such contingency plans, factors to consider and incorporate include:

  • Geographic maps of relevant areas;
  • Distribution and relevant demographic characteristics of migrants;
  • Illustrations of relevant routes for evacuations.

Contingency plans adapted to account for migrants’ presence and potential needs

Contingency plans that are adapted to account for migrants’ cultural, social, economic, and demographic characteristics can improve their level of preparedness and facilitate assistance to them during emergencies. Such plans should encompass a comprehensive understanding of the migrant population of concern, which could be based on community profiles that capture relevant features of at-risk communities, in particular in high-immigration areas as well as mobility patterns. Factors to consider in developing contingency plans include:

  • The fact that migrants often live and work in particularly risky areas that are more exposed to natural disasters and environmental degradation, physically segregated from other communities, or lack basic infrastructure and services;
  • Migrants’ culturally-learned reactions to natural disasters, conflicts, and warnings;
  • Which actors may be best placed to communicate and interact with migrants (e.g., if they mistrust authorities, considering how to reduce the presence of uniformed officials in evacuation areas);
  • Dedicated transportation services, as migrants may have limited access to privatelyowned vehicles;
  • Multilingual speakers and signage to guide migrants to access services and assistance, including evacuation ;
  • Identification of safe shelters to house migrants, including in the context of evacuation;
  • Stockpiling resources that account for migrants’ food, religious, privacy, or linguistic needs.

Contingency plans for protecting migrants in detention

Establishing contingency plans for protecting migrants in detention in the event of a crisis can ensure that migrants in detention are not forgotten and receive the support they need. In a crisis situation, some migrants in detention may need to contact their State of origin to request evacuation support. Others may need to be relocated out of harm’s way. Contingency plans could take advantage of partnership agreements with civil society or international organizations providing services to migrants in detention.

Crisis alert systems

Alert systems that monitor crises in host States and direct authorities to act based on the intensity of the crisis provide certainty for authorities and for citizens abroad. Actions corresponding to the level of crisis may range from voluntary restrictions on travel, voluntary return, or mandatory evacuation or return. Phases of crisis alert systems can include:

A precautionary phase, where the response can include:

  • Monitoring the situation;
  • Assessing and updating contingency plans;
  • Activating a crisis management team and other support structures;
  • Coordinating with employers to ensure their preparedness to implement their respective contingency plans;
  • Advising citizens to acquire or locate identity documents.

A restriction phase, where the response can include:

  • Advising citizens to shelter in place with due regard to heightened risks;
  • Mobilizing key personnel to relevant sites;  
  • Securing travel clearances and exit routes;
  • Preparing for the return and reintegration of citizens.

A voluntary return phase, where the response can include:

  • Implementing procedures for citizens to relocate elsewhere within the host State;
  • Urging and assisting citizens to return to their State of origin.

A mandatory return phase where the response can include:

  • Implementing evacuation and return procedures.

Local consular contingency plans

States of origin may have standard contingency plans for protecting citizens abroad but these may need to be adapted to the local context in host States. Mission-specific contingency plans can include:

  • Data on citizens in the host State (e.g., number, location, characteristics);
  • Crisis management team organization, functions, procedures, and specific roles of team members for emergency response. Such teams can be established on a permanent basis at the mission level and, as appropriate, be headed by the ambassador or consul general, and be comprised of labor attachés, welfare officers, social welfare attachés, police attachés, military attachés, or political officers;
  • Exit routes by air, land, or sea;
  • Temporary relocation sites, including within the host State;
  • Logistical requirements and cost estimates;
  • Key contacts in the host and transit States and international organizations;
  • Contact information of consular officials and staff;
  • Contact information of transport, accommodation, and other key service providers;
  • Details on capacities and resources for the relocation or evacuation of citizens;
  • Cooperation mechanisms with other consular missions in the region;
  • Cooperation mechanisms with consular missions of other States of origin.

Evacuation plans and guidelines

Clear rules and criteria for carrying out evacuations could include:

  • Criteria for making the decision to evacuate;
  • Eligibility criteria for who will be evacuated (e.g., whether evacuations cover citizens, non-citizen family members, internationally recruited staff, or nationally recruited staff);
  • Documentation requirements to prove eligibility;
  • Procedures to provide temporary documentation if identity or travel documents were lost, destroyed, or confiscated;
  • Communication of evacuation procedures (e.g., including information on evacuation procedures in document packages that accompany issuance of passports, as a followup to registration of foreign travel, or on consular post websites);
  • Mechanisms to request assistance;
  • Responsibility for associated costs;
  • Identification of evacuation sites, in the host State as well as neighboring or other States;
  • Arrangements for particularly vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied and separated children, persons with disabilities, and victims of trafficking or exploitation;
  • Procedures to take personal belongings, including pets and personal property;
  • Customs and other clearance processes;
  • Identification of and liaison with recruitment and placement agencies sending workers abroad or major employers in the host State.

Crisis or rapid response teams

Crisis or rapid response teams can be established to be deployed on short notice in the event of emergencies to support structures in place in the host State. Such teams could include consular specialists and officers from appropriate agencies of the State of origin that are trained to undertake consular or humanitarian assistance. The roles and functions of teams can include:

  • Updating and maintaining information on citizens in the host State;
  • Gathering intelligence reports and providing local, real-time, independent and credible assessments of the political and security situation in the host State;
  • Assisting in updating and implementing evacuation and contingency plans;
  • Negotiating with host States, States of transit, employers, or other relevant actors, as necessary, to remove barriers to providing citizens with assistance;
  • Assisting in locating citizens and relocating them to a safer and more secure area. 

Corporate contingency planning

The inclusion of all migrant workers in corporate contingency planning helps ensure that the greatest number of workers will be assisted and protected during crises. Corporate contingency plans are especially important for those employing large numbers of migrants. To the extent possible, corporate contingency plans should be consistent with contingency plans of State actors. Corporate contingency planning could include:

  • Specifying which units and individuals are responsible for the protection of migrant employees;
  • Criteria on eligibility for relocation and evacuation (e.g., whether family members of migrant employees are eligible);
  • Specifying who has authority to trigger an evacuation, the decision making process, and the means for communicating decisions;
  • Pre-standing arrangements with relevant service providers
  • Understanding of available local resources and services;
  • Key consular contacts;
  • Training on and testing of contingency plans with employees, including migrant workers;
  • Establishing mechanisms for communicating with employees, including migrant workers, in the event of a crisis;
  • Clarifying procedures on and how to access outstanding wages, payroll and cash assistance, and insurance;
  • Developing criteria to determine when it would be safe to resume or re-establish operations in the host State and for migrants to return.

Inter-agency contingency planning

Incorporating the specific needs of migrants in inter-agency contingency plans can help international organizations to better address migrants’ needs during emergency responses. Important activities may include:

  • Integrating migrants in national and regional contingency planning platforms;
  • Providing instructions and guidance on how to integrate migrants and their needs in contingency planning and contingency planning tools;
  • Engaging migrants and other relevant stakeholders in consultations on contingency planning;
  • Translating prevention, preparedness, and emergency response material, including announcements and directions, into migrants’ native languages.

Contingency plans for migrant communities

Local civil society actors can work with migrant communities to help them develop contingency plans. Community-based contingency plans can feed into institutional contingency plans at the local and national levels, in host States and States of origin. Measures to develop contingency plans for migrant communities can include:

  • Collecting information on migrants, disaggregated by relevant characteristics, such as age, gender, nationality, ethnicity, disabilities, and languages;
  • Conducting vulnerability assessments with a focus on migrants’ vulnerabilities in preparing for and managing a crisis;
  • Assessing migrant communities’ levels of and capacities for crisis preparedness, including access to information and services and language, cultural, and other barriers;
  • Mapping services and assistance available to migrant populations.