GUIDELINE 8: Build capacity and learn lessons for emergency response and post-crisis action

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Limited resources, funding, and technical skills can all affect the robustness of emergency and post-crisis responses. Understanding and assessing these limitations is a critical first step towards overcoming them. Stakeholders’ investment in their own capacity to improve emergency response and post-crisis recovery for migrants is critical.

Capacity building may relate to such varied areas as consular services, training for responders, resource allocation, funding mechanisms, insurance schemes, relief goods and services, border and migration management, and relocation and evacuation. Many of these areas are relevant for both the emergency and post-crisis phases. Stakeholders should also consider addressing potential reintegration challenges for migrants, their families, and communities, facilitating re-employment, income generation, and safe remigration, and supporting migrants to access outstanding wages, assets, and property left in host States.

States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society should assist one another to build and improve their capacity to respond. Undertaking advocacy, monitoring and evaluations, raising awareness, conducting training, sharing information, building research and knowledge, and supporting and learning from each other all help to improve collective efforts to protect migrants.

Sample Practices

  • Training and capacity building of stakeholders, such as on effective ways to access migrants and identify vulnerability and needs.
  • Dedicated funding to protect migrants, including budget lines, loans, and funding platforms.
  • Referral mechanisms that map rosters of experts who can address diverse needs of different migrants.
  • Peer-to-peer exchanges for capacity building and learning on tackling challenges associated with protecting migrants.
  • Training for consular officials, such as on collecting information on citizens and crisis management, including evacuation.
  • Monitoring and evaluation of crisis responses that includes analysis of responses towards migrants.

Training and capacity building of State actors

State actors who could benefit from training and capacity building on different aspects related to better protecting migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters include:

  • Immigration authorities;
  • Consular and diplomatic personnel;
  • Labor authorities;
  • Prevention, preparedness, and emergency response actors;
  • Recovery and reconstruction actors;
  • Security, border management, armed forces, and police;
  • Welfare officers;
  • Local authorities;
  • Health care service providers.

Training and capacity building themes

State actors and other stakeholders may benefit from training and capacity building on a range of themes, including:

  • Mapping migrant community profiles;
  • Ways to reach out to migrant communities, including to those in an irregular immigration status;
  • Assessing and addressing migrants’ conditions of vulnerability and needs;
  • Evaluating capacities and strengths of other stakeholders;
  • Targeting responses to address needs of particular migrant populations, such as victims of trafficking, migrants with disabilities, elderly migrants, and child migrants, including unaccompanied or separated children;
  • Engaging migrants in crisis preparedness and response;
  • Developing contingency and evacuation plans that incorporate migrants;
  • Mainstreaming migrants’ protection in prevention, preparedness, emergency response, and post-crisis recovery, including developing or refining migrant-sensitive crisis preparedness and response laws, policies, and procedures;
  • Creating registries of linguistically and culturally sensitive staff for communicating with and assisting migrants during emergencies.

Peer-to-peer exchanges for capacity building and learning

Peer-to-peer exchanges are usually designed to help stakeholders learn from similar actors or actors who have undergone relevant experiences. Peer-to-peer exchanges may benefit from:

  • Different stakeholders tackling similar challenges from different perspectives, such as States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society;
  • Personal relationships and trust among stakeholders that allow frank and open peerto-peer exchanges;
  • Mechanisms for sharing lessons.

Programs to build the capacity of migrant organizations to assist migrants, including through trainthe-trainer programs

Migrant organizations have knowledge of the local community as well as language skills and familiarity with migrants’ cultural norms. They have local connections that enable them to reach migrants who may be missed by others, including migrants in an irregular immigration situation. Activities to build the capacity of migrant organizations include:

  • Offering training on prevention, preparedness, and emergency response;
  • Encouraging exchanges about programs and practices implemented to help migrants during crises;
  • Providing funding to enable migrant organizations to develop contingency plans;
  • Forming partnerships between migrant organizations and local responders to enable more effective communication of information about crises;
  • Offering ‘training of trainers’ to ensure knowledge is passed on within migrant organizations and networks.

Dedicated funds to protect migrants

Funding may be needed to address emergency phase needs, including evacuation, return, medical care, and temporary board and lodging as well as post-crisis needs, including reintegration assistance and services. Funding could be gathered through:

  • Dedicated funds that seek voluntary contributions from employers, recruiters, placement agencies, and migrants;
  • Online funding platforms that allow fundraising;
  • Loans from financial institutions;
  • Financial, in-kind, and asset donations or loans;
  • Loans from States or international or regional banks and institutions, and private sector actors;
  • Contributions from diaspora;
  • Grants.

Referral mechanisms and access to asylum procedures during crises

During a crisis, migrants may require specialized services in the host State, in transit or, if relocated or evacuated, on arrival. Capacity building to prepare for crises could include developing the capacity to assess migrants with particular needs and identify special service providers as well as developing clear procedures to follow when making referrals. Capacity to make referrals may be required for migrants requesting medical assistance, unaccompanied or separated migrant children, victims of trafficking, migrants who have suffered psychosocial trauma and migrants with disabilities, among others. Pre-establishing relationships between relevant actors responding to the needs of migrants and national or international protection systems for refugees and stateless persons ensures that referral procedures function well and smoothly during crises. In establishing a referral system, factors to consider include:

  • Establishing a memorandum of understanding or standard operating procedures between stakeholders assisting migrants and the State’s asylum mechanism, detailing roles and responsibilities and facilitating predictable actions;
  • Designating referral focal points to ensure swift communication;
  • Ensuring preliminary screenings to enable rapid identification of needs;
  • Training involved actors on the mechanism and its procedures;
  • Putting in place safeguards to ensure best interest of the child is a primary consideration in the choice of referrals made for unaccompanied or separated children (e.g., through best interest assessments);
  • Putting in place safeguards to ensure that referral procedures respect confidentiality of information and data.

Monitoring and evaluation of crisis response

Evaluations of responses to natural disasters or conflicts may not take into account migrants’ particular situation. As a result, evaluations specifically tailored to measuring the effectiveness of responses to migrants’ needs may be required. Those creating migrant-sensitive evaluations of crisis response could consider:

  • Developing clear objectives related to the effectiveness of crisis responses as they pertain to migrants as a distinct population with specific needs;
  • Including migrant populations in evaluations that assess the overall crisis response to ensure a sufficiently large number of migrants is included in any sample or survey;
  • Involving migrant groups and civil society actors that work closely with migrant populations in evaluation exercises;
  • The short-, medium- and long-term effects of crisis response on migrant populations, including needs related to evacuation and reintegration;
  • Assessing institutional responses towards migrants, including coordination among multiple stakeholders involved in crisis response;
  • Articulating lessons learned as they relate to migrant populations;
  • Making recommendations to improve crisis-related responses for migrants;
  • Developing simple feedback and complaint mechanisms to encourage the participation of migrants in crisis-related response evaluations.

Dedicated funds to address emergency needs

Many States have dedicated resources to be deployed during natural disasters and other crises to meet the emergency needs of their population. Earmarking funds to better address the needs of migrants would help ensure they are included in crisis responses and that their special needs are addressed. Such funds could cover:

  • Translation of materials into multiple languages;
  • Interpretation support for first responders encountering migrants needing assistance;
  • Support to migrant and diaspora organizations to engage their assistance in reaching migrants;
  • Reimbursement of costs borne by first responders, including police, emergency rooms in hospitals, shelters, and other facilities, whose costs for assisting migrants, including migrants in an irregular status, are not otherwise covered by public or private funding;
  • Resources for the evacuation of migrants who are unable to pay for evacuation costs.

Dedicated funds to address post-crisis needs

The establishment of reintegration funds or budget lines to support the immediate needs of migrants and their families affected by a crisis can support reconstruction, return, and reintegration efforts. Such funds are particularly relevant for States of origin with significant numbers of citizens abroad and whose economy relies on remittances. When it is not possible to set aside dedicated funds, States can identify these costs in fiscal planning and take other measures to access funding, including through international financial institutions. Aspects that States can consider in establishing funds include:

  • Using funds to support migrants’ return and reintegration efforts or directly allocating money to migrants;
  • Allocating funds based on need and other pre-selected criteria, or following a competitive process;
  • Voluntary or mandatory migrant contributions;
  • Matching funds, where States and migrants both contribute;
  • Whether to build partnerships with banks and other financial institutions, including international and regional financial institutions;
  • The scope of coverage of funds (e.g., livelihood restoration upon return, housing and other basic needs, and reconstruction);
  • Effective monitoring and accounting procedures.

Training for prevention, preparedness, and emergency response actors on incorporating components pertinent to the needs and vulnerabilities of migrants

Actors responsible for prevention, preparedness, and emergency responses, including DRR, do not necessarily have the skills to effectively respond to the needs of linguistically and culturally diverse populations. Local first responders in particular must have the means to enable them to communicate with everyone, including migrants in life-threatening situations. Training could include:

  • Information about migrants living in local communities, including their origins, languages, cultural and religious beliefs, and other characteristics that may be pertinent to emergency response;
  • Information about migrant organizations, local migrant leaders, social and cultural organizations, and religious institutions frequented by migrants;
  • Information on how to deliver culturally and linguistically appropriate services when engaging with migrants;
  • Information about how to access interpretation and translation services;
  • The role of consular authorities in protecting and assisting their citizens;
  • Eligibility of migrants with different immigration statuses for different types of services prior to, during, and in the aftermath of a crisis.

Laws and policies to protect citizens abroad

National laws and policies that articulate the State’s responsibilities towards its citizens when they are abroad provide authorities with clear guidance on their obligations. Citizens also have a sense of what they can expect from State of origin authorities while they are abroad. Laws and policies need not be specific to crisis situations. Laws and policies could include provisions that:

  • Mandate consular officers to assist citizens in their relations with the authorities of host States;
  • Set out circumstances under which assistance will be provided to citizens abroad;
  • Spell out the rights of those who hold multiple nationalities;
  • Identify who bears the costs of services, including evacuations;
  • Specify actions citizens can take when there is no diplomatic or consular presence in the host State.

Capacity building programs for national and local authorities

Capacity building programs for national and local authorities are required to help them prepare citizens pre-departure and to reintegrate them if they need to return in the context of a crisis. Such programs could include:

  • Specifying organizational roles and responsibilities for preparing citizens pre-departure and reintegrating them when they return;
  • Developing contingency plans for evacuation and reintegration of citizens;
  • Putting in place funding mechanisms to support reintegration;
  • Establishing peer-to-peer exchanges among national and local authorities and with other States experiencing similar challenges for discussion of best practices;
  • Evaluating prior responses to identify areas in need of improvement;
  • Developing referral systems for health services and building capacity of local health services to support citizens’ needs;
  • Identifying, addressing, and referring citizens with particular vulnerabilities;
  • Collecting data on returned citizens at the local level, including demographics, location, contact and other pertinent information;
  • Strategies for dealing with stranded citizens;
  • Reintegrating returned citizens;
  • Channeling enquiries about missing persons to consular posts trying to locate their citizens.

Training and capacity building programs for consular posts

Programs to enhance consular capacity to protect citizens may include:

  • Training consular officials on collecting information on citizens in the host State;
  • Training on crisis management, including evacuation and return, and provision of emergency identity and travel documents;
  • Implementing consular crisis management software, covering registration, communication, and other emergency procedures, such as hospitalization, imprisonment, or loss of documents;
  • Developing contingency and evacuation plans;
  • Recruiting locals to enhance understanding of local knowledge and culture;
  • Building and maintaining contact with citizens;
  • Using public engagements to establish links with relevant communities;
  • Ensuring ‘surge’ consular capacity through the deployment of consular and other expert staff.

Internet-based consular management systems

States implement registration, contingency plans, and crisis management systems with varying degrees of complexity. To limit the extent to which such systems may become outdated, States could develop systems that are deployed and operated on the internet, or ‘in the cloud’, where a State pays fees to use software instead of buying it outright. Data can be stored securely and in a manner that respects relevant standards on data protection and privacy, and a State can adapt services over time as needs change. In the case of crisis, additional capacity or services could be added very quickly as required. States could also consider collaborating and sharing their systems with other States, including with the assistance of a trusted third party, like an international organization. Such collaboration should be structured in accordance with relevant standards on data protection and privacy.

Bonds or deposits

A measure States of origin can take to ensure sufficient funds for evacuation or to compensate citizens for losses that result from evacuation is to ask for employers or recruiters, where appropriate, to post a bond or deposit funds with the State of origin or local consulate. The bond or deposit would be used only if the citizen is evacuated, and would otherwise be returned to the employer once the term of employment has ended. This could be useful particularly in the case of small or individual employers who have limited resources to offer support during a crisis. Factors to consider include:

  • The amount of the bond or deposit;
  • What the bond would cover (e.g., evacuation costs or lost, damaged, or irrecoverable assets and property, including outstanding wages);
  • The circumstances in which the bond would be accessed;Who would access the bond (e.g., the citizen or the State of origin);
  • How the citizen would apply for and receive proceeds from the bond, including how to assess eligibility for and the amount of proceeds.

Training and procedures for border officials

Training to promote the ability of border officials to address influxes of migrants could include:

  • Plans and procedures to deal with mass arrivals of migrants in the event of a crisis;
  • How to recognize, assist, and refer vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking, migrants with disabilities, elderly migrants, and child migrants, including unaccompanied or separated children;
  • Referral mechanisms, including referrals for refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons;
  • Rights of migrants.

Internal capacity building programs

Capacity building could include:

  • Establishing mandatory crisis management training for relevant personnel;
  • Developing systems for providing redress in crisis situations;
  • Developing contingency plans that account for migrants’ presence and needs;
  • Developing evacuation plans that account for migrant employees. 

Migrant assistance funding mechanisms

Dedicated funding facilities to protect migrants can enable international organizations to start emergency operations and provide immediate assistance in the event of natural disaster or conflict as well as tailored reintegration assistance.

Emergency response policy development

Policies and procedures for emergency response should be developed with a view to standardizing responses to assist migrants in countries experiencing conflict or natural disaster. This should include mainstreaming migrant protection concerns, identifying vulnerabilities and needs, and clarifying referral mechanisms.

Including migrants in national development frameworks

International organizations can help States to integrate migration and mobility into national development frameworks and UN development assistance frameworks (UNDAFs), and can integrate migration and mobility into related supporting documents and guidance tools. International organizations in consultation with States can identify migration as one of the strategic priorities of the UNDAFs and include outcomes and indicators on crisis migration or related issues. Important activities may include:

  • Identifying migration as a priority issue to be encompassed in the national development frameworks and the UNDAFs;
  • Identifying key migration outcomes, indicators, or baselines to include in the UNDAFs results matrix;
  • Identifying agencies and partners that can implement measures to achieve UNDAF targets;
  • Identifying capacity building needs for the provision of assistance to migrants in the event of a crisis;
  • Advising on the integration of programming areas into UNDAFs;
  • Providing sensitization and relevant background information on crisis migration to UN country team officials working on development and implementation of UNDAFs.

Technical support in information collection, management, and sharing

International organizations can provide stakeholders, States in particular, with capacity building and technical advice to increase their ability to collect, manage, and share information on migrants. Some of the features of these programs include:

  • Understanding migrant populations through data collection, research, mapping, and statistics;
  • Establishing networks and partnerships for data and information sharing;
  • Establishing and improving online registration systems;
  • Building and reinforcing infrastructure for registration;
  • Establishing or strengthening border registration procedures and tools;
  • Raising migrants’ awareness on registration systems and encouraging them to register;
  • Ensuring data harmonization, protection, and privacy, through guidelines and manuals; ■ Ensuring knowledge and compliance with applicable laws on data protection and privacy.

Technical assistance on legal and policy development

International organizations can provide expertise and technical assistance regarding migrant protection in national laws, policies, and programs, including those relating to preparedness and response to conflicts or natural disasters. International organizations can play a key role in the development of standards and national policies in their areas of expertise. Relevant thematic areas of legal and policy development assistance include:

  • Establishment of consular crisis response teams;
  • Creation of financial facilities for evacuation assistance to migrants;
  • Creation of financial facilities to assist migrants returning to the State of origin as a consequence of a crisis;
  • Regulation of recruitment agencies with regard to ethical and fair recruitment;
  •  Provision of health and risk-related insurance to migrant workers;
  • Regulation of employers with regard to duty of care obligations towards internationally and locally recruited migrant workers in the event of a crisis;
  • Responsibility to map and monitor ethical and fair recruitment standards through the supply chain.

Technical assistance to employers and recruiters

International organizations can provide technical assistance and advice to employers and recruiters on integrating the protection of migrant employees into crisis preparedness, response, and post-crisis action. Relevant areas that may be covered include:

  • Ethical and fair recruitment;
  • Tailored pre-departure and post arrival training, with modules on crisis preparedness;
  • Inclusion of migrants in corporate contingency plans;
  • Coordination and collaboration on emergency response;
  • Establishment of platforms for collaboration at the local level.

Technical assistance for crisis-related diaspora policy development

International organizations can provide technical assistance and advice to States on the development of policy to engage diaspora on the protection of migrants in countries experiencing crises. Relevant activities include:

  • Establishing and strengthening national platforms for diaspora engagement;
  • Including provisions on migrants affected by crises in diaspora policy development activities;
  • Integrating returnees into diaspora activities advancing national development agendas (e.g., remittances, investments, or knowledge transfer);
  • Supporting diaspora engagement through access to international networks; ■ Supporting activities in the area of diaspora knowledge transfer (e.g., return of qualified citizens).

Internal capacity building programs

International organizations can invest in their own capacity to assist migrants as well as provide technical support and capacity building to other actors. Internal capacity building may include:

  • Establishing funding mechanisms and other financial facilities to begin emergency operations and provide immediate assistance when a crisis hits;
  • Creating unified portals to field and coordinate requests for evacuation and match against offers of assistance;
  • Establishing dedicated agencies or departments to provide comprehensive and coordinated responses;
  • Building networks and partnerships to share information and practices, promote common standards, facilitate communication, and implement joint programs.

Technical support and capacity building programs for other actors

Technical support and capacity building programs for other actors may include:

  • Capacity building programs for government personnel (e.g., foreign service officers, consular officials, labor attaches, and welfare officers) to protect migrants in crisis situations through mandatory training on crisis management, publication of standard operating procedures, and creation of (online) training tools;
  • Training and services for States of transit to manage mass arrival of migrants;
  • Assistance to States in establishing and operating border management systems to streamline border processes and formalities in emergency situations and ensure referral of those in need of specific assistance and protection;
  • Tailored exercises and field training for different stakeholders to minimize impacts of crises on migrants, including first aid and emergency responses;
  • Training for media on crisis communication to migrants, including on terminology

Training of local civil society

The competitive advantages of civil society actors include better access to and acceptance by migrant communities, access to areas inaccessible by international actors, and their ability to address gaps in humanitarian response. Inter-agency coordination on capacity building programs can avoid duplication and help harmonize training. Factors to consider include:

  • Apolitical and non-discriminatory selection of partner organizations;
  • Offering training of trainers to ensure knowledge is passed on within organizations and networks;
  • Joint training for local civil society;
  • Technical capacity building, including training on humanitarian principles, international and national legal frameworks, identification of vulnerable migrants, awareness-raising on migrants’ rights and needs, referral mechanisms, and psychosocial support;
  • Support for network-building with local civil society around the world to share practices and resources;
  • Secondment of experienced personnel to support local partners.

Training for non-traditional service providers

Civil society can play a role in providing training on migrants’ specific needs in the context of crises to actors who may not ordinarily be in the service of assisting migrants, but who may be well placed to identify or address migrants’ vulnerabilities, make referrals, or support responses. These actors include:

  • Flight attendants;
  • National and local media in States of origin and host States;
  • Interpreters or translators;
  • Counselors and health care staff;
  • Faith-based leaders and staff;
  • School staff, as children of migrant families can be important intermediaries in transmitting pertinent crisis information.