Disaster Preparedness in Migrant Communities: A Manual for First Responders

Type of practice: 
Manuals
Country: 
United States of America
Name of Stakeholder: 
Annie E. Casey Foundation, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod
Type of Stakeholder Implementing the Practice: 
Civil Society
Type of crisis: 
Conflict, Natural Disaster
Crisis phase: 
Crisis Preparedness

Description

This manual shares the lessons Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) has learned in its rich history and provides communities, agencies, and congregations with tools to incorporate that learning into a new or existing disaster plan. It includes:

  • Observations about the unique characteristics of newcomers in American communities, and how those relate to their ability to cope with disaster
  • Questions for reflection on how you can best build ties with newcomer community leaders and plan for their inclusion in your disaster plan
  • Recommendations for actions that position your team to lead the entire community – newcomers included – to a safe outcome
  • Tools to round out your planning for all stages of coping with disasters, gleaned from many expert sources . 

Guidelines/Thematic Areas

GUIDELINE 4: Incorporate migrants in prevention, preparedness, and emergency response systems

States and other stakeholders have laws, policies, and programs on prevention, preparedness, and emergency response to reduce the impact of crises. Taking into account the presence of migrants, their vulnerabilities, and their potential needs in prevention, preparedness, and emergency response frameworks, including on disaster risk reduction (DRR), can promote resilience in the event of a conflict or natural disaster. Clear laws and policies on migrants’ eligibility for different types of assistance in the event of a crisis promote certainty. If the presence of migrants is not known or is inadequately incorporated in planning, stakeholders may overlook migrants in their responses. If stakeholders fail to appreciate factors that make migrants vulnerable, such as language barriers, isolated working conditions, irregular immigration status, or mistrust of authorities, responses may be ineffective. When laws and policies are unclear, responses towards migrants can be unpredictable and insufficient.

Migrants themselves and civil society may be in the best position to assist States and other stakeholders to appreciate the presence of migrants, their vulnerability, and needs. In this respect, involving migrants and civil society in the development of prevention, preparedness, and emergency response measures can be helpful. Such actions also build trust between migrant populations and State and non-State actors who provide protection.

Migrants and civil society also have capacities and resources that they can contribute to preparedness and emergency response. Their language abilities, first-hand knowledge of migrant populations, understanding of cultural norms within their communities, and ability to foster greater trust toward State authorities and other actors can be leveraged to create more comprehensive and effective systems and programs.

Sample Practices

  • Platforms to facilitate the engagement of migrants in the design and implementation of prevention, preparedness, and emergency response systems.
  • Taking migrants into account in national and local frameworks on prevention, preparedness, and emergency response, including by recognizing migrants as a specific group with needs and capacities.
  • Recruitment of migrants as staff or volunteers in prevention, preparedness, and emergency response mechanisms.
GUIDELINE 8: Build capacity and learn lessons for emergency response and post-crisis action

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.