Disaster relief and emergency assistance act

Type of practice: 
Domestic laws and policies
Country: 
United States of America
Name of Stakeholder: 
Government of the United States of America
Type of Stakeholder Implementing the Practice: 
Host State
Type of crisis: 
Conflict, Natural Disaster
Crisis phase: 
Crisis Preparedness

Description

The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act guides federal work on disaster response and calls for regulations to ensure that disaster relief and assistance are provided without discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, proficiency in the English language or economic status. As a consequence, all immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, qualify for non-cash, short-term disaster relief from government agencies. The Federal Emergency Management Agency in particular provides all disaster victims with a range of services in an unrestricted manner, including transportation, emergency medical care, counselling and emergency shelters. 

Guidelines/Thematic Areas

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.
GUIDELINE 11: Provide humanitarian assistance to migrants without discrimination

In the collective effort to protect migrants caught in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters, there is no greater imperative than to save lives and alleviate suffering. Humanitarian assistance should be provided to people affected by a conflict or a natural disaster, including migrants, on the basis of need, without discrimination, and regardless of immigration status, nationality, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, or other differentiating characteristics.

Some migrants, just as with affected citizens, may need assistance to address their particular needs and circumstances. Domestic workers and others working in isolated conditions, migrants in an irregular immigration status, and migrants in detention may require specific assistance from States, international organizations, and civil society. Some migrants may be unwilling to leave host States due to incapacitating financial burdens; they may owe money to recruiters or employers. Others may lack access to the necessary financial resources to leave, because their wages are withheld, their employers are unable or unwilling to pay for their return, or they work in exploitative situations. Pregnant women, persons with disabilities, and the elderly may face mobility challenges.

Migrants’ needs will not remain static during the shifting dynamics of a crisis. Organized criminal networks may take advantage of marginalized migrants in a crisis, exacerbating their vulnerability. A change in circumstances in a migrant’s State of origin may compel some people to seek asylum rather than return. Stakeholders should ensure access to asylum procedures in the host State or States of transit. States may consider providing migrants temporary and other forms of humanitarian protection during or in response to a conflict or natural disaster.

Sample Practices

  • Displacement tracking mechanisms to identify migrant movements and needs.
  • Tailored assistance to migrants that take into account needs that may arise from gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, immigration status, or other characteristics.
  • Assessment tools to determine migrant-specific vulnerability and needs, including specialized screening for indicators of human trafficking.
  • Targeted action to protect migrant children, including unaccompanied and separated children, and children with parents in an irregular immigration status.
  • Services to trace and reunify family members and identify remains and missing migrants.
  • Mobile response teams to reach and provide assistance to affected migrants.
  • Separation of immigration enforcement from access to humanitarian services to promote access to life-saving assistance especially for migrants who fear authorities.
  • Mechanisms to recover outstanding wages.