During conflicts or natural disasters, migrants can be disproportionately affected due to factors like language barriers, restrictions on mobility, irregular immigration status, confiscated or lost identity or travel documents, limited social networks, isolation, attacks and discrimination. This vulnerability is evident in crises such as the Tohoku earthquake (2011) in Japan, Thailand floods (2011), hurricane Sandy (2012) in the US, and conflicts in Central African Republic and Yemen. However, conventional emergency responses often overlook migrants' needs, leaving them at risk. Little guidance exists to clearly identify specific roles and responsibilities of States and other key actors to protect migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters.

Calls for Action

The Libyan uprising, which descended into conflict in 2011, emphasized the need to safeguard migrants in crises. This led to widespread calls for action from States, UN, international bodies, and civil society. The MICIC Initiative emerged from this demand. Among those who drew attention to the importance of this issue was Sir Peter Sutherland, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for International Migration. Complementing this, the United States devoted its 2010-2011 chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Consultations on Migration, Asylum, and Refugees specifically to the theme of Humanitarian Responses to Crises with Migration Consequences.

Initiatives and Frameworks

Following the Libya crisis, IOM held an annual International Dialogue on Migration, focusing on migrants in crisis. IOM developed the Migration Crisis Operational Framework (MCOF) in 2012, endorsed by member states, to coordinate migration management and humanitarian efforts for migrants throughout crises. Efforts like the Nansen Initiative also spotlighted migrants displaced by natural disasters.


The UN General Assembly convened High-Level Dialogues on International Migration and Development in 2006 and 2013. In 2013, Ban-Ki-Moon emphasized protecting migrants in crises. Responding to these calls, the Philippines and the US launched the MICIC Initiative in 2014. The aim was to enhance preparedness, response, and protection for migrants affected by conflicts and natural disasters. From January 2015 to May 2016, the MICIC Initiative facilitated consultations involving States, international organizations, private sector, and civil society. Regional and international discussions identified roles of different stakeholders like home and host states, NGOs, private sector, and migrants themselves. The consultations aimed to improve policies, cooperation, and protection mechanisms for migrants facing crises. The Initiative concluded in 2016 with the release of 15 Guidelines to Protect Migrants in Countries Experiencing Conflicts and Natural Disasters.

Read all MICIC consultation reports.