Oxford Conference Discusses Needs of Migrants in Countries in Crisis

Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

IOM presented the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) Initiative Guidelines at a major international conference organized by the Refugee Studies Centre at Keble College, Oxford, last week (16-17/03). 

The conference Beyond Crisis: Rethinking Refugee Studies looked at ways to assess knowledge, evidence, practices and concepts needed to understand and respond to contemporary challenges linked to crises and forced displacement.

The conference also brought together a range of academics, policymakers and practitioners, with the aim of strengthening the research agenda and scholarly community on this topic, and more effectively engage with the long-term challenges of forced displacement.

IOM was represented by Heather Komenda, Lorenzo Guadagno and Sanjula Weerasinghe, whose presentations were featured in a panel on Frameworks to Address Situational and Embodied Vulnerabilities of Migrants, addressed from a practitioner perspective. The panel explored policy and practice-oriented interventions to better address barriers to accessing information, resources and assistance migrants may experience in crisis situations and to better harness their capacities, both to reduce their vulnerability and to improve the resilience of their communities of origin and destination. 

In particular, the MICIC Initiative Guidelines to Protect Migrants in Countries Experiencing Conflict or Natural Disaster, presented by Weerasinghe, highlighted the benefits to be derived from preparatory actions, which provide migrants with the necessary conditions and tools to enhance their resilience, as migrants face different challenges to citizens in the context of disasters and conflicts.

Legal status, isolation, language barriers, and documentation requirements present unique hurdles that often prevent migrants from accessing safety. Yet within migrant communities, there are skills and capacities that can be leveraged to address these same vulnerabilities. Interventions are most effective when implemented well before a crisis erupts.

IOM also presented on the importance of including migrants in Disaster Risk Management with Guadagno highlighting how this need has been explicitly recognized in a number of global policy discussions, and enshrined in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030.

“Addressing migrants’ needs more effectively requires extending emergency management coordination to many nontraditional actors, including consulates and embassies, civil society organizations, and migrants themselves,” highlighted Guadagno in his intervention. “This is a much broader set of stakeholders than those usually considered by mandated emergency management institutions.”

He also outlined the efforts IOM has been undertaking in this field under the MICIC Initiative. These included gathering relevant practices and generating evidence and guidance on the topic, supporting capacity-building of staff from relevant institutions in selected countries around the world, and setting up national coordination mechanisms to improve inclusion of migrants in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management work.

IOM’s presentations were complemented by contributions by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) which launched a smart practices database, another important resource that can inspire practitioners to develop new approaches for meeting migrant needs. This collection of skills and knowledge aims to ensure that the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and other partners have the knowledge, resources and capacities to support vulnerable migrants.

The session on "Practitioner Perspective: Frameworks to Address Situational and Embodied Vulnerabilities of Migrants" is available as a podcast here