GUIDELINE 10: Facilitate migrants’ ability to move to safety

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In the immediacy of a conflict or natural disaster, migrants, like many other affected populations, will seek to flee to safety by relocating within the host State to areas unaffected by the crisis, across borders to States of transit as a temporary haven, or back to States of origin. Normal immigration processes are disrupted by crises and States may need to clarify how disruptions affect such processes.

Migrants may need support to reach safety. Identity and travel documents can be destroyed, lost, or left behind in the chaos or intensity of a crisis. Some migrants, particularly victims of trafficking or migrants in other exploitative situations, may have had their identity and travel documents confiscated. Yet others may have arrived in the host State without authorization and never possessed valid documentation.

Access to valid identity and travel documents is crucial for migrants seeking to cross international borders to escape harm. Migrants may be required to present such documents in order to flee to safety within the host State or to obtain assistance. States of origin depend on identity and travel documents to determine citizenship and to assist citizens to evacuate or return to their homes. Migrants seeking safety may face barriers in meeting visa requirements, securing immigration exit visas, paying immigration fees or penalties for overstay, and fulfilling entry requirements (particularly in States of transit).

Migrants’ ability to move to safety may be limited by visa and work permits that restrict them to particular geographic areas or employers. Waiving restrictions or lifting penalties for violating restrictions during a conflict or natural disaster can help save lives and improve migrants’ access to help.

In addition to dangers in a crisis that prevent all affected populations from fleeing (insecure areas, blocked ports of exit, destroyed transportation infrastructure), migrants in detention are particularly vulnerable. If custodians of detention facilities flee their posts, migrant detainees may be unable to get out of harm’s way and access humanitarian assistance.

Sample Practices

  • Waivers or exceptions to exit, stay, and entry requirements.
  • Timely issuance of laissez-passer and replacement of other identity and travel documents.
  • Deployment of consular assistance teams to borders, airports, or other transit points.
  • Provision of temporary or humanitarian protection status for migrants.
  • Evacuation plans for detention facilities and migrant shelters.
  • Advocacy with and among States on keeping borders open to facilitate movement to safety. 
Country:
Haiti
Type of Practice:

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, at the request of the Government, IOM helped set up a rapid response team that consisted of national and international immigration, police and customs officers tasked with responding to emergencies within the country, and particularly at the...

Country:
Libya
Type of Practice:

On February 23, 2011, following political turmoil in Libya, according to the unified deployment of Chinese Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Commerce, the China States Construction Overseas Development Co., Ltd, (CSCEC) Libyan branch began to organize personnel to evacuate.A total of 35,860...

Country:
Global
Type of Practice:

Assisting Greek citizens abroad is one of the Foreign Ministry’s principal duties. In recent years, major natural disasters worldwide have led to an increasing number of requests for assistance made by Greek citizens abroad; assistance in emergency situations.

Country:
Colombia
Type of Practice:

Following the Nepal eartquake in 2015, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs activated its emergency protocol.

Country:
Yemen
Type of Practice:

The Search and Rescue Mobile Teams of the UN Migration Agency (IOM) Mission in Yemen are in the occupation of saving lives.

Country:
Libya
Type of Practice:

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) Mission in Libya is facilitating visits to remote detention centres, in close coordination with the Libyan Government, to ensure that more stranded migrants wishing to return home gain access to consular services.

Country:
Mexico
Type of Practice:
Government bodies

Grupos Beta (Beta Groups) is a service by the National Institute of Migration (INM) of Mexico dedicated to the protection and defense of the human rights of migrants and are specialized in providing orientation, rescue and first aid, regardless of nationality or immigration status.

Country:
United States of America
Type of Practice:
Domestic laws and policies

The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for Temporary Protection Status (TPS) due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country's nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its...

Country:
Japan
Type of Practice:
Assistance programs

The Great East Japan Earthquake affected foreign nationals in the areas hit by the disaster. Elements of the Japan’s Ministry of Foreign affairs response, implemented in cooperation with IOM, included:

Country:
Libya
Type of Practice:
Assistance programs

The five star JW Marriott Hotel Tripoli opened in the city’s Central Business District in 2011, just days before the civil war in Libya began.  At the time the Hotel was hosting the first guests and 185 migrant employees from over 20 nationalities had come to Tripoli in pursuit of new careers...