Regular crisis updates and information on assistance
Migrants need information to make informed decisions during a crisis, including:
- Information on the development of the crisis, such as geographic areas affected, intensity and scale of the crisis, and damage and risks;
- Emergency contact points and personnel who can assist;
- Available assistance and where to access different types of services, including medical assistance, shelters, and other assistance centers;
- Available hotlines, helplines, and call centers;
- Rules on eligibility for different types of services and aid;
- Whether presentation of valid identity documents is necessary to obtain services and aid;
- Information on whom to contact for relocation or evacuation assistance, such as consulates of the State of origin, the host State’s foreign ministry, or organizations collecting such requests.
Multiple communication channels that combine traditional and innovative mediums can increase coverage and reach of information. Communication mechanisms could include:
- Dedicated user-friendly websites in multiple languages with crisis-related information and regular updates, links, contact information, and interface with other media, including social media;
- Web-based news releases with maps of risk areas, evacuation sites, and assistance facilities;
- Digital or social media hubs that distribute virtually real-time information, with information sourced from the public, monitored and verified before being published;
- SMS and text alerts;
- Regular media briefings;
- Broadcast messages on national and local radio and television networks in host States and States of origin;
- Brochures and multi-lingual maps highlighting main areas at risk, evacuation sites, and disaster assistance facilities;
- Translated messages to facilitate communication in languages migrants understand, and using pictures or pictograms where possible.
Coordinated and consistent messaging between stakeholders
Consistent messaging among all stakeholders helps ensure that migrants, stakeholders, and the general public receive and act upon the same information. Consistent messaging also helps avoid misunderstandings and the spread of misinformation during crises. Stakeholders can take the following steps to ensure consistent and accurate messages:
- Identifying a lead agency to initiate information flow, including information on evacuation or relocation, eligibility of migrants for services, and any changes in immigration enforcement or visa requirements during the crisis;
- Reaching out to migrant associations and civil society to identify accessible sources of information that migrants trust;
- Establishing a clearing house to confirm the accuracy of information prior to sharing and dissemination;
- Using trained translators and interpreters who are able to convey agreed information accurately and effectively to migrant populations.
Dedicated outreach to disseminate information on risks, logistics, and assistance
For migrants, particularly those in irregular immigration status or working in isolated conditions, traditional approaches to communication can be supplemented by dedicated outreach through individuals who have access to migrant communities, or in places migrants gather. Aspects to consider are:
- Engaging multiple relevant actors, particularly those close to migrants. This could be either as volunteers, or in some cases, as employees. Such actors include: (1) community and faith-based organizations providing services to migrants; (2) migrant shelters; (3) migrant gathering places, such as restaurants or community centers; (4) news outlets, radio, television channels, and internet portals in States of origin, or those in host States targeting migrant populations; (5) private civil protection and emergency actors; (6) major employers of migrant workers, business associations, or unions; and (7) migrant focal points and leaders;
- Employing interpreters and translators for the languages spoken by affected migrants.
Receiving information from migrants
Migrants are also a source of information on local conditions, avenues for assistance, and challenges faced by other migrants. Ways to receive crisis-related information from migrants include:
- Establishing migrant focal points who can liaise with stakeholders and provide information;
- Providing migrants with phones to relay information;
- Establishing connections with migrants’ families in the State of origin and creating avenues for them to share information received from migrants.
Positive communication about migrants
Anti-migrant rhetoric can increase in times of crisis and migrants may face increased levels of discrimination, hostility, and xenophobia in host States and States of transit. Positive communication about migrants promotes tolerance, non-discrimination, inclusiveness, and respect toward migrants. This can include, for example, ensuring that the language when referring to migrants avoids triggering hostile or xenophobic responses, such as using the term ‘illegal’ to refer to migrants.
24-hour call centers with linguistically diverse and trained staff
Hotlines, helplines, and call centers can offer one-way or two-way communication. If the latter, they can be staffed to answer calls and provide targeted information, receive location and identity information, and provide other services. Factors to consider are:
- Hours of operation—24 hours a day during the acute phase of a crisis;
- Cost structure—toll-free access or paid access;
- One-way or two-way communication—whether migrants can receive and provide information;
- Language capacity of staff or volunteers;
- Whether to limit use to migrants, their families or others, or leave open for general use;
- The content of information to provide and if applicable, receive;
- Additional services to provide, such as counseling, referrals, and family tracing.
Migrant support centers
Migrant support centers can provide a wide range of services and assistance to migrants, including:
- Dissemination of crisis-related information;
- First aid;
- Access to phones, phone credit, and phone charging stations;
- Access to the internet.