Type of practice: Awareness raising and communication tools
Country: United States of America
Name of Stakeholder: National Disaster Interfaith Network, New York Disaster Interfaith Services
Type of Stakeholder Implementing the Practice: Civil Society, Academia
Type of crisis: Natural Disaster
Crisis phase: Post-Crisis Action
Government-related aid for disaster recovery is generally restricted to citizens and to individuals in specific legal immigration categories. This tip-sheet for US religious leaders provides them with information that enables them to ensure that all people with unmet needs, regardless of immigration status, receive the support necessary for sustainable recovery, whether by providing direct services or by advocating for humane recovery policies.
- Empowering migrants
GUIDELINE 3: Empower migrants to help themselves, their families, and communities during and in the aftermath of crises
In order to help themselves and others and to enjoy their rights, migrants need access to identity documents, basic public services, and financial and other resources. Migrants’ ability to help themselves and enjoy their rights can be undermined by factors related to their entry and stay, means of arrival, connections to local populations, and conditions in the host State, including in workplaces. These factors can in turn undermine emergency response and recovery efforts.
States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society can promote migrants’ resilience and empower migrants to help themselves during and after a crisis by addressing underlying conditions of vulnerability. Respecting, protecting, and fulfilling migrants' human and labor rights in ordinary times advance these goals as do efforts to ensure migrants are able to access information, basic services, and administrative, judicial, and other redress mechanisms.
Legal, policy, and operational factors that constrain protection should be addressed. Examples of obstacles include laws, policies, and practical barriers that arbitrarily restrict the movement of migrants, enable arbitrary detention, discriminate between migrants and citizens in the provision of humanitarian assistance, or permit exploitative employment or recruitment practices.
In times of crisis, fear of immigration enforcement can inhibit migrants, particularly those in an irregular immigration status, from accessing necessary help. In this context, it is important to separate immigration enforcement actions from those that promote migrants’ access to services, humanitarian assistance, identity documents, and movement.
Stakeholders can provide migrants—prior to departure from the State of origin, upon arrival in the host State, and during their stay in the host State—with pertinent information related to country-specific conflict or natural disaster hotspots, rights and potential rights violations or abuses, ways to access timely, credible, and regular information, emergency contact points, and what to do and where to go in the event of a crisis. Building migrants’ skills to communicate in the host-State language and increasing migrants’ financial literacy may prompt migrants to invest in savings, take out micro-insurance, and better prepare for navigating unforeseen circumstances.
Pre-departure and post-arrival training for migrants that includes crisis-related information. Positive communication about migrants, including through migrant role models and campaigns to promote tolerance, non-discrimination, inclusiveness, and respect. Financial products, including micro-insurance, savings accounts, and fast-cash loans that target migrants’ needs, including low-income migrants. Measures that respect, protect, and fulfill migrants’ human and labor rights, including addressing barriers that inhibit migrants’ ability to enjoy their rights. Identity cards for migrants in an irregular immigration status to promote their access to services. Ethical recruitment processes and accreditation, and integrity certification schemes. Community-based alternatives to detention for migrants.
- Communication during a crisis
GUIDELINE 9: Communicate widely, effectively, and often with migrants on evolving crises and how to access help
Multiple formal and informal communication systems should be activated once a conflict or natural disaster erupts. Migrants should receive information on the evolving nature of a crisis and on ways to access assistance. In addition, those affected by conflicts or natural disasters often have clear ideas about how to improve their safety and security in an emergency. They are an important source of information about risks, local needs, and gaps in protection.
Stakeholders can communicate information to and receive information from migrants and other stakeholders. Repeat messaging, using multiple channels, and different mediums (infographics, audio, and print) can help expand coverage. This is particularly important to reach migrants in an irregular immigration status, those working in isolated and remote conditions, and those who lack access to social and other networks. Communicating and engaging with a diverse representation of migrants, including with marginalized groups, improves needs assessment.
All stakeholders also benefit from timely information as crises evolve and new issues arise. In conflicts, for example, fighting may break out in new geographic areas and affect different migrant populations. In natural disasters, such as earthquakes, aftershocks may cause new damage. It is important to continue to assess these shifting patterns and adapt responses to changing needs.
Different stakeholders are often privy to unique information. Sharing information and knowledge on the evolution of crises and on available assistance can support efforts by all stakeholders to protect migrants and can mitigate confusion that might otherwise arise. For example, some States may obtain information on particular aspects of conflicts or natural disasters helpful to informing actions by other stakeholders, including humanitarian actors. Stakeholders may find value in developing consistent messaging on risks and status updates during crises.
Regular crisis updates and information on where and how to access assistance through multiple communication channels in relevant languages. 24-hour call centers with linguistically diverse and trained staff offering information and services. Dedicated outreach through volunteers and grass-roots actors to disseminate information on risks, logistics, and assistance to those in an irregular immigration status or working in isolated conditions. Migrant support centers to disseminate information to migrants. Migrants as a source of information on local conditions, on sources of assistance, and challenges. Briefings and situation updates by host State authorities.
- Provision of humanitarian assistance
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.
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.
- Referral procedures
GUIDELINE 12: Establish clear referral procedures among stakeholders
Certain stakeholders have mandates and unique skills to address the needs of different migrants. Referral procedures can help access these skills for those with particular needs.
Child migrants, for example, benefit from the assistance of actors versed in children’s rights and protection, including dedicated focal points in governments. Interventions targeted at domestic workers or victims of trafficking may benefit from the knowledge and experience of advocates and specialists on those populations. Civil society, such as migrant, grass roots, and faith-based actors, may be best placed to access migrants in an irregular immigration status. Consular officers and some international organizations may have the authority and capacity to assess identities and issue identity and travel documents. Host State local and national actors are often best placed to provide necessary services and international humanitarian actors should strive to provide assistance through local and national systems.
Stakeholders should establish referral procedures to ensure that those responding to the needs of migrants refer refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons to national and international protection mechanisms for those populations.
Identification and rapid assessment of migrants with specific needs who require referrals to services and assistance. Referral of refugees, asylum seekers, and stateless persons to relevant protection mechanisms. Deployment of experts to host States to identify, assess, and address needs of migrants. Referrals to international organizations and civil society with specialized experience assisting victims of trafficking, children, and other vulnerable migrants.
- Support migrants’ recovery
GUIDELINE 14: Address migrants’ immediate needs and support migrants to rebuild lives
The dislocation and disruption created by conflicts or natural disasters can have significant and severe consequences for the socio-economic wellbeing of migrants and their families. Migrant workers often support themselves and their immediate and extended families, whether they are with them in the host State or in States of origin. Conflicts and natural disasters can stem the flow of income to migrants and curtail remittances to their families. Technical facilities to remit money can be disrupted. Currency devaluations and changes in exchange rates can affect migrants’ savings and assets. Education opportunities for student migrants can be indefinitely suspended. Xenophobia and discrimination against migrants may increase. Post-crisis conditions in host States and States of transit may allow trafficking of persons and other exploitative arrangements to thrive.
Migrants and their families who return to States of origin after prolonged stays in a host State can experience difficulty finding employment and housing and reintegrating. Reintegration may be especially difficult for victims of trafficking, individuals who experienced sexual and gender-based violence in the host State, children born to migrants in host States who have no experience of the culture in the parents’ State of origin, and migrants who have been abroad for extended periods of time. Possible interventions include cash assistance to address immediate needs, psychosocial counseling, health care, physical rehabilitation, family tracing services, assistance to recover outstanding wages, assets and property, compensation to address losses, and much more. Efforts to restore income for those migrants who return to their States of origin may include certification and recognition of skills, education, and training acquired abroad. Many migrants may seek opportunities to acquire new skills upon return. For various reasons, including to revive their incomes, others may seek opportunities to remigrate back to host States once the crisis has subsided or migrate to other countries.
Migrants who remain in their host States can also experience difficulty resuming their previous lives. They will require many of the same support services as migrants who return to their States of origin, such as cash assistance, health care, psychosocial and other counseling, family tracing, compensation, assistance to recover outstanding wages, assets, and property, and efforts to restore income, employment, and education opportunities. Like citizens, migrants’ post-crisis needs should be factored into host State recovery plans and programs at the national and local levels. States may decide to review immigration and visa rules to provide latitude for migrants who wish to remain in the host State to do so legally. Efforts that leverage the solidarity of migrants who remain in host States towards their host communities and societies could counteract xenophobic and discriminatory attitudes.
Access to remedies to recover lost property and assets, outstanding wages, pensions, and other benefits. Engagement of migrants in host-State reconstruction efforts. Flexible immigration procedures to enable migrants to retain regular immigration status. Registration, assessment, and recognition of returned migrants’ needs and skills. Immediate reintegration support, including cash and medical assistance. Income and employment regeneration assistance, including assistance with remigration. Certification mechanisms for skills, education, and training acquired abroad.