The Guidelines to Protect Migrants in Countries Experiencing Conflict or Natural Disaster, also known as the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) Guidelines, provide practical, non-binding, voluntary guidance for States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society to protect migrants. The guidelines are composed of three interconnected parts: the Principles, the Guidelines themselves, and their associated Practices.
- The MICIC Principles providing the fundamental, cross-cutting foundation for the guidelines, drawn, in some instances, from international law.
- The 15 MICIC guidelines, listed below, then provide targeted suggestions, organized by theme, that identify in broad terms the actions needed to better protect migrants in countries experiencing crises. States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society can use the guidelines to inform and shape crisis preparedness, emergency response, and post-crisis action.
- Finally, each guidelines is accompanied by sample practices, these practices are a non-exhaustive selection of brief examples that illustrate ways to implement the Guidelines. They are based on recommendations as well as existing practices identified through consultations held with a wide range of stakeholders and are described more fully in the next section on Practices. Click here for an overview of all practices.
Taken together, the components of the MICIC guidelines can be used to holistically plan, prepare, and assess actions and to improve responses for the benefit of migrants, their families, and societies.
If you would like to read the MICIC Principles, Guidelines and Practices in their entirety, please click here to read the full publication (available in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Laotian).
Efforts to better protect migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters require comprehensive, tailored, and tested crisis preparedness measures. Good preparation mitigates the scope and scale of interventions required during the emergency phase and in its aftermath. Crisis preparedness interventions must cover diverse areas in order to thoroughly address vulnerability and the needs of migrants, promote their resilience, and leverage their strengths and capacities.
- Guideline 1: Track information on conflicts and natural disasters, and the potential impact on migrants
To protect migrants, States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society need to understand risks and exposure to crises in regions, countries, and localities. They also need to understand the ways in which crises can affect people, including migrants, and their assets. The period before the onset of a full-scale conflict or natural disaster is a critical time to undertake efforts to protect and assist people, including migrants, and to secure essential resources and infrastructure.
Not all conflicts and natural disasters are entirely unpredictable. Conflicts may be preceded by various signs, including protests, xenophobic violence, and civil unrest. Local actors, close to the source of an impending conflict, and with the experience to interpret signs and events, may often possess the most timely and accurate information. They can be an important source of knowledge for others.
Understanding regional, national, and local natural disaster risks and overlaying this information with information on the location and characteristics of migrants can inform preparation and response efforts. As in conflict situations, local sources of knowledge may also be important. While many natural disasters occur with great immediacy, different regions, countries, and localities are prone to specific types of natural disasters. Those related to weather events often occur with some forewarning. Some are cyclical and recurrent and the warning signs will be familiar to those who have experienced them before. A number of early warning systems exist to forecast and monitor natural disasters and alert stakeholders and communities of impending crises.
Early warning systems for natural disasters adapted and tested to reach migrants in multiple languages. Assessments to understand the potential effects of natural disasters on migrant communities and their assets.
- Inclusion of migrant characteristics in disaster vulnerability assessments by analyzing how factors, such as immigration status, language proficiency, or gender reduce access to information, resources, or protection.
- Community-based risk assessments that engage migrants in the identification of natural disasters, vulnerability, and capacities.
- Inclusion of migrants’ presence and vulnerability in early warning and early action mechanisms. Structures to share information on developing civil unrest or conflict.
- Guideline 2: Collect and share information on migrants, subject to privacy, confidentiality, and the security and safety of migrants
To protect migrants when conflicts or natural disasters erupt, States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society need information about migrant populations. Aggregated data on the municipal, national, regional, and international scale of migration and the demographics of migrants, such as gender, age, and nationality, enable stakeholders to understand the nature and scope of needs in the case of a crisis. Local-level migrant community profiles help stakeholders target responses. Some stakeholders collect detailed information on the location of migrants, how to contact individual migrants, emergency and family contacts, and specific vulnerability and needs. Recruitment and placement agencies collect information on the location and situation of labor migrants they deploy to other States and can be a useful source of information.
Migrants play a key role in sharing and updating their information to enable stakeholders to contact and assist them in the event of a conflict or natural disaster. That said, migrants in an irregular immigration status in particular may have reservations about putting themselves at risk by becoming more ‘visible’ and sharing contact and other information with stakeholders, especially State authorities. Such migrants are also more likely to be highly mobile and move from one temporary residence to another. Efforts to collect and share aggregated information on migrants in an irregular situation should address these barriers. Engaging civil society can help mitigate such challenges.
In cases where States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society collect personal data, they should respect privacy rights and confidentiality with a view to ensuring the safety and security of the migrants (and where relevant, other stakeholders) on whom they collect and share information. In collecting and handling information containing migrants’ personal details, stakeholders need to act in accordance with applicable law and standards on individual data protection and privacy. Stakeholders should also ensure informed consent. Stakeholders can adopt clear guidelines that define the type of personal data to be collected and the ways in which such data will be handled, including circumstances in which data can be shared.
Registration systems for citizens abroad that enable States of origin (or family, community, or civil society, where practical and appropriate) to contact migrants in the event of a crisis and provide them with information on the crisis and available assistance. Measures to encourage citizens to register, such as user-friendly, online registration systems that highlight the benefits and services that become available through registration.
- Host State registration systems to collect information on migrants upon arrival.
- Aggregated data and research on migration trends and demographics, including the purpose and routes of migration and nature and characteristics of migrants.
- Information on migrant community profiles, migrant networks, and focal points.
- Databases of migrant workers that include information on accompanying family members.
- 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.
Guideline 4: Incorporate migrants in prevention, preparedness, and emergency response systems
States and other stakeholders have laws, policies, and programs on prevention, preparedness, and emergency response to reduce the impact of crises. Taking into account the presence of migrants, their vulnerabilities, and their potential needs in prevention, preparedness, and emergency response frameworks, including on disaster risk reduction (DRR), can promote resilience in the event of a conflict or natural disaster. Clear laws and policies on migrants’ eligibility for different types of assistance in the event of a crisis promote certainty. If the presence of migrants is not known or is inadequately incorporated in planning, stakeholders may overlook migrants in their responses. If stakeholders fail to appreciate factors that make migrants vulnerable, such as language barriers, isolated working conditions, irregular immigration status, or mistrust of authorities, responses may be ineffective. When laws and policies are unclear, responses towards migrants can be unpredictable and insufficient.
Migrants themselves and civil society may be in the best position to assist States and other stakeholders to appreciate the presence of migrants, their vulnerability, and needs. In this respect, involving migrants and civil society in the development of prevention, preparedness, and emergency response measures can be helpful. Such actions also build trust between migrant populations and State and non-State actors who provide protection.
Migrants and civil society also have capacities and resources that they can contribute to preparedness and emergency response. Their language abilities, first-hand knowledge of migrant populations, understanding of cultural norms within their communities, and ability to foster greater trust toward State authorities and other actors can be leveraged to create more comprehensive and effective systems and programs.
- Platforms to facilitate the engagement of migrants in the design and implementation of prevention, preparedness, and emergency response systems.
- Taking migrants into account in national and local frameworks on prevention, preparedness, and emergency response, including by recognizing migrants as a specific group with needs and capacities.
- Recruitment of migrants as staff or volunteers in prevention, preparedness, and emergency response mechanisms.
- Guideline 5: Involve migrants in contingency planning and integrate their needs and capacities
States, employers, recruiters and placement agencies, international organizations, and civil society have contingency plans and procedures to react to and mitigate the risks associated with crises. Many States of origin have contingency plans to assist their citizens abroad. If contingency plans do not exist, they should be developed during the pre-crisis phase to provide sufficient time to consider and test options.
Contingency plans should take into account and integrate migrants’ presence, potential needs, and capacities. Plans should anticipate migrants’ requirements for relocation, evacuation, communication, emergency shelter, food and non-food relief, health care, and psychosocial support. Plans should address ways to identify and respond to the needs of particularly vulnerable populations, such as migrant children, including unaccompanied and separated children, children of migrants in an irregular immigration status, migrant victims of trafficking, elderly migrants, and migrants with disabilities. Plans should also address the protection of migrants in detention. Contingency plans should be flexible, actionable, clear, and adapted to relevant regional, national, and local dynamics.
Involving migrants and civil society in the preparation of contingency plans can be particularly useful. Migrants and civil society can identify circumstances where targeted approaches are necessary to address the specific needs of migrants, such as language requirements. Employers and recruitment and placement agencies should be involved in contingency plans for migrant workers and their families.
Regularly updating and testing contingency plans can also be helpful to identify gaps and weaknesses in actions towards migrants and to ensure those charged with protecting migrants have the authority and capacity to do so. Joint contingency planning between emergency response actors and those working primarily with migrant populations can facilitate resource sharing and common understanding of risks, migrant populations, and local infrastructure. Contingency plans can include a crisis management structure that identifies responsibilities of different actors.
- Multi-stakeholder contingency plans to share resources and capacities to assist migrants, including by undertaking multi-stakeholder asset mapping exercises.
- Crisis alert systems that monitor crises in host States and direct authorities to act based on the intensity of the crisis, such as obligation to evacuate migrants.
- Evacuation plans that set out clear rules and criteria for carrying out evacuations, such as document requirements and eligibility for evacuation.
- Emergency drills involving migrants to test contingency plans and identify obstacles and challenges.
- Inter-agency contingency plans that take into account migrants’ potential needs in crises.
- Guideline 6: Communicate effectively with migrants
Migrants need to understand potential risks associated with a crisis, where and how to obtain assistance, and how to inform stakeholders of their needs. Stakeholders should find appropriate channels to communicate with migrants and to identify their needs and capacities. To do so effectively, States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society should address language, cultural, and other barriers. The effects of crises, such as power failures, loss of internet and satellite communication systems, and even the deliberate spread of misinformation (for instance, by people smugglers) may disrupt or constrain communication with migrants.
Communication efforts should also take into account the diversity among migrants present in host States. Diverse, multiple, formal, and informal methods of communication can help overcome barriers to effective communication with migrants. Women migrants are a large majority of domestic workers worldwide. Due to the isolated nature of this work, women in domestic work are extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, including physical and sexual abuse, forced labor, and confinement. In times of crisis, this vulnerability is exacerbated and they can be hard to reach via traditional communication channels. Fear of being detected, detained, or deported may inhibit migrants in an irregular immigration situation from accessing available communication channels. Migrant children can become unaccompanied or separated. They absorb information and communicate their needs in different ways than adults. Elderly migrants sometimes lack host-language capabilities. Migrants with disabilities may need braille, audio cues, and other disability-sensitive interventions. In the chaos that can ensue during crises, migrants in detention may be overlooked. Efforts to communicate with migrants should be sensitive to the predicaments of migrants in different circumstances.
Communication channels can take advantage of social media, places of worship, and migrants’ connections with their families and communities in their States of origin. Enlisting and involving migrants and faith-based and other civil society in establishing communication methods, and promoting their ability to communicate with each other, can facilitate communication with migrants, including hard-to-reach and hard-to-engage populations. Health or outreach workers who are already present in the community may be able to communicate in the languages migrants speak and understand different cultures in the community. Engaging and training them may be an effective method to deliver information to migrant communities.
- Multiple traditional and innovative communication channels to reach diverse migrant populations and minimize the effects of possible communication disruptions.
- Multiple mediums for communication in the languages migrants speak, at diverse literacy levels, to accommodate ways in which people absorb information, including accessible formats for persons with disabilities.
- Mobile applications and social media as a cost-effective, user-friendly, and widely accessible mechanism to provide crisis-related information.
- Helplines, hotlines, and call centers as an accessible and low-tech means through which one-way or two-way communication with migrants can be facilitated.
- Communication by civil society, especially migrant networks, diaspora, and faith-based actors with migrants in an irregular immigration status and others who may be hard to access.
- Guideline 7: Establish coordination agreements in advance to leverage strengths and foster trust
States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society often work with fewer resources than required. Each of these stakeholders has unique skills, resources, and strengths. Working together to build partnerships, entering into agreements, and establishing routine coordination improves collective responses towards migrants, and prevents duplication of efforts. Such arrangements are best entered into before the next conflict or natural disaster, when stakeholders have the opportunity to anticipate challenges and leverage unique skills and strengths. Joint planning and coordination maximizes resources, improves the effectiveness of responses, and fosters trust between stakeholders. Involving migrants and civil society, who have first-hand knowledge of the specific needs and challenges faced by migrants, can improve the effectiveness of efforts to protect migrants in countries experiencing crises, including at the local, national, regional, or international levels.
These arrangements may relate to a range of activities relevant to the needs of migrants during the emergency phase and its aftermath—from collection of data to information sharing, consular services to identity assessments, awareness-raising to strategic communication plans, provision of humanitarian relief and services to referral systems, capacity-building to evacuation and reintegration assistance, and much more. This may include coordination and information sharing among anti-trafficking experts and humanitarian assistance providers to ensure screening for trafficking and referral to appropriate services. Additionally, by developing systems to identify refugees, asylum-seekers, and stateless persons, States can better ensure that these persons are appropriately referred to the available refugee and other protection mechanisms.
Stakeholders can often arrange in advance key services and resources that will be in high demand when a crisis hits, including transportation, shelter, food, health care, and timely and accurate information. Establishing and maintaining clear channels of communication between consular posts and relevant agencies of the host State is important. Such channels of communication could prove critical during crisis situations.
- Pre-arranged agreements among stakeholders, such as agreements between States and international organizations for identity verification, shared use of assets, family tracing, and deployment of experts and humanitarian personnel.
- Multi-stakeholder agreements for relocation and evacuation that set out roles and responsibilities of partners and provide guidance on allocation of costs.
- Cross-border cooperation on crisis preparedness, taking into account particular needs of migrants, especially at a local level for communities that straddle borders.
- Reciprocal consular assistance and representation agreements to address gaps in situations where States do not have a diplomatic or consular presence in a country or have limited capacity.
- Guideline 8: Build capacity and learn lessons for emergency response and post-crisis action
Limited resources, funding, and technical skills can all affect the robustness of emergency and post-crisis responses. Understanding and assessing these limitations is a critical first step towards overcoming them. Stakeholders’ investment in their own capacity to improve emergency response and post-crisis recovery for migrants is critical.
Capacity building may relate to such varied areas as consular services, training for responders, resource allocation, funding mechanisms, insurance schemes, relief goods and services, border and migration management, and relocation and evacuation. Many of these areas are relevant for both the emergency and post-crisis phases. Stakeholders should also consider addressing potential reintegration challenges for migrants, their families, and communities, facilitating re-employment, income generation, and safe remigration, and supporting migrants to access outstanding wages, assets, and property left in host States.
States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society should assist one another to build and improve their capacity to respond. Undertaking advocacy, monitoring and evaluations, raising awareness, conducting training, sharing information, building research and knowledge, and supporting and learning from each other all help to improve collective efforts to protect migrants.
- Training and capacity building of stakeholders, such as on effective ways to access migrants and identify vulnerability and needs.
- Dedicated funding to protect migrants, including budget lines, loans, and funding platforms.
- Referral mechanisms that map rosters of experts who can address diverse needs of different migrants.
- Peer-to-peer exchanges for capacity building and learning on tackling challenges associated with protecting migrants.
- Training for consular officials, such as on collecting information on citizens and crisis management, including evacuation.
- Monitoring and evaluation of crisis responses that includes analysis of responses towards migrants.
During the emergency phase, stakeholders will ideally activate the kinds of crisis preparedness measures described in the previous section. Even if they have however, States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society will inevitably need to make decisions and enter into ad hoc arrangements to address unanticipated complexities and meet emerging needs as the emergency unfolds.
- 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.
- Guideline 10: Facilitate migrants’ ability to move to safety
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Guideline 13: Relocate and evacuate migrants when needed
During some crises, stakeholders may be able to protect migrants where they are located in the host State. But this may not always be possible, especially in situations where the repercussions of a conflict or natural disaster envelop large geographic areas. Where protection cannot be provided locally, it may be necessary to relocate migrants to other parts of the host State or evacuate them to States of transit or the State of origin. Some migrants may make these journeys on their own. Many may rely on States, their employers, recruiters, or placement agencies, international organizations, civil society, and other migrants for support and assistance.
Evacuation is generally a last resort but absolutely essential if migrants cannot remain safely where they are and cannot be relocated safely to another part of the host State. Where comprehensive contingency plans and standing evacuation and relocation arrangements are not already in place, ad hoc arrangements may be needed to communicate evacuation information, determine eligibility for evacuation, establish modes of evacuation, and negotiate with States of transit and other actors. States, regardless of whether they are party to relevant international instruments, should implement specific safeguards to ensure individuals who face persecution, or, as appropriate, serious harm or other life-threatening situations in their States of origin or other States, including refugees, are protected against refoulement. Stateless persons may need specific assistance to take advantage of evacuation arrangements. Coordination between States and other stakeholders in carrying out evacuations can leverage resources, for example, to transport migrants to States of origin in the same region.
- Evacuation of migrants to States of transit or States of origin with their informed consent.
- Establishment of criteria for eligibility for evacuation.
- Multi-stakeholder cooperation on evacuation.
- Evacuation for family units who have family members of different nationalities.
- Deploying personnel to consular posts to assist with evacuation.
While often overlooked, post-crisis action is vital to ensuring that migrants are able to quickly resume safe, dignified, and productive lives. Migrants’ immediate and longer-term needs, resilience, and capacities will be influenced by their demographic and socio-economic characteristics, physical and emotional well-being, experiences in the host State, how and with what assets they leave crisis-hit areas, and the reasons that led them to migrate in the first place. Efforts aimed at addressing migrants’ post-crisis needs—whether they return to their State of origin, remain in the host State, or go elsewhere—should take into account effects on migrants’ families, their host communities, and societies.
- 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. Postcrisis 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.
- Guideline 15: Support migrants’ host communities
Interventions should also address the impact on communities in the State of origin to which migrants return, host States from which migrants have fled, or States of transit to which migrants flee. Such communities may lack sufficient resources, services, and infrastructure to support migrants. If migrants receive assistance to the exclusion of members of host communities, perceptions relating to preferential treatment may create or exacerbate tensions and lead to discrimination, stigmatization, or social exclusion. An approach to post-crisis action that incorporates the needs of host communities is more likely to be successful than one that solely targets migrants and their families. Such an inclusive approach can foster community and social cohesiveness and stability in the long-term. This may be particularly important if migrants and their host communities continue to deal with the effects of crises years after they end.
The mass return of migrants to States of origin if not properly managed can also lead to adverse development impacts, including the loss of remittances, unemployment and underemployment, pressure on infrastructure, resources, services (including water, electricity, waste management, education, health, housing, and transportation), and increased poverty, all of which can cause broader societal tensions. Similarly, when large groups of migrants are evacuated or leave a host State in haste, their departure may create skill and labor shortages in host States. While migrants also contribute to States of transit, if they remain for unanticipated extended periods of time without effective integration, their presence may burden local infrastructure and services.
Effectively managing migration is important in the wake of a natural disaster or conflict. Host States may want to encourage migrants to return as soon as possible to aid in reconstruction or stimulate the local economy, and towards this end may create flexible visa options to promote migrant return to host States. States of origin may see value in facilitating diaspora engagement in post-crisis action and recovery.
- Analysis of short, medium-, and longer-term socio-economic impacts of return following crises, at the local and national levels in States of origin and host States.
- Promotion of diaspora contributions through actions, such as matching grants and customs waivers to facilitate financial and in-kind support.
- Inclusion of returned migrants’ needs in State of origin development plans.
- Engagement of and support to host populations through consultations and inclusive responses.
- Social cohesion programs addressing migrants, migrant networks, and host communities to prevent and mitigate tensions and foster reintegration.