MICIC is grounded by ten fundamental, cross-cutting Principles, drawn, in some instances, from international law. The Principles are intended to inform, underpin, and guide actions to protect migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters. This includes implementation of the Guidelines and Practices by States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society at the crisis preparedness, emergency response, and post-crisis phases.

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).

1. First, save lives.

Respect for the inherent humanity and dignity of migrants means all possible efforts should be taken to save lives. Conflicts and natural disasters present complex and distinct challenges; nonetheless, humanitarian assistance must be prioritized and provided in an uncompromising and non-discriminatory manner. The immigration status of migrants should not be used as a basis for denying assistance in emergencies. Ensuring migrants are able to move to safety and enjoy their right to leave any country, as provided under international law, is essential to saving lives and protecting dignity.

2. As human beings, all migrants are entitled to human rights, regardless of their immigration status. 

At all times, the human rights of migrants should be respected, protected, and fulfilled in a non-discriminatory manner and in accordance with applicable international law. This means that all actions relating to crisis preparedness, emergency response, and post-crisis should be undertaken in a manner consistent with the human rights of migrants. Effectively protecting migrants’ human rights requires understanding of how discrimination and differences, including those based on immigration status, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, race, nationality, or other characteristics can constrain access to resources and safety. A rights-sensitive approach to policy and programming requires that migrants are provided with sufficient and relevant information and are able to participate in processes and frameworks that implicate them. The principle of non–refoulement should be fully respected at all times. 

3. States bear the primary responsibility to protect migrants within their territories and their own citizens, including when they are abroad. 

 Host States and States of transit have responsibilities towards all persons within their territories, including migrants, regardless of their immigration status. States of origin bear responsibilities towards their citizens, even when they are living, working, studying, traveling, or transiting in other countries. 

4. Private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society play a significant role in protecting migrants and in supporting States to protect migrants.

To appreciate and realize this potential, approaches to protect migrants should involve the unique knowledge, skills, and capacities of private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society. Barriers that inhibit them from protecting migrants should be eliminated or minimized. Clarifying the critical roles of all stakeholders, before the next crisis erupts, also enhances the ability of States to carry out their responsibilities towards migrants.

5. Humanitarian action to protect migrants should be guided by the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

The purpose of humanitarian action is to protect life and health and ensure respect for human beings. Humanity means that human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found. Neutrality means that humanitarian actors must not take sides in hostilities or engage in controversies of a political, racial, religious, or ideological nature. Impartiality means that humanitarian action must be carried out on the basis of need alone, without discrimination, giving priority to the most urgent cases of distress and making no distinctions on the basis of immigration status or other grounds. Independence means that humanitarian action must be autonomous from the political, economic, military, or other objectives of actors taking such action.

6. Migrants are rights holders and capable actors, resilient and creative in the face of adversities. 

They are not merely victims or passive recipients of assistance. While crises affect individual migrants differently, they have the capacity to take charge of their own safety and wellbeing and should be responsible for doing so, provided they have access to the necessary information and support. Stakeholders should create the conditions necessary for migrants to realize this potential and help them to enjoy their rights. Stakeholders should promote the participation and empowerment of all migrants, including migrants of different ages, genders, and abilities in efforts related to crisis preparedness, response, and recovery so migrants can mitigate risks and take charge of their wellbeing.

7. Migrants strengthen the vitality of both their host States and States of origin in multiple ways.

As mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, students, and workers at all skill levels, migrants provide for and contribute to their families, communities, and societies. Anti-migrant rhetoric can increase in times of crisis and migrants may face increased levels of discrimination, hostility, and xenophobia. Positive communication about migrants promotes tolerance, non-discrimination, inclusiveness, and respect toward migrants. This can include, for example, ensuring that the language used in referring to migrants avoids the term ‘illegal’. Migrants are people, and people are never ‘illegal’ even if they are in an irregular immigration status. Highlighting the positive economic, social, and cultural contributions of migrants can ground public debate in reality and counteract unfair and negative stereotypes and discriminatory and xenophobic attitudes. Building on migrants’ resilience and promoting their effective integration in host communities can enhance responses to crises. 

8. Action at the local, national, regional, and international levels is necessary to improve responses. 

Effective responses require all stakeholders to take actions not only at the international and national levels, but also at the regional and local levels. Local authorities and non-State local actors, including local communities and community leaders, are particularly well placed to understand and address needs during crises, given their proximity to migrants and their access as first responders. Regional engagement creates opportunities to address regional priorities and dynamics that relate to the protection of migrants, including populations who move across international borders as part of their traditional way of life. 

9. Partnerships, cooperation, and coordination are essential between and among States, private sector actors, international organizations, civil society, local communities, and migrants. 

Partnerships foster trust, enhance the effectiveness of limited resources and capacity, and improve responses. 

10. Continuous research, learning, and innovation improve our collective response. 

Regular assessments and evaluations of past experiences in protecting migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters can inform planning, preparation, and responses. Through continuous and shared research, learning, and innovation, States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society can improve approaches, policies, and tools to better protect migrants.