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 Haitian borders. The team identified a number of cases of smuggling and potential trafficking of people at formal and informal border posts throughout the country. The cases were channeled through the national referral mechanism for support. The team remained active through the end of 2011 and carried out a number of operations that specifically addressed irregular activities and movement at borders.
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.
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.