Type of practice: Research and reports
Name of Stakeholder: International Organization for Migration (IOM)
Type of Stakeholder Implementing the Practice: International Organizations
Type of crisis: Conflict
Crisis phase: Post-Crisis Action
The massive return of migrants caught in foreign crises with no other alternatives but to return home brings untold hardship to hosting households and communities as was experienced in Ghana in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and in 2011, when Ghanaians returned from Nigeria, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Libya respectively. In such instances, hosting households and communities become more impoverished as they struggle to care for returnees, continue to meet their own basic needs and deal with the loss of remittances/financial support. More than 18,000 Ghanaians were evacuated from Libya and neighbouring countries (Egypt, Niger and Tunisia), with assistance from IOM and the Government of Ghana in 2011. The study focuses on difficulties and vulnerabilities; positive behavioural practices; partners or local institutions; and livelihood strategies, including alternative livelihoods, in host or return communities that can reduce future vulnerability to emergencies such as the massive return of migrations.
- Information on migrants
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.
- 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.
- Support the recovery of migrants’ host communities
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.