What is a migration crisis and how to address it integrally

Qué es una crisis migratoria y cómo atenderla integralmente
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A migration crisis is short for “crisis with migration dimensions”. A migration crisis can generate population movements within or outside the borders of a country. This may occur suddenly or gradually, and is affected by migratory movements prior to the crisis, as well as changes in subsequent migration patterns. The term migration crisis describes complex and generally large-scale migration flows, as well as the mobility patterns caused by a crisis that often lead to considerable vulnerabilities for affected people and communities, and pose serious migration management challenges in the longer term.

Migration crises have several faces, so when using the expression, you can be referring to international migrants who are affected by a crisis when they are in their destination country, or you can refer to the migratory flows resulting from the instability and protracted conflicts in a region, among other possible scenarios.

To respond effectively to the different scenarios of a migration crisis, IOM developed the Operational Migration Crisis Operational Framework (MCOF) in 2012, in order to support affected communities in accessing their fundamental rights of protection and assistance. The framework is based on international humanitarian and human rights legislation, and humanitarian principles. It also combines humanitarian activities, recovery and transition to development with migration management services as a cross-cutting priority.

MCOF has 3 pillars:

Pillar 1- The phase of time, that is, before, during and after the crisis.

Pillar 2- The 15 sectors of assistance, from humanitarian to development to address the migration crisis and its consequences in the short, medium and long term.

Pillar 3- Associations and coordination, which are necessary with the relevant actors, sector groups coordinated by OCHA, and established United Nations systems.

For a comprehensive approach to a crisis, the assistance sectors (pillar 2) are implemented in the before, during and after, which implies varying the focus and activities according to the needs of each phase of time. The 15 assistance sectors are as follows:

1. Camp management and displacement mapping, to provide decent living conditions for displaced persons and migrants on the move, facilitating effective assistance and protection in temporary accommodation (transit centers, shelters, reception centers, collective centers, formal and informal camps, etc.). Data processing and dissemination is essential for effective assistance (IOM developed a tool called DTM).

As an example, according to the Strategic Binational Plan MOCM Costa Rica - Panama (2017-2019), to address the presence of large groups of migrants stranded in small communities located near border areas and the problems that this entails (both at the level of access to services and the risk of xenophobia), two specific actions were presented in this assistance sector: 1) In the pre-crisis phase, develop guides and strengthen the capacity of governments and partner organizations; and 2) During the crisis, “support [in] the provision of humanitarian assistance and protection to migrants in transit. Follow up and monitor the movement of migrants and their needs.”

2. Shelter and non-food items, to address the needs of temporary accommodation and non-food items of people affected by the crisis. Assistance includes the coordination of logistics, technical support and the relevant distribution of both the infrastructure and non-food items.

3. Transportation assistance for affected populations, since it is of the utmost importance that there is an entity responsible for providing safe transport, within or outside the borders. Transportation will be necessary in evacuations, resettlements, repatriation and returns, among others.

4. Health support, necessary to save lives and to prevent communicable diseases during the crisis and movement. In the region, the plan between Costa Rica and Panama put this assistance section into practice before the crisis through the development of the capacities of governments and partner agencies in preventive health care and migrant health, development of instruments, and the strengthening of a network of experts in health emergencies.

5. Psychosocial support, to support and protect affected populations to reduce psychosocial vulnerabilities and promote community resilience, including fostering community resilience and feelings of belonging.

 6. (Re)integration assistance, which seeks to end the situations of displacement of people affected by the crisis by supporting durable solutions and reintegration. This assistance is also provided to migrants voluntarily returned to their countries of origin. Citizen participation, listening to the community and conducting civic monitoring are key actions for a successful reintegration of returning migrants.

7. Community stabilization and transition, necessary to lay the foundation for durable solutions. Peacekeeping and sustainable development can include the creation of short-term jobs and promoting socio-economic initiatives, although it will always depend on the needs specific to each population. This assistance is given to local governments and community to face socio-economic and political changes after a crisis, restoring stability and security in vulnerable communities and preventing future forced migrations.

8. Disaster risk reduction and resilience building, with actions aimed at reducing and mitigating the risk of displacement and increasing the resilience of communities to face disasters while contributing to achieve sustainable development.

The current MOCM 2017-2019 of the Dominican Republic, facing an environment characterized by ethnic tensions and with the presence of recurring natural events that affect the population, raised the improvement of precarious housing and repair of community infrastructure.

9. Land and property support, with actions to assist governments and communities to address land and property issues, thus preventing future forced migration, allowing work on durable solutions to continuous displacement and also facilitating return and reintegration.

10. Counter-trafficking and protection of vulnerable migrants, since, particularly during crises, affected people consider taking high-risk routes and methods of migration, leaving them vulnerable to organized criminal groups. It focuses on actions that offer protection and assistance to vulnerable migrants, victims of trafficking, abuse and exploitation and especially unaccompanied migrant children during the crisis.

11. Technical assistance for humanitarian border management, oriented towards actions that support states in strengthening their immigration and border management capacity. In the case of the current MOCM in Mexico, for example, to address the migratory flow peaks that periodically occur and that sometimes exceed state capacities and address the flows during the crisis, the document proposes to provide registration systems for displaced populations that move through border checkpoints.

12. Emergency consular assistance, which implies supporting states to offer efficient consular services during the emergency. In addition, to provide nationals of other countries caught in the crisis, the issuance of emergency documents and safe-conduct documents to help alleviate their needs, especially during the crisis, where for fear of possible deportations, people may decide not to access attendance points.

13. Diaspora and human resource mobilization, to involve the capacities and financial resources of the diaspora as support in the reconstruction of communities in situations when possible.

14. Migration policy and legislation support, that is, actions to support states, communities and individuals to build or strengthen inclusive migration policies. It also proposes effective and humane migration management in crisis situations, and fulfill the responsibilities to protect vulnerable mobile populations affected by the crisis.

15. Humanitarian communications through activities that support the creation or reinforcement of two-way communication channels with the communities. It is essential that useful information exchange channels be generated both for the affected communities and for the humanitarian actors, so that they can adjust their actions according to the needs expressed directly by the population. The messages must have intercultural considerations that reject xenophobia and discrimination.


Strength in diversity: how inclusiveness contributes to disaster risk reduction

Strength in diversity: how inclusiveness contributes to disaster risk reduction
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Autor: Guest Contributor

Disasters due to natural hazards exact a heavy toll on the well-being and safety of persons, communities and countries. These disasters tend to be exacerbated by climate change, and are increasing in frequency and intensity, significantly impeding progress towards sustainable development, especially for most exposed countries.

It is critical to anticipate, plan for and reduce disaster risk to more effectively protect persons, communities and countries, their livelihoods, health, cultural heritage, socioeconomic assets and ecosystems, and thus strengthen their resilience.

According to a recent IOM study on human mobility and the climate agenda in the Americas, countries in the region have advanced in the integration of human mobility in national and regional policies and plans for disaster risk reduction, as well as in other related areas such as climate change, development planning, agricultural policy and housing.

However, in many cases the most vulnerable populations are excluded from contributing to disaster risk management policies and plans, thus suffering more disproportionately when disasters strike.

The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which sets a series of guiding principles for States and other stakeholders in disaster risk reduction, stresses the importance of inclusive disaster risk management: “There has to be a broader and a more people-centered preventive approach to disaster risk. Disaster risk reduction practices need to be multi-hazard and multisectoral, inclusive and accessible in order to be efficient and effective.”

While Governments have a leading and regulatory role to play, they should engage with different groups including women, youth, persons with disabilities, migrants, indigenous peoples and other communities in the design and implementation of policies, plans and standards.

The framework notes the following opportunities:

  • Migrants contribute to the resilience of communities and societies, and their knowledge, skills and capacities can be useful in the design and implementation of disaster risk reduction;
  • Persons with disabilities and their organizations are critical in the assessment of disaster risk and in designing and implementing plans tailored to specific requirements, taking into consideration the principles of universal design;
  • Children and youth are agents of change and should be given the space to contribute to disaster risk reduction
  • Women and their participation are critical to effectively managing disaster risk and designing, resourcing and implementing gender-sensitive disaster risk reduction policies, plans and programmes; and adequate capacity building measures need to be taken to empower women for preparedness as well as to build their capacity to secure alternate means of livelihood in post-disaster situations;
  • Indigenous peoples, through their experience and traditional knowledge, provide an important contribution to the development and implementation of plans and mechanisms, including for early warning;
  • Older persons have years of knowledge, skills and wisdom, which are invaluable assets to reduce disaster risk, and they should be included in the design of policies, plans and mechanisms, including for early warning.

The inclusion of migrants and other communities can also contribute towards strengthening local capacities, advance an integrated agenda, strengthen local networks and expand the governance base of migration and climate change.

To turn these words into action, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) developed a companion for implementing the Sendai Framework Target, offering practical guidance to help Government authorities integrate disaster displacement and other related forms of human mobility into disaster risk reduction strategies at local and regional levels.

Similarly, The Migrants In Countries In Crisis Initiative (MICIC), developed a series of Principles, Guidelines, and Practices to strengthen local, national, regional, and international action to better protect migrants in countries experiencing conflicts or natural disasters. The Guidelines provide recommendations on how migration can contribute to resilience, recovery, and the well-being of affected communities and societies. These include practices for implementation, such as migrant-to-migrant learning, regional and cross-border contingency plans, and crisis alert systems. 

While public and private sectors, civil society organizations, academia and scientific and research institutions, communities and businesses can all work more closely together to create opportunities for collaboration, the rights of vulnerable groups should always be contemplated as part of holistic strategies for disaster risk management and climate change adaptation.