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Background of Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Lao People’s Democratic Republic is a landlocked country located in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), sharing a border with Thailand, Cambodia, Viet Nam, China and Myanmar. The country’s geographical location and its move towards greater economic integration with its neighbours has led to the development of large infrastructure projects to increase and improve regional trade. These have also contributed to greater population mobility. This, in turn, has resulted in an increase in irregular and unsafe migration, human trafficking, and the risk of cross-border transmission of diseases.

Lao People’s Democratic Republic is also prone to various natural disasters, which have impacted the livelihoods of local communities and migrant populations. Migrants and mobile populations, especially women and children, are particularly vulnerable due to their limited access to social services and protection, especially when they are away from their home communities.

IOM’s Vientiane office opened in 2002 with technical support from the IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok. Today, IOM works closely with the Lao Government and relevant counterparts, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Health and the Lao Women’s Union  on policy development, capacity building and raising awareness of migration-related issues. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic joined IOM as its 171st Member State in June 2018.

Migration Health

Key Donor:

  • Asian Development Bank (ADB)

IOM Vientiane has been working closely with the Ministry of Health on its migration health programme since 2007. To date, it has implemented a range of health projects addressing issues including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), avian and human influenza (AHI) and malaria. IOM has coordinated closely with national, provincial and local authorities, advocating for the inclusion of migrants in national health policies and action plans, and a rights-based approach to public health. Key components of these programme activities have focused on awareness raising, outreach initiatives, capacity development and social mobilization.

For more information on IOM migration health projects in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, please refer to the Migration Health Factsheet. For more information on IOM Malaria interventions among border communities in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, please refer to the Malaria Project Infosheet.

Labour Migration/Special Economic Zones

Key Donors:

  • The Government of Italy
  • IOM Development Fund (IDF)

There are currently 12 SEZs in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, hosting approximately 388 companies from Laos and overseas, with a registered capital of USD 8 billion. As of May 2018, there were 11,097 foreign workers and 9,002 Lao workers in the 12 SEZs totaling 20,099.

The establishment and expansion of SEZs has also attracted large numbers of both internal and external migrant workers, in some cases posing risks to workers’ rights.  Cases of unethical recruitment practices and violation of labour rights have been observed, in particular in some northern SEZs.

In 2017 – 2018 IOM partnered with the Special Economic Zone Promotion and Management Office (SEZO) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment to implement the Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking (CREST) project.

This encourages companies in SEZs to adopt ethical recruitment practices and to enhance their corporate social responsibility activities. It also raises awareness of human and labour rights.

At the request of SEZO, IOM is currently seeking new donors for CREST Phase II to address the challenges identified in the pilot phase.

For more information on SEZs in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, please refer to the SEZs Factsheet.

Counter Trafficking

Key Donors:

  • United States Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM)
  • United States Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)
  • European Union (EU)

Since 2001, IOM’s office in Lao People’s Democratic Republic has provided assistance to the Lao government in addressing human trafficking and exploitation and in reducing the number of vulnerable migrants affected.

IOM supports the identification, referral, and protection of trafficked victims, and assists in detecting, investigating and prosecuting cases of human trafficking. In doing so,

It helps government and civil society partners to develop capacity in victim identification screening and conducting interviews, and helps victims to access support services.

To date, IOM has directly supported over 2,500 vulnerable migrants in the country through emergency assistance.


For more information on IOM counter trafficking projects in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, please refer to the Counter Trafficking Factsheet.

Immigration and Border Management

Key Donor:

  • The Government of Canada

As a country sharing long land borders with five neighboring countries, Lao People’s Democratic Republic is particularly susceptible to people smuggling and trafficking as a source, receiving and transit country.

Traffic is growing rapidly at the 27 international border control points (BCPs) and 36 local checkpoints in Lao People’s Democratic Republic due to increased economic and infrastructure development. But the the capacity of border officials to detect smuggling and trafficking remains low.

IOM has been working closely with the Department of Immigration and the Department of Anti-Trafficking, both under the Ministry of Public Security, to combat migrant smuggling and human trafficking through a series of foundation trainings, thematic trainings, and border management technology support.

 IOM Lao People’s Democratic Republic has delivered three Verifier Travel Document and Bearer (TD&B) systems to three BCPs through the Government of Canada’s Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program (ACCBP) to detect imposter and fraudulent passports for safe and orderly migration.

For more information on ACCBP and IOM Lao People’s Democratic Republic’s approach on IBM, please refer to the IBM Factsheet.

Disaster Response and Displacement Management

Key Donor:

  • USAID Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA)

Lao People’s Democratic Republic is prone to recurrent hazards including floods, drought and landslides. Floods are highly disruptive to the livelihoods of people, since affected areas often include primary economic activities, such as agriculture, and are home to over 60 percent of the population.

Six major floods from 2008-2016 have displaced more than 110,811 people, making the country one of the most disaster-prone areas in Southeast Asia.

In 2015, IOM developed and implemented its first disaster risk management (DRM) project: “Strengthening Capacity to Respond to Humanitarian Emergencies in Lao People’s Democratic Republic.”

This project targeted the central government and delivered three provincial trainings in the areas of shelter, camp coordination/camp management, and the provision of humanitarian relief items.

IOM Lao People’s Democratic Republic Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/IOM.Laos.int/

Population (July 2018)6.9 million
Area:237,955 km sq
Official Languages :Lao, French
Currency:Kip (LAK)
GDP per Capita PPP (2017):USD 7,023
Country CategoryLeast Developed Countries (LDCs)
Unemployment Rate of Total Population (2017)1.5%
Youth Unemployment Rate (2017)4%
Adults and Children Living with HIV (2016)10,000 – 13,000
Adult HIV Prevalence (2016):0.30%
Disaster displaced population (2008-2017)>110,999
Climate Risk Index for 1997–2016 Rank90 out of 182
Total number of international migrants residing in Lao People’s Democratic Republic 45,500
Proportion of female migrants of the international immigrant stock 46.3%
Percentage of international migrants 19 years and younger living in Lao People’s Democratic Republic17%
Total number of emigrants who have left the country1.3 million
Value of personal remittances received (World Bank and IMF, 2016)USD 116,384,100

International Organization for Migration (IOM)
UN House, 3rd Floor
Lane Xang Avenue
PO BOX 345
Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Tel: +856 21 267 730
Fax: +856 21 264 946