Environmental factors: In recent years, chronic droughts throughout the Sahel region have led to large movements of people on a regular basis, either permanently or seasonally. Mostly recently, severe drought in 2011 generated acute food insecurity across the Sahel region, leading to a significant decline in agricultural production in Mali. Since the Malian economy is mainly based on agriculture, environmental changes can have significant impacts on livelihoods, particularly in the rural areas.
Conflicts and disputes: The Sahel has experienced a significant number of conflicts in the post-colonial era, from large-scale wars to small-scale disputes between communities or localized fighting. When Mali gained independence in 1960, the North was united with the largely darker-skinned African south. Since then, government power has been concentrated in the hands of ethnic groups from the South, who allegedly neglected the northern populations and exploited the resources of northern regions. This has led to aggravated tensions between the South and the North of Mali (Blair, 2013).
Conflicts in neighbouring countries that receive large number of Malian migrants can prompt their return, as seen in the recent war in Libya that led to the return of an estimated 30,000 Malians (UNSC, 2012) and more recently the crisis in Central African Republic which has also led the return of about 1,800 Malians.
Northern Mali conflict
The armed conflict that started in the North of Mali in January 2012 caused a migration crisis of significant size and scope, both within and outside of Mali. Fighting broke out in the North of Mali in January 2012, between Tuareg secessionist and radical Islamist groups on one side and government forces on the other, followed by a military coup d´état in Bamako in March 2012. As a result of the defeat of government forces in the North, insurgents took control of Mali’s three northern regions (Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal), occupying the major cities.
This led to a large-scale displacement of the population within Mali’s three northern regions, towards the central and southern parts of Mali as well as into neighbouring countries. Nearly half a million people were displaced, including some 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and over 175,000 seeking refuge in neighbouring countries.
In January 2013, a new phase in the Mali crisis was initiated when international military forces intervened through the deployment of French and Chadian troops, at the request of Malian authorities. This intervention permitted the government to regain control of the cites and surrounding areas.
IOM in Mali
IOM in Mali has significantly increased its operations in response to the crisis in 2012. The activities are implemented countrywide.
The IOM mission in Mali was established in 1998. Since then, IOM has worked hand in hand with the Government of Mali to meet the needs of the most vulnerable and help tackle the migration challenges such as forced migration, irregular migration, trafficking in persons, and smuggling of migrants, among others.
Currently the mission has some 100 staff, a main office in Bamako and three sub-offices in Mopti, Timbuktu and Gao
Through the implementation of different projects in the country, IOM provides humanitarian assistance to both international migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
Key actions in Mali
Since the beginning of the crisis in northern Mali, nearly half a million people have been displaced within the country and to neighboring countries. IOM provides support to the Government of Mali in order to respond to this humanitarian and migratory crisis through the tracking and monitoring of those displaced, protection assistance and provision of emergency assistance in shelter, Non Food Items (NFI), potable water, health, hygiene and sanitation.
- Tracking and Monitoring of IDPs: IOM in coordination with the Ministry of Labour, Social and Humanitarian Affairs and the Ministry of Security has put in place the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) in order to collect information regarding the displaced population in Mali.
The activities implemented through this program include: the registration of the displaced households in the southern regions, the data collection regarding the displaced population and returnees in the northern regions, needs assessments in the northern villages as well as the monitoring of population movements at entry and transit points of the main cities of Bamako, Mopti, Timbuktu and Gao.
- Protection Assistance: IOM in coordination with the Government of Mali, particularly the Ministry of Promotion of Women, Family and Child contributes to protect the population affected by the crisis, especially women and children, through the provision of psychosocial support and referral to the specialized agencies.
With the support of humanitarian organizations, IOM has set up a national operational system of protection in order to identify, assist and refer the most vulnerable.
- Emergency Assistance: IOM in close coordination with the Ministry of Public Health and Hygiene as well as the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources provides emergency assistance to the displaced population and host communities. As co-lead of the Shelter and NFI cluster, IOM provides the most vulnerable population with proper shelter solutions and non-food assistance.
IOM also provides access to basic health services as well as access to potable water and hygiene and sanitation facilities.
Early recovery and community stabilization
IOM closely with the Government of Mali implements a program of early recovery and community stabilization in the regions with the highest number of displaced persons and returnees. This program aims to mitigate the impact of the conflict through a holistic approach: establishment of peace committees in targeted communities, land dispute resolutions, implementation of activities of social cohesion, participatory identification of community priorities and delivery of peace dividends through rehabilitation of basic social services.
IOM in cooperation with the Ministry of Malians Abroad and the Ministry of Labour, Social and Humanitarian Affairs, assists the voluntary return of migrants in situations of distress in host and transit countries. This support includes facilitating departure formalities, transportation, health care and socio-economic reintegration.
In this regard, IOM has facilitated the voluntary return of Malian migrants stranded in Libya as a result of the crisis in 2011 and more recently the return of Malians affected by the crisis in the Central African Republic.
IOM also facilitates family reunification of refugees who will join their families in a third country and supports migrants through family tracing, allowing them to benefit from the right to reunification.
In addition, IOM provides assistance to victims of trafficking and migrants in distress identified in Mali.
IOM hand in hand with the Government of Mali, particularly the Ministry of Security and the Ministry of Defense and Veteran Combatants, works for an effective management of cross-border flows by strengthening the institutional capacity through the rehabilitation and construction of border posts, training of immigration officers and provision of border control equipment.
Migration and climate change
IOM Mali applies its comprehensive migration management approach to the complex linkages between climate change, the environment and migration. In coordination with the Ministry of Environment and Sanitation, IOM helps to reduce the vulnerability of populations exposed to environmental risks factors and builds the capacity of the Malian Government and other stakeholders to face the challenge of environmental migration.
More information is available on the IOM Mali website.
Main text: April 2014
Facts and figures: August 2014