Over the past 70 years, IOM has facilitated the dignified and safe transportation of millions of migrants around the globe. In 2021, IOM provided movement assistance to more than 118,000 people in 125 countries.  

Movement assistance encompasses all resettlement and other forms of humanitarian admission; evacuations of vulnerable migrants, internally displaced persons and others; voluntary relocation, return and repatriation; and family reunification, as well as efforts for counter-trafficking and the protection of stranded migrants.  Individuals and families are also assisted by IOM to return to their homes, relocate to safety, reunite with family members and migrate towards new opportunities.  

Beyond transportation, IOM provides a range of health and integration support integral to the movement process – such as but not limited to case management and facilitating selection missions, pre-migration health activities and medical escorts during travel, provision of information and orientation about the destination country prior to departure as well as (re)integration assistance upon arrival.  

IOM movement operations include: 

International Humanitarian Evacuations

IOM provides support to its Member States through the implementation of international humanitarian evacuations as a lifesaving measure for migrants, internally displaced persons or third-country nationals who are caught in armed conflicts or crises or who are experiencing or at risk of experiencing harm or violence. 

International humanitarian evacuations are the responsibility of States whose nationals abroad are in danger and States hosting endangered foreign nationals. Humanitarian and intergovernmental organizations like IOM support States in this last resort protective measure. 

Voluntary Humanitarian Return  

IOM assists voluntary migrant returns from Libya and Yemen to countries of origin through the Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) mechanism. Voluntary, as these returns are arranged at the request of the individual returning, and humanitarian, as this assistance represents a lifesaving option for many migrants who live in particularly deplorable conditions, sometimes inside detention centres.  

All migrants who benefit from voluntary humanitarian return have received individual counselling and assistance in order to make an informed decision in line with their desires and specific needs. During counselling, irrespective of whether the migrant wishes to file an asylum claim or not, IOM makes an initial assessment of any risks of ill-treatment, persecution or other human rights violations that the migrant may suffer in the case of return to the country of origin.  

Every migrant assisted by VHR is screened against a specific set of criteria. These include medical fitness and available documentation to travel, as well as specific vulnerability criteria that might designate some migrants’ cases as higher priority than others. IOM teams, supported by air movement specialists, typically manage challenging transportation arrangements in crisis settings. For example, in Yemen and Libya, these personnel often rely on charter flights and sea movements to transport departing migrants to their destination countries. 


IOM provides voluntary repatriation assistance to refugees mainly in support of UNHCR repatriation activities and in accordance with protection concerns and procedures. IOM also assists vulnerable persons of concern to return to their countries of origin – inclusive of voluntary humanitarian return (VHR) cases and refugee evacuation which take into account the specific status of the returnees. 

Humanitarian Assistance to Stranded Migrants (HASM) 

The Humanitarian Assistance to Stranded Migrants (HASM) fund provides quick, flexible and ad hoc humanitarian assistance to stranded migrants in difficult circumstances for whom support is not readily available. How and why the individuals or families become stranded may be due to a combination of factors, including: lost or stolen identity documents, financial destitution, accidents or bad health, physical or psychological abuse, broken promises by family members or exploitative employers, rejected asylum-claims or changing political or security circumstances in destination or transit countries. Through HASM, IOM assists hundreds of the most destitute and vulnerable stranded migrants each year. 

Resettlement, Relocation and Complementary Pathways  

Providing essential support to States resettling refugees and other vulnerable persons of concern is a fundamental purpose of the Organization and among its longest ongoing activities. IOM works closely with governments, UNHCR, non-governmental organizations and other partners such as airline companies to enable solutions for refugees and migrants. 

Each year on average IOM supports over 30 States in conducting resettlement, humanitarian admissions and relocation for over 100,000 refugees and other vulnerable persons. In 2019 significant operations were conducted out of Afghanistan, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Turkey, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Ukraine. The top three resettlement countries were the United States of America, Canada and Australia.  

While resettlement remains a vital protection tool, there is a widening gap between the number of refugees in need of a third country solution and the number of resettlement places available which is gravely inadequate. Therefore, complementary pathways for the admission of refugees serve to increase the range of safe and legal means to achieving a third country solution for those in need of international protection. Examples of complementary pathways include humanitarian admission programmes, humanitarian visas, community- based private sponsorship, academic scholarship, family reunification and labour mobility schemes. The Sustainable Resettlement and Complementary Pathways Initiative (CRISP) is a UNHCR-IOM led initiative that supports States and key stakeholders to establish, expand or renew resettlement programmes and advance complementary pathways of admission. 

In addition, IOM supports relocation in the European context which enables States to cope with the pressure on their asylum systems by relocating persons in need of international protection. This takes place through the transfer of people seeking international protection from one EU Member State to another EU Member or Associated State where their asylum application will be examined once the relocation has taken place. Relocation is an expression of solidarity and responsibility sharing, particularly with those countries at the external borders of the EU that are most affected by rapid increases in the arrival of people seeking international protection. 

The development of these avenues helps to provide legal alternatives to perilous and irregular secondary movements by land and sea. This is increasingly important as this affects more people embarking on precarious journeys in the Mediterranean and throughout Africa, Asia, and the Americas.  

Learn more about resettlement