Humanitarian Leaders Gather in Saudi Arabia to Discuss World’s Most Dangerous Migration Routes

IOM Director General António Vitorino presents on humanitarian challenges and solutions at the Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum. Photo: KSrelief 

Riyadh – Finding safe and dignified solutions that meet the needs of people embarking on precarious migration routes to and through countries in conflict was a key focus of this week’s Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum, hosted by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief). 

Although the majority of today’s migrants travel in a safe and orderly manner, hundreds of thousands of people make dangerous journeys. In countries like Libya and Yemen, ongoing conflict puts migrants and refugees at an increased risk of exploitation, violence, arbitrary detention and other abuses.   

Policy makers, UN leaders, civil society representatives and donor government representatives convened at the forum to discuss this and other priority issues for the humanitarian and development community.  

The International Organization for Migration and KSrelief organized the high-level panel discussion Large-Scale Migration Flows from Africa across the Seas to the Gulf States and Europe in Humanitarian Settings.   

"The international community has an essential role to protect and support those in vulnerable communities, but also to cooperate with governments to make sure migration is taking place under a legal and safe manner,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino.  

In Yemen, IOM recorded nearly 140,000 migrant arrivals last year alone; most aspired to reach the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In Libya, an estimated 80 per cent of the more than 700,000 long-term resident and newly arrived migrants, refugees and asylum seekers have indicated they left their countries of origin intending to work there.   

“Migrants and refugees face significant obstacles as this population often does not wish to be static or seen,” added Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen. “One must try to imagine how challenging is it for a migrant to access medical care, or to register themselves to receive assistance. Reaching these vulnerable populations requires innovation and collaboration.”   

The dialogue included additional inputs from Lena Elsheikh Omer Mahgoub, Minister of Labour and Social Development of Sudan; Jennifer Townson, UK Government Migration and Modern Slavery Envoy; Michael Köhler, Deputy Director General of the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and, Vincent Cochetel, Special Envoy of the UNHCR for the Central Mediterranean Situation.  

The Forum also explored how humanitarian and development actors can collaborate more effectively to activate the mechanisms of the humanitarian-development nexus.   

“We need to end conflict. The solution to a lot of these issues is peace and stability. Humanitarian assistance can help drive this,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council.  

“We must build mutual trust with local communities and make sure that local authorities cooperate with civil society and intergovernmental organizations,” added DG Vitorino.  

On the margins of the Forum IOM Director General met the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, the Supervisor General of KSrelief, Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeah and the President of the KSA Human Rights Commission Dr. Awwad Al Awwad. They discussed the organization contribution to the Kingdom 2030 vision, their partnership in advancing the humanitarian aid and relief cause, and the cooperation in combating trafficking in persons. 

During the two-day event, IOM also presented the Holding On virtual reality exhibition to event attendees. The campaign raises awareness of the plight of internally displaced persons and celebrates their courage and resilience.  

For more information please contact Olivia Headon at IOM Yemen, Email: or Angela Wells at IOM Headquarters in Geneva, Email: