IOM Issues Communication Guidance to Stem Rising Anti-Migrant Sentiment in Wake of Covid-19

Geneva – During the Covid-19 pandemic, misinformation and hate speech are spreading with devastating consequences for migrants, refugees and other vulnerable groups.  

To tackle this aspect of the crisis, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is issuing a practical guidance on producing responsive, factual communication campaigns during the pandemic and other migration contexts. 

Available online, the toolkit aids in getting rapid and accurate information to those most in need, as well as to ensure balanced viewpoints. Data and solid research stand as the best defence against unfounded inflammatory content that cause harmful and discriminatory behaviour towards migrants and the communities, they share wherever they are. 

“We are seeing an alarming increase in anti-migrant rhetoric, in particular the scapegoating of migrants and others in the public domain and on-line,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino. 
“We are stepping up our efforts to monitor and assess these trends and to protect the most vulnerable. This Toolkit is both timely and practical as it provides clear, proven approaches on how we can work with our audiences to address and reduce the impact of misinformation.”  

Social tension and discrimination are dangerously on the rise. As the global death toll from the virus continues to climb, there has been a rush to blame the most vulnerable for its spread—even though medical science shows transmission is through physical contact or transfer.  

Migrants stranded and refused entry, people placed in quarantine based on their ethnicity, deportations and quack remedies are among the many examples of how stigmatisation and misinformation are causing additional harm. The IOM toolkit aims to support communication responses to protect migrants, defend their rights and access crucial assistance.  

The urgency to tackle the COVID-19 misinformation crisis was brought into sharp focus last month by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, who in a statement about rising hate speech, said: “Hatred is going viral, stigmatizing and vilifying people and groups.”  

SG Guterres urged joint action under the slogan of “science and solidarity”.  

Globally, IOM communication and community engagement officers are working around the clock to get accurate and timely information in dozens of languages to individuals in order to protect them against the virus and its wider impact. The Organization is scaling up efforts to reach the most vulnerable, particularly those who are stranded, living in internal displacement and refugee camps and detention centres, where living conditions are overcrowded, sanitation is poor and access to treatment limited.  

 In West Africa, IOM is leading an innovative information campaign designed to counter COVID-19 misinformation, building on a network of returnee migrant volunteers formed as part of a large regional programme, Migrants as Messengers.  

The programme places returnee migrants in key positions to disseminate critical information about unsafe migration routes using participatory video. In South Sudan, IOM, with humanitarian partners, released an overview on COVID-19 rumour tracking to support targeted activities to counter misinformation. 

Download the IOM communication campaign toolkit here

Watch the training video summarising the key points in the toolkit here.  

For more information, please contact Hannah Murphy, Communications and Community Engagement, IOM HQ Geneva, Tel: +447951538946, Email: