Migrants’ Needs Often Overlooked in Times of Crisis: IOM

Migrant Assistance

South Africa - The UN Migration Agency (IOM) says migrants too often fall through the cracks during emergencies and has called for better planning and coordination to ensure targeted assistance for migrants before, during and after crises.

The issue was the focus of a two-day, IOM-sponsored conference and training this week in Pretoria, South Africa that brought together disaster risk reduction, civil protection and emergency management representatives from Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) member states as well as aid groups and emergency specialists.

“Protecting and assisting migrants caught in crisis is our collective responsibility,” said Bogdan Danila, Emergency and Post-Crisis Specialist with IOM’s Regional Office for Southern Africa. Speaking at the conference, she said, “We must join efforts to respond to crises impacting migrants to save lives, increase their protection, decrease their vulnerability and improve targeted assistance.”

The SADC region is experiencing a food insecurity crisis and other devastating effects of drought and flooding brought on by a two-year-long El Niño event. Additionally, in March 2107, Madagascar was hit by a tropical cyclone that left more than 110,000 people displaced, while severe flooding led to the displacement of thousands of people in Mozambique and Malawi in 2015. In addition to natural disasters, the region has experienced man-made crises, including a spate of attacks on foreign nationals in South Africa.

Participants at this week’s Pretoria conference discussed practical approaches to addressing migrant needs in preparedness, response and recovery work. They reviewed the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) Initiative and its guidelines, which are a multi-stakeholder effort aimed at protecting migrants who are in countries experiencing conflict or natural disaster.

“Since hazards such as floods and drought often affect several SADC countries simultaneously, it is necessary that we coordinate our preparedness and response to the needs of migrants in crisis,” Clement Herbert Kalonga, Senior Disaster Risk Reduction Programme Officer with the SADC Secretariat, told the gathering. “There is need for combined efforts at global, regional and national levels to systematically address the growing threats and risks migrants face.”

IOM is currently rolling out training such as the one in Pretoria aimed at stakeholders involved in emergency preparedness and response. The training is based on materials and methodologies developed under the MICIC Initiative and in collaboration with government counterparts.

The workshop was funded by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). 

For further information, please contact: Chiara Frisone, IOM Pretoria Tel: +27 7266 48003; Email: cfrisone@iom.int  

For further information on the MICIC Guidelines and capacity building tools, please contact the MICIC team at IOM, Tel: +41 22 7179322, Email: MICICSecretariat@iom.int

  • Participants work in groups to review the correct terminology to use when speaking about migrants in crisis during the Regional Workshop on Integrating Migrants in Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo: IOM

  • Participants at the Regional Workshop on Integrating Migrants in Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery in Pretoria, South Africa. Photo: IOM