Protecting crisis-affected communities from threats to their life, dignity and well-being is a priority in humanitarian response and decision-making. IOM and its humanitarian partners have a crucial role in reducing the protection risks to which crisis-affected individuals and communities- especially mobile and displaced populations- are exposed. In this frame, IOM is committed to the Centrality of Protection and the IASC Protection Policy.  

The Organization is a member of the Strategic Advisory Group of the Global Protection Cluster, as well as of the Child Protection Area of Responsibility (AoR), The Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action, and is a core member, chair and active participant of such as in the sectors of Counter-Trafficking, Housing Land and Property, Gender-Based Violence (GBV), and the Inclusion of Disabilities.  

IOM’s protection interventions include, amongst others, child protection, risk mitigation, response to and prevention of gender-based violence, counter-trafficking, alternatives to detention, mental health and psychosocial support, land property and reparations and inclusion of persons with disabilities. IOM also focuses on mainstreaming protection across all its sectors of intervention, ensuring the principle of do no harm, prioritizing safety and dignity, enabling meaningful access, promoting accountability and fostering participation and empowerment.  

In 2019, IOM developed the Protection in Humanitarian Action Framework (PiHA) to promote strategic, predictable, consistent and professional performance in the Organization’s protection work in humanitarian settings. The PiHA outlines core commitments of protection programming and five major operational pillars, it was launched in October 2019 and is available in English French Spanish and Arabic. 

Protection Mainstreaming

Protection Mainstreaming is the process of incorporating protection principles in humanitarian responses. Building on the protection initiatives currently on-going within and beyond IOM, this policy process seeks to ensure measures that do no harm which promote non-discrimination, meaningful access, safety, dignity, participation, empowerment and accountability as integral in every crisis response.  

IOM mainstreams protection across all its sectors of intervention at strategic and operational levels through assessments and analysis and by integrating protection principles before, during and after a crisis. 

Alternatives to Detention

IOM is committed to promoting alternatives to detention as a more humane way of managing irregular migration than detention. When compared to immigration detention, alternatives to detention, especially community-based alternatives, better ensure the human rights and well-being of migrants, as well as compliance with immigration procedures and cost-efficiency. 

As outlined in its Glossary on Migration, and in line with the International Detention Coalition’s definition, IOM understands alternatives to detention as “any legislation, policy or practice, formal or informal, aimed at preventing the unnecessary detention of persons for reasons relating to their migration status.” Given its expertise in all areas of migration, IOM is particularly aware of the need to look at various aspects of migration governance and at interactions among policy areas, to ensure the effectiveness of any intervention on alternatives to detention. 

Child Protection

Given its global footprint and proximity to crisis-affected, mobile and displaced populations, IOM holds a key role and responsibility in protecting children from neglect, abuse, violence and exploitation. Children represent a significant proportion of the populations the Organization strives to protect and assist and should be provided with specific and adapted protection measures.  

IOM’s child protection activities in the field target vulnerable families and at-risk children, including unaccompanied and separated children.  

Beyond mainstreaming child protection concerns and measures across various interventions such as Cash-Based Interventions (CBIs), humanitarian evacuations and transportation, child protection activities may include family tracing and reunification activities; reintegration programming; case management including best interests of the child procedures; providing or supporting alternative care or alternatives to detention. In addition, IOM works to identify specific risks to which children might be exposed to inform programming. Child protection activities also aim to prevent or respond to cases of child trafficking and gender-based violence against boys and girls. 

IOM is an active member of the Child Protection Community of Practice (CPAoR, Alliance CPHA). From 2017 to 2020, the Organization has also served as Chair of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Unaccompanied and Separated Children (UASC) of the Alliance CPHA. 

Gender-Based Violence

Gender-based violence (GBV) is one of the most widespread human rights abuses in the world. Rooted in gender inequality, it is defined as any harmful act perpetrated against a person’s will on the basis of their gender.  

GBV affects women and girls disproportionately across the globe and can be exacerbated in crisis settings.  

IOM’s approach to GBV is grounded in its Institutional Framework for Addressing GBV in Crises (GBViC Framework), launched in 2018, with the support of the Safe from the Start (SFTS) initiative. This approach is embedded in mitigating the risk of GBV, supporting survivors and addressing the root causes of GBV.  

Characterized by its strong field presence, IOM prioritizes GBV risk mitigation across its programmes and sectors, thus, promoting good programming and ensuring IOM’s activities ‘do no harm’.  

IOM’s efforts uphold its commitments to the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies and ensure that crisis-affected persons live free from GBV. 

Counter-Trafficking in Emergencies

Human trafficking is a crime and a grave violation of human rights.  

As a human rights violation, human trafficking is therefore a protection issue that can happen anywhere, both in ordinary times and in emergencies as humanitarian crises may exacerbate pre-existing trafficking trends and give rise to new ones.  

IOM covers a critical role in the area of counter-trafficking (CT), acting as a firm advocate for the integration of CT activities in the broader humanitarian response, pursuing top-down approaches so that victims of trafficking (VoTs) receive assistance, and risks to potential victims are mitigated. 

IOM’s activities on CT in Emergencies, include:  

  • Specialized guidance for the humanitarian community and IOM staff 
  • Data analysis and support to research on trafficking in emergency contexts
  • Collaboration with partners to identify and assist victims of trafficking
  • Advocacy, training and awareness-raising on counter-trafficking  

At the global level, IOM acts as co-lead of the Anti-Trafficking Task Team under the Global protection cluster since 2017.   

Disability Inclusion 

Persons with disabilities (PwDs) are estimated to represent 15 per cent of the world’s population. In humanitarian contexts, they may form a much higher percentage. They are among the most marginalized people in crisis-affected communities and are disproportionately affected by crisis situations. 

Consistent with its efforts to mainstream protection, IOM is also committed to strengthening the protection of PwDs by ensuring that its humanitarian response meaningfully includes them and addresses the many barriers they face.

In 2018, IOM signed up to the Global Disability Summit Charter for Change, making important commitments to strengthen its organizational approach to disability inclusion. In 2019, the UN Secretary General launched the UN Disability Strategy (UNDIS) which establishes indicators on disability inclusion that IOM and all UN entities will now work towards meeting. 

Finally, IOM is committed to the dissemination and implementation of the Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action.