Regional Programs of Protection and Assistance to Vulnerable Migrants

IOM firmly believes that all migrants are entitled to protection of their rights, regardless of their migratory status. Funded by the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) Office of International Migration, IOM’s Regional Programs of Protection and Assistance to Vulnerable Migrants are working to strengthen States’ and civil society organizations’ capacities to identify and protect vulnerable migrants. IOM’s ten regional programs seek to build capacities to identify migrants who have been or who are vulnerable to violence, exploitation, abuse, or a violation of their rights; to assess the factors that contribute to their vulnerability; to develop assistance and protective services that specifically address these factors, to prepare for and respond to migration emergencies, and to strengthen regional and inter-agency cooperation.

IOM implements programs in the following regions:

  • Horn of Africa, Gulf of Aden, and Yemen
  • Mesoamerica
  • Caribbean
  • Southern Africa
  • the Greater Mekong Sub-region and Malaysia
  • China and East Asia
  • North Africa
  • Central Asia
  • West Africa
  • Western Balkans

Each regional program’s activities vary according to the regional context and specific needs of our Member States. The Mesoamerica program, for example, recently conducted a training of trainers for 35 counter-trafficking specialists using its Virtual Course on Trafficking in Persons, which was developed specifically for the region. The training took place in Costa Rica on 20 -21 July 2016, and promoted information exchanges between officials from the National Coalition against Trafficking in Persons, academics, and IOM officials. The course covers basic aspects of trafficking in persons, with particular emphasis on unaccompanied and/or separated children, as well as international and regional standards, indicators to facilitate identification of victims, and approaches to early intervention for surviving victims. IOM’s new Virtual Learning Platform on Migration was also introduced at the training. In addition to the Trafficking in Persons course, the platform hosts free tools and training materials pertaining to other areas of IOM engagement, including human rights in international migration, unaccompanied and separated children, labour migration management, human trafficking, and issues affecting migrant women.

IOM’s Regional Programs of Protection and Assistance to Vulnerable Migrants also continue to promote dialogue among governments, international organizations, non-governmental and migrant organizations through task forces, regional meetings, and consultative processes. The Horn of Africa, Gulf of Aden, and Yemen program, for instance, is supporting the organization of the sixth regional committee on mixed migration, which will be hosted by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on 20-21 September 2016. This committee brings together key partners to enhance regional coordination on migrant protection, coordinate national responses to mixed migration challenges, and deliver programming that more effectively leverages the relative strengths of different stakeholders. In addition, the committee develops annual recommendations endorsed by member governments regarding key migration issues including capacity building, emergency assistance, counter-trafficking, border security, early warning systems, and border control.                                                                                        

IOM’s regional programs foster analysis and information sharing on trends and vulnerabilities stemming from irregular migration. Migration Response Centres, such as those operating in the Horn of Africa, collect data and report on immediate migrant needs and migrant profiles. In rendering registration, accommodation, and other protective services to migrants in need, MRCs are also able to provide crucial information for evidence-based programming and policy making. During the August 9-10 Migrant Response Centre meeting in Hargeisa, Somaliland, an innovative smartphone application for data collection was launched. This resulted in an impressive 122% increase in the number of migrants interviewed for the month.

IOM programs also support awareness raising and communication with mobile and potentially mobile populations on migration-related topics. The Mesoamerica program, for example, launched the information campaign InformArte en Movimiento on Facebook (InformArte en Movimiento) and Twitter (@Infomovimiento) to increase the public’s understanding of the risks and dangers associated with irregular migration. The program has also launched an IOM publication “Paths of Light and Shadow” recounting the stories of unaccompanied migrant children from the region and the struggles they face on their journeys. In addition, the program continues to promote the opening of specialized information and assistance hubs for migrants and refugees, such as the one recently inaugurated in Mexico.

Another important pillar of programs’ intervention is direct assistance to vulnerable migrants through targeted support, which includes the identification, screening and protection of vulnerable migrants. For instance, programs have recently facilitated the safe and orderly return of Ethiopian children from Zambia and Cambodian fishermen stranded in Indonesia.

News summaries


Great Lakes

North Africa

West Africa


Greater Mekong Sub-region