Migrants Too Often Overlooked During Crises, Says IOM on International Migrants Day

Date Publish: 
Sunday, December 17, 2006 - 16:00
Region-Country: 
Switzerland
Europe and Central Asia

Despite their critical contribution to the development of the
global economy, migrants are often thought of last during times of
conflict, says IOM as it marks International Migrants Day.

While the evacuation of Westerners from Lebanon through July and
August captured the world's attention, there was little
international concern over the tens of thousands of trapped migrant
workers from countries unable to help their nationals and because
they didn't have the means to flee by themselves.

IOM's humanitarian evacuation of more than 11,000 migrants from
Lebanon – mainly women from Asia and Africa working as
domestic servants – was the latest operation in the
Organization's history helping stranded migrants escape from
conflict situations.

Other recent examples include evacuating migrants who'd fled to
Jordan from Iraq during the Second Gulf War and migrants fleeing
the violence in Liberia and Côte D'Ivoire, also in 2003. Each
time migrants are caught up in a conflict, IOM's ability to help is
dependent on raising funds which takes time and which inflicts
additional pain and anxiety on those requiring assistance.

IOM's emergency humanitarian evacuation from Lebanon funded by
the European Commission and the USA highlighted yet again the
necessity of setting up a permanent mechanism that provides rapid
emergency evacuation assistance to migrants whose countries don't
have the financial or logistic means to evacuate their
nationals.

"There is no denying that migrants make a significant
contribution to the social and economic development of the
countries in which they live and work. Given that, equal
consideration must be given to their safety and well-being," says
IOM Director General, Brunson McKinley. "Migrants have to be helped
in a rapid, safe and well-coordinated manner."

Several governments have already requested IOM to create an
Emergency Evacuation Fund which would allow IOM, governments, UN
partners and NGOs to also provide vulnerable migrants with food,
medical, transit shelter, consular assistance and registration
prior to their evacuation.

Although such assistance is critical, migrants can also need
help when they arrive home. Often, they have lost everything they
had on leaving the country and don't necessarily have something or
someone to return home to. Psycho-social assistance is particularly
essential, especially for those traumatized by their
experiences.

"We need to do this quickly so that when the next conflict
arises, we and others are ready to help from day one. But the
support from the international community as a whole has to be
forthcoming," added McKinley.

 

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