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ICMPD in partnership with IMI publish emerging findings from research on migrants caught in crisis situations

Yesterday’s UN General Assembly adopted a Declaration on the large scale movement of refugees and migrants. Among its specific commitments to migrants, it pledges to ‘assist, impartially and on the basis of needs, migrants in countries which are experiencing conflicts or natural disasters’.

Today our partner the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) launches a report, co-authored by Robtel Neajai Pailey, as part of the EU project complementing the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) initiative, a government-led multi-stakeholder consultative initiative whose work is acknowledged in the text of the Declaration. In support of the initiative, the European Union funds the project 'Migrants in Countries in Crisis: Supporting an Evidence-based Approach for Effective and Cooperative State Action' which is implemented by ICMPD in collaboration with IMI. The research carried out in this project aims to broaden the evidence base on the issue of migrants in countries experiencing crisis to inform future policy and practice for both the international community, as well as other actors in times of crisis: among them government authorities, civil society organisations, intergovernmental organisations and private sector individuals. 

In this new report, written with the input of research partners and their teams in 12 fieldwork countries, the authors set out preliminary findings from their ongoing research. The report presents a comparative study of six crisis situations – in Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Lebanon, Libya, South Africa and Thailand – and explores the socio-economic and long-term impacts on migrants who are caught in these crisis-affected countries.

Faced with a crisis situation in their host country, migrants may choose or be compelled to stay in the host country; to relocate within the host country; to re-migrate to a third country; or to return to their country of origin. In all cases they may face challenges in the recognition of their legal status, in finding employment, with food insecurity, and with access to essential services such as health care, housing and education. These situations are diverse and complex, and the MICIC research aims to analyse the implications of the sudden return of migrants and the disruption of migration routes and flows of remittances for social, economic and political development in their areas of origin.

Based on interview data from 339 migrants, 44 family members of migrants, 63 government authorities, 63 civil society organisations, 41 intergovernmental organisations and 27 experts and private sector actors, the report’s findings include:

Irregularity is a multiplying factor: In all case studies a significant proportion of migrant populations has been irregular, indicating an important vulnerability that is exacerbated in times of crisis.

Cooperation and coordination needs to be improved: The importance of improving and establishing cooperation and coordination mechanisms has been a fundamental policy lesson for all stakeholders following a crisis. Beyond this increased cooperation, it is also crucial to build trust and relationships between stakeholders as a first step.

Longer-term (re)integration support is missing: For each of the countries under research, fewer actions have been taken to address the longer-term (re)integration and support for migrants caught in a situation of crisis than for their emergency provision.

Migrant responses to difficult situations are dynamic, resilient, flexible and creative: When assistance during and post-crisis has been lacking, migrants have employed creative means to assure their livelihoods in the longer term, especially when a crisis has led to loss of employment and savings or additional incurred debt, combined with a lack of opportunity in their countries of origin upon return.

Subsequent crises divert donor and service provider focus: In several cases parallel or subsequent crises have occurred that divert resources and attention of all relevant stakeholders away from migrants who were previously impacted by a crisis. Although it is clear that new crises imply a new group of vulnerable persons needing immediate assistance, the diversion of funding in particular can have disastrous consequences for migrants who have not yet re-established themselves after a crisis.

Report co-author Maegan Hendow said:

Our emerging findings from this research begin to address the knowledge gap on the socio-economic and long-term consequences of crises on migrants, their families and communities, as well as their home and host countries. At a time when the global community has finally recognised the urgency of responding to large-scale displacements, this report provides a solid evidence base for governments, international organisations, civil society and private actors to improve future policy responses and practice. The New York Declaration calls the international community to action, and we hope that our report provides important indications on lessons learned to improve responses to migrants.

Download the full report [pdf, 4.1MB]

Read more about the EU Migrants in Countries in Crisis project