Migrants in Countries in Crisis Initiative

Publié: 2 février 2015

Migrants in Countries in Crisis Initiative (MICIC)

IGC-Plus Consultation

co-hosted by the Governments of the United States and Australia, in collaboration with the Government of the Philippines

2-3 February 2015

U.S. Mission, Geneva

Route de Pregny, 11

Chambesy.  1292 Geneva

Session II: Roles and Responsibilities of Different Actors

Delivered by Sue Le Mesurier, Global Migration Advisor, IFRC

Madam Chair,

Thank you for giving IFRC this opportunity to contribute to this timely consultation on the Migrants in Countries in Crisis Initiative.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), on behalf of our global network of 189 National Societies, who are often at the forefront of humanitarian action related to migration, re-state our strong and ongoing commitment to working with Governments and other actors in the migration field to address the pressing needs migrants caught in crises outside their country of origin.

The international community is currently facing a challenging situation with a range of complex population displacement contexts.  These include acute and protracted crises and ongoing impacts of major humanitarian emergencies. In Syria and Mali, Iraq and Libya, the increasing number of migrants caught up in these emergencies and displaced within and across their borders is placing untold stress on host countries and challenging our ability to meet increasing needs. The international community must step up its efforts to meet the humanitarian imperative of addressing the protection needs of the most vulnerable migrants, irrespective of their legal status, caught in conflicts, disasters and other situations of crisis, and ensuring their safety, respect and human dignity.

Today I have been invited to address the particular concerns of migrants in crisis from an IFRC perspective – and to pose possible solutions for those who become trapped inside a crisis situation or subsequently in transit and destination countries sometimes for protracted periods of time. Our focus is on the most vulnerable where they may not be eligible for asylum, where they may find themselves victims of trafficking, violence, exploitation and torture, where they have lost contact with family members, especially unaccompanied children, and those that have suffered serious trauma.

In an article entitled ‘Living in the Shadows’ Amnesty International describes this situation as follows:

‘….migrants are stranded in countries of transit or destination: they may have been denied the right to enter and remain legally and unable to return to their countries of origin. Some migrants cannot return to countries of origin due to continuing insecurity, or there is no legal means to get there, or because it is impossible in practice for them to return’.

As many of us here are aware many of these migrants become destitute and/ or in some cases vulnerable to human rights abuses in the course of the unravelling crisis situation, sometimes forced to go into hiding or to flee perhaps at the hands of smugglers and human traffickers.

Some may also be unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin, unable to regularize their status in the country where they are .....and may not have access to legal migration opportunities that would enable them to move on to another state.

RCRC National Societies provide essential protection and assistance to these migrants in these numerous and complex contexts.

In 2011 there were an estimated 70 million people, or more than one in every 100 of the world’s citizens, displaced by conflict, political upheaval, violence, disasters and other drivers such as climate change and environmental degradation.

More than 20 million people are trapped in a state of “protracted displacement” at significant risk of violence and exploitation – living in unplanned and informal parts of cities, typically unable to work and unable to access even basic social services…… an increasing number of those trapped in these protracted crisis situations are migrants with little access to international protection.

I would like to elaborate briefly on RCRC actions on behalf of migrants in crisis situations.

National Societies of IFRC’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Zone, and in particular in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, have provided immediate assistance addressing the urgent needs of migrants affected by recent and ongoing civil unrests in these countries.  The response of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement includes providing urgent humanitarian assistance as well as Restoring Family Links (RFL) services, visiting detainees in both Government and where accessible non-government facilities, and provision of protection-related services.

In Tunisia, the Tunisian Red Crescent continues to provide essential services for migrants fleeing neighbouring countries. This support includes health care, psychological support, protection and assistance.

In Libya, Red Crescent volunteers organize relief distribution and provide ambulance, medical and first-aid assistance and psychosocial support. In the case of migrants they facilitate contact with their families and assist with travel arrangements, including transport to the Libyan border and facilitate travel procedures with the authorities.

In addition, the IFRC and National Societies are well-known for providing emergency relief in disaster situations, and emergency assistance has been provided to both nationals and migrants after a natural disaster. The coordination and provision of relief to migrants by the Haitian and Dominican Republic Red Cross Societies after the 2010 earthquake, Thai Red Cross during the 2011 floods, Japanese Red Cross after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, and Philippines Red Cross after Typhoon Haiyan are noteworthy examples. Other examples include support to migrants in situations of ongoing violence especially in urban contexts.

Often emergency assistance is readily available in these contexts to nationals of the country but for complex reasons (language, access, discrimination, and culture) not always easily accessed by migrants in the community. It is these often forgotten communities that we need to reach out to.

These forgotten migrants, living in the shadows of society, and extremely vulnerable in crisis situations, often find themselves living in limbo. They may not be able to travel back home, either because their countries are unsafe or because they have no home to return to. The stories are too numerous to relate them all. But some do seep through the net of anonymity; giving RCRC staff a glimpse of what life is really like when everything you relied upon disappears.

People like the hairdresser from Central Africa, who invested ten years in Libya, setting up a successful business, only to now find herself empty-handed, her business shut, her savings disappeared and life back to square one…. And nowhere to go.

Or the silent young brothers – 15-year-old and an innocent four year-old – whose mother drowned during an ill-fated voyage, and who now only have each other, until such a time as an appropriate home can be found for them.

Or the three families from Pakistan, who have lived and worked overseas in Libya for 20 years and more. Whose children were born there; whose lives were stable, successful, and comfortable; who have few, if any, links to their country of origin; and who suddenly have nothing more than the clothes on their backs and a notebook containing every shred of vital information they can gather.

For these people, life is not in transit. It is a life of uncertainty on hold. And days can be especially long when you don’t know what will happen to you next. Nor when.

These examples of RCRC Movement responses to migrants in countries in crisis highlight the increasingly complex humanitarian needs of these migrants both during and after the crisis and wherever they may eventually end up in transit and destination countries, crossing mountains, deserts and treacherous seas to reach safety.

Addressing the challenges ahead will require commitment from Governments, UN agencies, International institutions such as the IFRC. The IFRC will continue to provide unconditional support consistent with our Fundamental Principles of humanity, independence, impartiality and neutrality – meaning we have a shared duty to assist and protect persons in distress, irrespective of their nationality, administrative or legal status, and for as long as they will need us. We provide unconditional support because our duty to humanity is above all other considerations and because the humanity of a person is not dependent upon which borders he or she crosses.

Governments and the international community are increasingly confronted with the challenge of dealing with migrants in dire humanitarian conditions in the context of acute humanitarian emergencies or other life-threatening situations. To address these challenging migration issues and find durable solutions requires harmonised actions and policies at the international level. Migration, by definition, does not know any frontiers; its causes are many, and its potential solutions often politically fraught.

Despite this, one principle is clear; every vulnerable person needs access to humanitarian organisations, and humanitarian organisations always need to be able to have access to vulnerable persons. This requirement is essential.

This brings me to the migration resolution adopted at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in November 2011, which brings together the State Parties to the Geneva Conventions and the components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The resolution expresses concern  “about the often alarming humanitarian situation of migrants in situations of vulnerability, at all stages of their journey and ongoing risks that migrants, in situations of vulnerability, face in regards to their dignity, safety, access to international protection as well as access to health care, shelter, food, clothing and education”. 

The resolution calls for governments to ensure that migrants, irrespective of their legal status, have access to the support that they need and that they are treated at all times with respect and dignity.

More specifically, the resolution requests States, in consultation with National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, to ensure that relevant laws and procedures are in place to enable National Societies to enjoy effective and safe access to all migrants without discrimination and irrespective of their legal status;

The resolution further calls upon States, within the framework of applicable international law, to ensure that their national procedures at international borders, especially those that might result in denial of access to international protection, deportation or interdiction of persons, include adequate safeguards to protect the dignity and ensure the safety of all migrants.

We express our commitment to working with governments towards fully implementing this resolution and operationalising it within the context of acute crisis situations.

Finally, I am honoured to be part of this meeting and assure you that IFRC will remain committed to creating a stronger and wider consensus on a humanitarian response which respects the rights and dignity of all migrants in countries in crisis.

I thank you.