Why migrants need to be factored into responses to unexpected crises.

Author:Weerasinghe, Sanjula

No country is immune from unexpected crises, such as sudden breakouts of violence, war, or natural disasters. Even if some can be predicted, experience shows that the intensity, scale, and geographic spread of crises cannot be forecast with any kind of certainty.

One particularly vulnerable group during critical events is migrants.

One particularly vulnerable group during such events is migrants--who, in many cases, account for a substantial portion of the affected population. During the Libyan crisis in 2011, more than 800,000 migrants fled Libya. While most were from neighbouring countries, over 120 nationalities were represented in the outflows. The triple disaster in Japan during the same year touched approximately 700,000 foreigners from a diverse set of countries--including Brazil, China, Malaysia, Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan.

And, if you scan recent history, there have been many other situations in which migrants have been among those most seriously affected by crises. The 2004 tsunami in Asia. The 2006 war in Lebanon. And more recently, the crisis in Yemen. To name only a few.

Migrants are often in a vulnerable position but also have important capacities and skills Unexpected crises can affect migrants differently to citizens. Migrants have unique needs and vulnerabilities that at minimum need to be understood and taken into account in preparedness, response, and recovery actions. For example:

* The inability to speak or understand the local language can inhibit migrants' grasp of exposure to risks, information on how to access assistance during the emergency, or mechanisms through which to recover property and losses in the aftermath of crises.

* Lost, destroyed, or confiscated travel and identity documents can constrain migrants' choices about whether, how, and where to flee to escape harm.

* Work permits or visas that restrict movements to certain geographic areas can lead migrants to make adverse coping decisions, such as to stay in place, even with risks to their safety.

* Isolated working conditions and limited social networks can hamper access to information and choices, and leave migrants beholden to the goodwill and mercy of employers.

* Discrimination in laws and policies, or in their implementation, and lack of accounting for migrants in crisis response and management plans, can limit access to humanitarian and recovery assistance.

At the same time, migrants have enormous capacities and skills that can alleviate...

To continue reading