Movements precipitated by humanitarian crises have implications that touch upon immigration control and national interests, human rights, humanitarian and development principles, and the frameworks for international protection, cooperation and burden sharing.
When it comes to protecting migrants’ well-being and rights, smart practices abound. There are many practices that can and should become global standards.
Crisis migration needs to be understood in terms of ‘tipping points’, which are triggered not just by events but also by underlying structural processes. It is important for policymakers for there to be an adequate theory behind the concept of ‘crisis migration’ so that responses are appropriate, timely and thoughtful.
The Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement filled a major gap in the international protection system for uprooted people. Whether their development holds lessons for those seeking to develop standards in the migration field remains a question to explore.
The conditions from which most crisis migrants have fled — threats to life, health, physical safety and/or subsistence — are likely to be reproduced in some form in their urban destinations, at least in part due to their presence there.
Deficiencies in planning, preparation and implementation of involuntary resettlement and relocation projects have produced far more failures than successes. Indeed, it is questionable whether resettlement as currently practised could be categorised as a form of protection.
Riverbank erosion and the consequent formation of new islands in the Bay of Bengal cause frequent changes in the shape and size of the delta, forcing the inhabitants to migrate frequently.
It is expected that due to sea-level rises in the future many millions of Bangladeshis will flee to India, exacerbating further the ongoing disputes between India and Bangladesh. Human security will be the most important agenda item for Indian-Bangladeshi relations in the coming decades.
Relocation – whereby livelihoods, housing and public infrastructure are reconstructed in another location – may be the best adaptation response for communities whose current location becomes uninhabitable or is vulnerable to future climate-induced threats.
Adolescents who migrate because of food crises face distinct risks. Specific strategies are needed to prevent and respond to this phenomenon.
Although Pakistan and Colombia have relatively advanced disaster management frameworks, they were unprepared and ill-equipped to assist and protect people displaced by recent floods.
The Mexican government needs facts and figures on internal displacement and then to mobilise national institutions to design appropriate responses.
Banding together in response to a situation of this seriousness gives people strength and confidence, and provides emotional, social and – above all – legal and political support.
Rampant criminal violence, from direct coercion and physical threats to the erosion of the quality of life and livelihood opportunities, pushes people to move in a variety of ways. Not everyone forced to move has equal access to protection or asylum.
The role of the recent drought in producing migration cannot be understood in isolation from human practices and past and concurrent political processes. The environmental dimensions of recent displacement prompt a series of policy challenges in relation to prevention, response and rights protection.
Individual and collective responses to health crises contribute to an orderly public health response that most times precludes the need for large-scale displacements. Restricting population movement is a largely ineffective way of containing disease, yet governments sometimes resort to it where health crises emerge.
When non-citizens are caught up in humanitarian crises, they can be as vulnerable to displacement, and suffer its consequences as acutely, as citizens. Yet frameworks and capacities for assisting and protecting them are lacking.
Humanitarian border management is one of the tools that can supplement the humanitarian response for migrants caught in a crisis situation.
While ‘boat people’ are often fleeing a situation of crisis, they share their mode of travel with many types of migrants. Much more needs to be done to respond to irregular maritime migration in a way which protects fundamental rights and respects human dignity but the political will for this appears to be lacking.
Today’s constant flows of persons and information across frontiers mean that, when an emergency occurs, the international community feels it has to get involved not only out of solidarity but because its citizens could be in danger.
Movements of migrants are only partially covered by international instruments and while the Algerian authorities certainly have opportunities to protect this stream of people, no agreements (bilateral or multilateral) are in force to do so.
As border security increases and borders become less permeable, cross-border migration is becoming increasingly difficult, selective and dangerous. Growing numbers of people are becoming trapped in their own countries or in transit countries, or being forced to roam border areas, unable to access legal protection or basic social necessities.
A focus on those who are trapped challenges both theoretical and practical approaches to mobility and crisis, which prioritise movement. Those who have lost control of the decision to move away from potential danger have inevitably lost a lot more too.
Both natural and man-made crises are considered by many to be prime environments for trafficking in persons. However, the evidence for this is thin.
Factors that foster social cohesion in communities – such as shared long-term networks and shared community identity, central organisation to which the community adheres, and established trust – have been identified as critical for post-disaster resilience and recovery.
The biggest challenge concerning North Korean refugees is that, as yet, there is no international framework for how to respond once these individuals have crossed the border.
Regional solutions are becoming a strategic tool in dealing with the lack of globally agreed protection for crisis migrants.
The lessons of the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 seem to be the same as those from Chernobyl 25 years earlier, despite the different political settings. Apparently not much had been learned.
Examination of migration histories and current politics in Kenya, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Ethiopia and Ghana sheds light on how rights are articulated for groups and individuals displaced in a context of environmental stress and climate change. Both migration and rights are sensitive issues in these case-study countries, and the conjunction of the two is especially sensitive.
Following the Haiti earthquake of 2010, Argentina and other South American countries undertook to receive Haitians.
The impetus for new disaster response laws lies in the gaps that exist in the scope and geographic coverage of existing international law. There are also gaps in the application of existing international norms, and especially in the ability of domestic laws to address common legal issues in international disaster relief and recovery operations.
An essential step for advancing risk reduction measures at the local level is to define mobility-based indicators of vulnerability and resilience that can contribute to measuring and reducing human and economic losses resulting from disasters.
There is no coherent or unified global governance framework for the different areas that have been subsumed under the umbrella of ‘crisis migration’. This is not to say that when new challenges or labels arise new institution-building is necessarily required. Addressing emerging protection gaps such as those related to crisis migration requires creativity in making existing institutions work better across implementation, institutionalisation and international agreements.
Two new Conventions approved in 2013 have the potential to offer greater protection to vulnerable groups, including IDPs, in the Americas.
Ethnic discrimination has long fuelled violence and displacement within Myanmar, especially in relation to people of Rohingya ethnicity who have been fleeing in their ‘tens of thousands’ in 2013 alone.
Global standards such as the Education in Emergencies Minimum Standards need to be applied locally and this requires a thoughtful and committed contextualisation process.
Lebanon’s attitude towards the ‘Syrian exception’ can be used as the starting point for its policy to come into line with international refugee and human rights norms, standards and protection.
MSF recently asked Somali refugees in Dadaab’s Dagahaley camp about their living conditions and their thoughts about returning to Somalia in the near future. The responses suggest that bad living conditions in the camp are not conducive to wanting to return, despite a widespread belief to the contrary.
Since the return of democracy to Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay there has been particular recognition of forced displacement within the framework of reparations for the abuses suffered under dictatorial governments.
Internal displacement in Kenya has been a challenge since the colonial era but only recently has a legal framework been developed to address IDP protection issues. The process of developing this framework offers some useful lessons for stakeholders in similar situations.