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IOM UK, working together with the British Red Cross, supports the reunification of refugees in the UK with family members that have become separated, usually as a result of conflict and displacement. This week marked the arrival of 1,000 separated family members to the UK to be reunited with loved ones. The service is a vital lifeline for many individuals who have lost the support network of a family because of their displacement, many of whom have not seen their close relatives for numerous years. Under UK and international law, refugees have a legal right to be reunited with their families who are abroad.

“Helping families come together is a core component of IOM’s work globally, and we are proud to offer our support, alongside the British Red Cross. Refugee family reunion is about rights and protecting lives as often the people left behind are vulnerable women and children. In addition, having your family together is a critical step forward in the integration process – and with families together, entire communities can thrive”, reflects IOM UK Chief of Mission, Dipti Pardeshi.

From 2011 to 2013, 818 individuals arrived in the UK through the family reunification project. In 2015 alone, 1,000 individuals were brought back together with their relatives in the UK.

As part of the wider service, the Family Reunion Travel Assistance (FRTA) Programme allows eligible applicants who are not able to afford the travel costs to be joined with their family members with the provision of financial assistance. The British Red Cross assists individuals in covering the costs and IOM then provides end-to-end support in all travel logistics to bring the family members together.

Karl Pike, Refugee Policy and Advocacy Manager at the British Red Cross said: “The arrival of our 1,000th family member through this service marks a really positive milestone in the scheme. While this is a number to be celebrated, we are aware that there are many more people in need of our help. That’s why we are calling on the government to widen the criteria of those who can apply”.

Currently people with refugee and protection status in the UK can bring their spouses and children under-18 years old to join them. We believe this should be broadened to include older siblings and other, vulnerable, family members.

One of the latest families to be reunited is from Sudan. Safia gained refugee status in the UK, but sadly her husband and children had become separated as a result of their displacement. Through the family reunion service, Safia and was able to be reunited with husband and sons (pictured left upon arrival at Heathrow Airport), who had been living in Uganda and Sudan.

By William Lacy Swing, Director General, IOM

We have seen some dark days in our world this year. In 2015 we have seen acts of sickening violence, the fury of nature, and – perhaps most poignant of all – the corpse of a Syrian baby boy, Aylan Kurdi, face-down on a Mediterranean beach. But while the world is full of darkness, it is not surprising that so many cultures have created festivals of light. Hindus recently celebrated Diwali, and last month was Loy Krathong in Southeast Asia, where candles were set afloat to give thanks. Soon it will be the holiday season for much of the Western world. Lights are already twinkling almost everywhere, from Central Park to Bondi Beach. In Ireland, a nation which fled poverty, war and famine, there is a tradition of placing a candle in the window during the holiday season, to remember the emigrants who now live far away. Now it should perhaps remind us of the thousands of families fleeing conflict in the Middle East and seeking the light of a safe haven in Europe.

As an issue, migration defined 2015. It was a year of mass and rapid population movement. Conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan; a typhoon in Vanuatu; an earthquake in Nepal; and some 900,000 migrants arriving by boat in Europe fleeing war, poverty, and persecution: the world was in flux from the mountains to the deserts to the oceans. In an ignorant panic, sections of media and society have sought to paint migration as a social evil: a divider of families and communities, a spawning ground for fanaticism. And after many decades of watching and commenting on migration, I am increasingly worried.

I see an anti-migrant sentiment beginning to seethe. I see political malaise; an absence of courage, a bankruptcy of leadership, and a paucity of moral sensitivity. I see a one-sided debate, focusing on fear, negativity and security. Where are the smiles of welcome from last summer? Where are the banners in football grounds declaring “Migrants Welcome”? I know they are there, and I know they will be seen again when we gather in cities and towns across the globe with candles of solidarity. The common sense and generosity of ordinary people, of communities made up of migrants and non-migrants, people of all shades of color, politics and piety – that is what sustains me.

I truly believe that communities will continue to open their hearts and arms to embrace the oppressed. While some national leaders may cavil, the United Nations, informed by a global grassroots debate, has drawn a line under the importance of migration in its blueprint for human development - the Sustainable Development Goals. Migration is firmly on the global agenda. The first United Nations side event on Migration took place this year. A summit in Malta brought African and European leaders together around migration. In Asia, governments have gathered to seek a regional solution to the migration crisis in the Andaman Sea. Canada’s new government has sounded a clarion call, taking 25,000 Syrian refugees in a rapid, regulated and welcome mass intake.

I have often described our time as a perfect storm of humanitarian emergencies which factor in today’s unprecedented human mobility. Almost one out of every seven human beings on this planet is in some way a migrant. That is over a billion people. But almost 60 million of them have been forced to leave their homes and the places they grew up. Millions of others are migrants seeking opportunity in other countries, or elsewhere within their own countries, just as anyone would. What makes this a perfect storm is the unprecedented hostility and fear that this is engendering in so many places. What city cannot be said to have thrived from migrant enterprise? But to read the invective against these victims of war and violence, and see how it spreads so easily across the world, makes me worry about where humanity is headed.

Now is the time for safe, secure and legal migration throughout the world.

Many have been arguing for a long time that to address the issues around human mobility, we require the management of migration, with security for all involved. We must recognize that migration is the megatrend of our time, and we need to treat it with seriousness, not smears, if we’re going to get anywhere. Migrants are moving and the world needs them. But the world also needs leadership in order to manage them in a safe, secure and legal manner. It is high time for mature societies to show that they will do what it takes to make this marriage work.

Yes, there is darkness. But we all have a little light. Let it shine.

Sources: IOM & Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Yesterday IOM marked the arrival of over 1,000 Syrian refugees to the UK since the government’s expansion of its resettlement scheme in September. This accomplishment represents a significant step forward in achieving the UK government’s commitment to resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees by the year 2020.

Under the auspices of UK government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme (VPR), IOM, in coordination with UNHCR and the governments of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, is proud to serve as a key partner in realizing this goal. IOM provides pre-departure and transit resettlement-related services for Syrian refugees. Prior to departure to the UK, IOM staff work hard to provide refugees with full medicals, all necessary travel documentation, and cultural orientation courses to prepare them for life in the UK.

In addition, IOM organizes travel, arranging flights, providing translation en route, and escorting refugees throughout their journey. Since September, Syrian refugees have arrived on charter and scheduled flights to locations throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Moussa, 33, a Syrian refugee due to be resettled in the U.K., told IOM staff, “I am really excited to be travelling to the UK with the help and assistance of IOM and the UK government. My dream is to provide better living standards for me and my family, [especially since] I have a new born baby. I want to learn the language to work and forget about all the bad memories which I had in Syria. Thank you again.”

IOM UK Chief of Mission Dipti Pardeshi said, “This is a touching demonstration of the fortitude of the human spirit and an inspiring example of what can be achieved through multilateral and interagency cooperation. We would like to thank the Government of the UK, the refugees, and the governments of Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq for assisting with these resettlement movements and providing visas. Such cooperation is particularly important given the many ongoing humanitarian crises around the world which show no sign of ending soon.”

IOM looks forward to continuing to work with governments, partners, and receiving communities to help ensure Syrian refugees have an opportunity to rebuild safe and healthy lives in the UK.

For more information, please contact Mallory Carlson at IOM UK, Tel: +44 207 811 6049, Email:

The inclusion of migration into the Sustainable Development Goals in recognition of the role that human mobility plays in reducing poverty and inequality within and across countries is one of the key innovations of the 2030 international development agenda. The topic formed the basis of a symposium, hosted by IOM and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) on 14 December at the Royal Society in London.

Expert speakers from a range of disciplines came together to discuss the nexus between migration and development, reviewing the SDG targets that mention, or are relevant for, migration and how they can be implemented.

British-Gambian business and development executive and keynote speaker, Gibril Faal OBE, noted that while the policy battle had been won, greater attention must be placed on the duty of diligent implementation to demonstrate how the benefits of migration can be gained. Recognizing the political complexity of the topic, he noted that anxiety in host countries is natural, but editorialized and manufactured outrage must be addressed in any related discussions.

IOM International Cooperation and Partnerships Director Jill Helke provided the audience with a detailed overview of how migration is reflected across the goals and targets, addressing issues such as labour rights for migrant workers, reducing remittance transaction costs and ending modern slavery and trafficking.

Evidence on the positive impacts of both internal and international migration on poverty alleviation and inequality was highlighted in a presentation byAlan Winters of Sussex University’s Migrating Out of Poverty Research Consortium, reflecting the evolution of the migration-development debate over the past 15 years.
The discussion also considered the mechanisms and processes that could help review progress towards target 10.7, the centre-piece for migration in the development framework, with Stefano Scuratti of the Economist Intelligence Unit outlining what a potential indicator for ‘well-managed’ migration could look like.

With a focus on how to translate the migration-related SDG goals and targets into firm actions, panellists also discussed policy and practice opportunities for implementation. The process of integrating migration within policy design and planning, known as the “mainstreaming” process, is increasingly perceived as key in ensuring that the development potential of migration is maximized, according to IOM researcher Olivier Ferrari.

Oxford University researcher and former UNHCR official Jeff Crisp examined why the link between forced displacement and development has proved to be so elusive. He noted that this issue remains a gap that has not been addressed the SDG framework.

ODI’s Claire Melamed presented a policy roadmap to bring migration and development together, reflecting on how human movement is driving poverty reduction and affecting the outcome of all the SDGs. She noted and that any agenda that seeks to ‘leave no one behind’ must address specific groups such as migrants.

IOM UK Chief of Mission Dipti Pardeshi commented on the timeliness of the symposium, kick-starting a week of celebrations to mark International Migrants Day on December 18. “Rather than giving voice to negative perceptions of migrants, the international community must focus on promoting the positive benefits migration provides to both countries of origin and destination, as described in the 2030 Agenda. The integral role migrants play in sustainable development cannot be underestimated; migrants must not be left behind”, she said.

For further information, please contact Jenniffer Dew at IOM UK, Email: