News & Events

IOM is pleased to announce that its pilot project providing specific child trafficking and modern slavery support to foster carers in the London Borough of Croydon has been awarded funding from the Home Office’s Child Trafficking Protection Fund.

Through the project, IOM and the London Borough of Croydon will work with foster carers in the borough who look after unaccompanied asylum seeking children, particularly from Albanian and Vietnam, who have been identified as victims of modern slavery or who might be at risk. The first aim of the project is to increase the confidence and capacity of foster carers and social workers to look after children survivors of modern slavery, including with specific cultural information on Albania and Vietnam. The second aim is to directly support children who have been trafficked or are at risk, by developing effective and culturally tailored information to improve their understanding of foster care, the support offered and the risks of leaving care.

The London Borough of Croydon is one of the UK’s local authorities with highest numbers of children identified as victims of modern slavery being referred into care, with children from Albania and Vietnam making up the majority of all cases. In common with many other local authorities across London and the UK, Croydon faces issues of these children going missing from care. This project therefore proposes a new approach to supporting the foster carers who receive these children, and the children themselves, to reduce the likelihood of their going missing after being placed in care.

Sarah Di Giglio, IOM UK’s Senior Policy and Programme Officer for Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery says:
“IOM has been working with the London Borough of Croydon on human trafficking and modern slavery since 2013 through the provision of training to frontline professionals to increase their levels of awareness and understanding of the issue. We are now very pleased to be extending our work with Croydon to better support foster carers and children within the Borough and in doing so, engage our offices in both Albania and Vietnam to garner expertise and cultural knowledge on the two countries”.

Oretha Wofford, Child Trafficking Lead for the London Borough of Croydon adds:
“This project will help us to give appropriate, robust and culturally sensitive support to foster carers looking after children who are survivors of trafficking as well as the children themselves. We are committed to reducing the risk of trafficked children going missing from care in Croydon and are pleased to be working with IOM on this initiative”.

UPDATE: Barnardo’s is the child trafficking expert organisation for the project, delivering training and developing resources to support foster carers in their understanding of why Albanian and Vietnamese young people go missing from care, the risks of trafficking and how to respond. Several training session dates are on offer to foster carers for Croydon Council, including from independent fostering agencies, from 3 October 2017 to 14 November 2017.

For more information, please contact Sarah Di Giglio on or on 0207 811 6062.
Just recently, on March 8th, the world marked International Women’s Day (IWD) around the globe. This is a day set aside to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. In the UK context, IWD also offers a chance to pause and consider the role of migrant women in British society.

There is scope to broaden the current conversation about migration in the UK in a way that reflects the significant positive affect female migrants and refugees have in this country. As well as the benefits migrant and refugee women bring to the country, it is important that we consider the specific needs and challenges faced by migrant women.

Migrants, especially female migrants, bring enormous benefit to the UK. Whether they be Somali women working in the service and food industry in Birmingham, or Afghan and Pakistani women working to keep hospitals clean and functioning in London, or cutting edge female scientists working to push the boundaries of medical innovation at our top universities like Oxford and Cambridge. Migrants and refugees come at all skill levels and genders, and when given the opportunity they generally contribute extremely positively to this country. It is important that we recognize these contributions and do our best to ensure that migrants and refugees are effectively supported to overcome their substantial challenges and to contribute fully to society.

Despite the international protection granted to them and the additional security of resettlement to the UK, the challenges faced by refugees are well documented and significant. From language barriers, to cultural and religious differences, to difficulties acquiring the right to work and accessing the welfare system, it is fair to say that the life of a refugee is challenging in the extreme; all whilst attempting to simultaneously deal with the trauma of the situations they left behind, the often harrowing journey, and persecution faced throughout. These challenges are further exacerbated for female refugees.

Upwards of forty per cent of refugees resettled in the UK over the last ten years have been women, and female migrants have specific needs and face particular challenges that should be taken account in integration programming. As highlighted above, effectively integrated female migrants represent an amazing opportunity to British society. IWD offers an opportunity to refocus the narrative on the very real benefits society gets from female migrants and refugees.

Our experience at IOM tells us that all female migrants, including refugees, are less likely than their male counter-parts to engage actively with employers, or government and civil society actors, and are more likely to remain in homes under-taking domestic duties. As a result, female migrants often suffer additional marginalisation as a result of isolation from society, severely reduced opportunities to learn the language, and in the most extreme cases being subject to violence in the household. This marginalization can cause women to resort to further negative-coping mechanisms and additional marginalization and isolation.

Given the particular challenges faced by female migrants, it is essential that the government and resettlement and integration actors (such as ourselves) design programming to take the specific needs of women into account. Whether it is supporting the establishment of women’s groups, or providing tailored language training and cultural orientation for women, or simply ensuring physical and legal protection of female migrants with increased security measures and legal advice, there are a host of actions that can be taken to reduce the challenges faced by female migrants by government and non-government partners.
With proper integration support, female migrants contribute to the British economy, culture and society, as well as ensuring self-help mechanisms are put in place to support other members of the migrant community in their resettlement journey.

Examples of these benefits can be seen in the film ‘Queens of Syria’ and a group called the Chickpea Sisters. The Queens of Syria tells the story of fifty women from Syria, all forced into exile, who came together in Autumn 2013 to create and perform their own version of the Trojan Women, the timeless Ancient Greek tragedy about the plight of women in war.

The Chickpea Sisters are a group of refugee and migrant women from South West London who meet every week to chat, eat, and share recipes from around the world. This type of support and community-building makes the transition to the British way of life far easier for migrant communities.

For IWD IOM hosted a screening of the film followed by an event catered for by the Chickpea Sisters. The film was both uncomfortable in its brilliance in humanizing the Syrian conflict for the audience, taking us on a journey with the brave members of the cast from despair and heartache to moments of hope and surprisingly, humour.

Our event was a celebration of the fantastic achievement in production and acknowledging the forgotten hardships women face in such situations and post atrocity in rebuilding their lives.

I sign off with the thought that there is indeed much to celebrate, but with the truth held in tension that we must not get complacent, there is still work to be done to support migrant and refugee women and to ensure they are able contribute to British society as effectively as possible.

So, I urge you to take a moment and consider the challenges faced by migrant and refugee women, and the good that they bring to this country, to celebrate their strength, intelligence, creativity and inspiration, giving value to the strides they are making towards creating a diverse, equal and just society.

Dipti Pardeshi, Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration Office in the United Kingdom (IOM UK)

The European Commission yesterday adopted a Recommendation and Renewed Action Plan for EU member states to consider in their procedures to return men, women and children staying irregularly in the EU to their countries of origin or transit. It encourages member states to undertake swift returns, which limit basic safeguards and rights that should be guaranteed to all migrants, including in cases involving children.

UN agencies and child rights organisations are concerned that the Commission package on Return encourages member states to undertake ‘swift returns’ of people – including children – with reduced procedural safeguards and through the increased use of detention. This approach would put children’s lives at risk and would be in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which every EU member state has ratified.

We welcome the reference in the document to best interests’ assessment in return decisions for unaccompanied children. It is essential for robust best interests procedures to be implemented before any child - including children with their families - is issued a return decision. This cannot be a tick box exercise. In considering whether return is in the best interests of the child, the child’s views should be duly considered. Forced removals and detention are extremely harmful for children and families. Children should never be detained for immigration purposes, even as a last resort.

Earlier this year, three unaccompanied Afghan children committed suicide in Sweden. Case workers said the children felt lonely and were unable to handle the anxiety of the process, nor the prospect of being deported to a place where they did not feel safe.

Returnee children and families are at risk of rejection by their families or local communities in their countries of origin, as well as human rights violations. They often face severe discrimination. They are vulnerable to exploitation, to being recruited by armed groups, or pushed into forced labour.

Rather than address the harm to children already caused by the EU and member states return policies, the Commission document recommends measures that would increase it. It encourages fewer safeguards, quicker and automatic return decisions, more forced removals, and more detention.

Far from addressing the real migration challenges that exist across the EU, these proposals will only exacerbate the situation. Further, there is no evidence that forced removal dissuades people from migrating. Returning them to unsustainable situations increases the risk of further cycles of precarious and insecure migration.

Behind the policy decisions and targets to enforce return decisions are the lives of real children and families. The EU and its member states have long been leaders on children’s rights. We urge them to uphold their commitments to all children, regardless of migration or residence status.

Notes for editors:
A 2012 UNICEF study ‘Silent Harm’ on the psycho-social impact of children forcibly removed to Kosovo found that 1 out of 3 children exhibited signs consistent with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, including disturbed sleep, nightmares, flashbacks, black-outs, separation anxiety, social withdrawal and anger or aggression. Nearly one in two teenagers suffered from depression, one in four thought about suicide.

For quotes of children speaking about how forced removal - or fear of it - has impacted them, see UNICEF ‘Silent Harm’ (2012) and PICUM ‘Hear Our Voices’ (2016).

A properly implemented voluntary return policy may be in the best interests of children, whether alone or with families. However, a formal, individual and robust procedure to determine what is in that child’s best interests must always take precedence over migration control objectives, whether children are unaccompanied, separated, or with members of their family. There are numerous safeguards necessary to ensure this procedure is meaningful. Children should not be returned if the only care arrangement immediately available upon their return is institutionalised care.

Further every return decision – whether involving children or not - must also allow for effective access to information, legal remedies and legal counsel. For further information, see OHCHR’s Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders(2014).

Detention is never in the best interest of the child. It has been repeatedly proven that locking children and families in detention facilities has a profound and negative impact on children’s health and well-being, and is unnecessary. A growing body of international law requires governments to expeditiously and completely cease the practice, and all EU governments committed to end child immigration detention at the UN General Assembly on 19 September 2016. Instead, states should promote proper case management support, where children and families can be accommodated in non-custodial, community based settings. Not only is this a legal necessity, it is more effective and cheaper.

For more information, contact:
Elisabeth Schmidt-Hieber, PICUM, +32 2 210 1780,
Karen Mets, Save the Children, +32 499 11 86 35,
Simon Ingram, UNICEF EU Office, +32 491 90 5118,
Irina Todorova, IOM Regional Office for the EEA, EU and NATO, +32 2 287 7113,