News & Events


Women across the world face disparities based upon their gender. In the migration context, this is particularly applicable. Despite the fact that women migrate as much as men, oftentimes, their skills contributions and needs are overlooked. Nearly half of the estimated 260 million migrants worldwide are women, who are often at greater risk for exploitation, abuse and violence.

A more gendered approach can better address systemic barriers for migrant women and girls. With this, IOM held a seminar in London entitled “Women and Migration: Implementing international frameworks for empowerment of migrant women and girls” on 19 March 2019 to mark International Women’s Day.

The seminar examined the role and relevance of the Agenda 2030 and the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) to stimulate new thinking and discussion on how to make the implementation of such frameworks more gender-responsive and contribute to gender equality.
Academia, civil society and DFID panellists explored innovative approaches to ensuring implementation of such frameworks adequately addresses the specific challenges faced by migrant women and girls.
Professor Nicola Piper from Queen Mary University in London highlighted: “Although the SDGs and the Global Compact do place women on the agenda, we should not limit our focus to counter trafficking programmes."
Thomas Green, Global Compact for Migration Lead at the UK Department for International Development (DFID) emphasised the role and the potential of the GCM in further advancing gender equality and provided examples of how DIFD projects around the globe support this process.

Civil society was represented by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants’ (JCWI) Campaign Officer Mary Atkinson and Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM) Director Michelle LeVoy. Both speakers highlighted the continued challenges facing migrant women, especially undocumented ones. Discussions explored how the implementation of international frameworks must ensure marginalised groups have access to justice. The issue of firewalls also came out strongly as its implementation is essential in protecting migrant women from abuse or discrimination especially when it comes of access to health services.

The seminar concluded by recognizing the significant strides the international community has taken on cooperation on international migration through the adoption of international frameworks such as the GCM and Agenda 2030. However, more can be done to address the implementation to eliminate violence against women and girls, trafficking and exploitation and addressing and reducing vulnerabilities in migration. Facilitating fair and ethical recruitment, ensuring safe and decent work for all and recognising and valuing unpaid care and domestic workers are also priorities for both international agendas.

Singing Our Lives 2018

This summer, music will unite refugees, migrants and British choir members for the Singing Our Lives (SOL) concert showcasing original music that celebrates the strength and resilience of the refugees and migrants, as the finale to Refugee Week 2018.

The concert marks the culmination of a unique creative process bringing together five amateur choirs and professional musicians through a series of workshops aimed at fostering unity among the diverse groups. The concert is the final apogee in a process that explored the themes of justice, changing seasons, and the cultural adjustment process, in addition to hearing real-life accounts from choir members. For some, this was their first interaction with refugees or asylum-seekers.

WHAT Singing Our Lives concert
WHEN Sunday 1st July 2018 at 18:00
WHERE Milton Court Concert Hall, Barbican, London
With over 8.8 million migrants and refugees living in the UK, according to IOM’s Migration Data Portal, active inclusion can reduce feelings of isolation and increase the contribution to British communities.

When migrants, refugees and communities come together and learn from each other - as they do for Singing Our Lives - this is the true essence of integration,” said Dipti Pardeshi, IOM UK Chief of Mission.

Over 200 performers will participate in the event at Milton Court, hosted by Together Productions, in partnership with IOM, Freedom from Torture, the Royal Opera House, Improbable, and the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

Singing Our Lives combines opera, classical, popular and electronic genres with music from around the globe and performed by the Mixed Up Chorus, the Royal Opera House Thurrock Community Chorus, and the Sing for Freedom Choir, and Guildhall School musicians, Woven Gold and Stile Antico.

If you would like to attend, please click on the link to purchase a ticket.

By Patrick Burland
Recent shocking video footage of a slave auction in Libya brought renewed attention to the global scourge of human trafficking and modern slavery. Given its hidden nature, estimates vary enormously but there are reported to be millions of people affected. Since 1994, IOM has supported over 70,000 trafficked persons around the world. Despite considerable sympathy and concern from the public for the victims, little attention is given to how states identify and support them after they have escaped exploitation and abuse.

In the United Kingdom, potential victims of trafficking and modern slavery are identified and supported through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). In October 2017, the UK government announced changes to the National Referral Mechanism to ‘radically improve the identification and support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery.’ Welcome changes are being made in three critical areas: identifying victims, support for child victims, and the length of time that support is provided. Reforms in these areas are positive steps forward, but characterising them as ‘radical’ should be questioned as much more can be done.

Figures released this week show that 5,145 people were referred to the NRM as potential victims of trafficking in 2017, this was a 35% increase on the 2016 total. This enormous increase makes improving the identification and support for those referred to the NRM even more important and urgent.

The first significant change is for a new expert body to be created in the Home Office to decide whether people are victims of human trafficking or slavery. This means that UK Visas and Immigration, a division of the Home Office with responsibility for deciding who has the right to stay in the country, will no longer make decisions on trafficking cases. The announcement explains that this will ‘separate’ decisions ‘from the immigration system.’ This comes in response to longstanding concerns about a correlation between a person’s immigration status and the likelihood of them being conclusively identified as a victim of trafficking or slavery. For example, available data on decisions for people referred into the NRM in 2015 show 90% of people from Poland and 85% from Romania, nationalities with a right to residency in the UK, were formally identified as victims of trafficking or slavery compared with 37% of people from Nigeria and 30% of people from Albania, nationalities who do not. This indicates a potential bias against recognising people as victims of trafficking if they are from countries where their right to residency in the UK is not pre-established.

The announcement shows that the government acknowledges that decisions on trafficking and slavery should be separated from the immigration system. However, while UK Visas and Immigration will no longer make the decisions, the potential for conflicts of interest remains as they will continue to be made by staff within the Home Office; the government department responsible for all aspects of immigration control. The most effective way for the UK government to build an effective firewall between victim identification and immigration concerns is to move this process outside of the Home Office.

Child victims are a concern as children comprised more than 40% of the referrals into the NRM in 2017. The government has said the changes will make the process as ‘child friendly as possible.’ One such change is the introduction of Independent Child Trafficking Advocates who will be tasked to act in the best interests of the child across the country. A government evaluation of a one-year trial of the service found that the advocates helped build trust with children and improved decision making on their cases.

Changes to improve trust and decision making are welcome, but what is still missing is the provision of indispensable specialist support for trafficked children. Trafficked adults can access specialist support, but children – who are the most vulnerable and have the greatest support needs – are left out. IOM recently supported a letter written by the child trafficking charity ECPAT to the Home Secretary which called for specialist support to be provided to trafficked children in the UK. The idea that child victims should be able to access specialist support should not be seen as a radical proposal; it’s just good practice.

The third important reform is that government has announced plans to increase support for victims to ‘at least 90 days.’ Increasing the length of time that support is provided is clearly an improvement. However, the increase to 90 days should be seen in the context of the average of 134 days it took for a person to receive a final conclusive decision on whether they were a victim of trafficking or slavery in 2016.

If trained professionals cannot decide whether a person has been a victim of trafficking or slavery within 45 or 90 days, how can this be enough time for people to recover? A truly radical change to increase support is offered by the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill which would provide victims of trafficking or slavery access to support for 12 months. IOM supports this bill.

Changes to how the UK government responds to identifying and supporting victims of trafficking and slavery have been long-awaited. A review of the NRM in November 2014 by the Home Office acknowledged, ‘Many level criticism at the current system and we have found that it does need to change.’ Three years later, the government has announced a series of modest changes to the system. The proposed reforms should go further in improving support and identification for victims if the UK government wants to live up to its claims of leading the world in responding to modern slavery and human trafficking and of making radical reform to the NRM.

One-hundred years ago, women were first granted the right to vote in the UK. That same year, women also won the right to be elected into the UK Parliament. It was a year that epitomized a new chapter for women’s integration in a story that remains unfinished.

Today, on International Women’s Day, we pay homage to all those who work tirelessly to combat injustices they face based solely on their gender. The UN Migration Agency (IOM), stands with each person who demonstrates the courage and resilience to pave the way for women’s rights and empowerment.

As they did a century ago, women are once again joining voices to foster change today and for future generations. However, one segment of society is often underrepresented and unheard in this symphony for change: migrant women.

Migrant women face the same disparities all women confront, but may also experience additional challenges. Our gender influences our motivations, approaches and how we balance life through the prescribed boxes of cultural expectations. This factors into how each of us contributes to our family, work, and community. Women also continue to face gender-based violence, harassment and exploitation, especially along migratory routes, signifying deeply-rooted power imbalances that we must all condemn.

Migrant women often must also overcome language barriers, cultural expectations, stereotypes, and knowing how to access resources. The ability to do this can significantly affect a person’s contribution to and integration within a community.

Over the last decade, numerous studies have shown the economic impact of integrated migrants on the British economy. While methodologies and conclusions varied among the studies, one common theme that has emerged is the net benefit that migrants have had on the British economy. Over half (52 percent) of the UK’s 8.8 million migrants are women according to IOM’s Migration Data Portal. The collective force of their potential contribution to our society can only be realised through more active inclusion.

Despite the evidence and potential, migrant women continue to face unique barriers to their full integration into British society. Anecdotal evidence suggests female migrants, including refugees and survivors of human trafficking, are less likely than their male counterparts to actively engage with employers, government and civil society. Causes may vary, but the extent of integration depends upon societal roles, autonomy in decision-making, social biases from migrant and local populations, and knowledge about information access points. Consequently, female migrants may experience social isolation and reduced opportunities for language learning, education and employment which simply reinforces the marginalization.

Just as we have seen the potential of British women realized over the last century, the potential of migrant women in the UK is also great. Many migrant women have made significant social impacts, like Melody, a social entrepreneur from Tehran who was named “New European Woman Influencer” by the European Parliament in June 2015.

“School years were the hardest years of my life in England. I was lonely and felt misunderstood. I channelled my energy into the UK community and found a way to make a difference in the country and give back,” she said.

Migrant women like Melody play an essential role in community and family life. For example, women are more likely take on more care-related responsibilities in the family, whether their own or for work. A recent study found that migrants working in the adult social care sector contribute 4.4 billion pounds to the English economy annually. The vast majority of these social care workers are migrant women.

So why do some migrant women flourish, while others are marginalized? Some argue that it is the level of integration support provided, either through local authorities or the community. Although some localised integration strategies do exist in the UK, there is currently no national strategy. This reduces the experiences and potential contribution of migrants or refugees to a geographic lottery to access information about education, housing, healthcare or basic services. A national strategy can serve as a guiding principle for local authorities, promote greater engagement and act as a best practices roadmap.

Integration is not a one-way street. It takes active acknowledgement from both local and migrant communities of the similarities, differences, challenges and benefits diversity can bring. National self-awareness can help formulate sound policies that address the distinct advantages and disadvantages gender plays during the integration process.

Integration works best when there is a national space for reciprocal conversations about backgrounds, expectations and goals. By doing this, we can counter migrant marginalization, especially for women, and create equal opportunities to contribute to the economy and the community. Through our work, IOM supports those strategies that bring a more balanced world for all of us: women, men, children, migrants and non-migrants. Now is the time to act.

Opinion piece by Abby Dwommoh, first published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation

Abby Dwommoh is the Public Information Officer and Spokesperson for IOM – the UN Migration Agency in London. She joined IOM in 2015 in the Turkey office, at the height of the Mediterranean Crisis. Prior to joining IOM, Abby served in the U.S. Foreign Service in Morocco, Nigeria and France.
Photo: UK Pre-departure orientation in Istanbul. © IOM

The United Kingdom is more than halfway towards meeting its commitment to resettle 20,000 people by 2020 through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), according to new figures revealed yesterday (22/10).

The latest quarterly Home Office immigration statistics show that 10,538 refugees have been resettled under the VPRS – one of the largest global resettlement programmes – since it began.

The VPRS is just one of the ways in which the UK is helping to resettle refugees. In 2017, a total of 6,212 people were resettled in the UK – a 19 per cent increase from 2016 – with 4,832 of these people coming through the VPRS. Some 539 people arrived under the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS), which will resettle up to 3,000 at-risk children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region by 2020. The latest figures take the total number of children that the UK has provided asylum or an alternative form of protection to since the start of 2010 to 28,000.

Earlier this week, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd visited a refugee camp in Lebanon, meeting families who have fled the war in Syria and speaking to officials from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) who are working closely with the Home Office to resettle families to the UK.

“As a country we can be proud that we are over half way towards honouring our commitment of resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees who have fled Syria by 2020 so they can rebuild their lives here in safety,” Rudd said. “Nearly half are children and more people are arriving every month.”

“This week I went to Lebanon to see for myself the human impact of the Syrian conflict and talk to refugees about the challenges they face. I met a family who is due to be resettled in the UK and heard first-hand how important the resettlement scheme is and how it helps individuals, who have fled danger and conflict, to rebuild their lives. We are welcoming and supporting some of the most vulnerable refugees and I am grateful to all of the local authorities, charities and other organizations that have made it possible,” the Home Secretary added.

The VPRS is a joint scheme between the Home Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

The UK works closely with UNHCR; IOM, the UN Migration Agency; and partners on the VPRS to provide life-saving solutions for the refugees most in need of protection, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk.

“The UK has embarked on an impressive upscaling of the VPRS in a short period, setting in place structures to welcome highly vulnerable refugees and allowing them to gradually stand on their own feet again,” said UNHCR’s UK Representative Gonzalo Vargas Llosa.

“Collaboration between the central Government, local and devolved authorities and service providers has been commendable. I’ve been up and down the country meeting refugee families and local communities, and the strong support for this programme and refugee integration generally is something the UK should be proud of.”

IOM facilitates pre-departure health assessments, cultural orientation and travel for refugees going to the UK. IOM also supports national and local governments to develop integration programmes as part of a holistic migration management strategy.

“The UK has achieved a significant milestone for the VPRS by resettling over half of the 20,000 committed to be resettled by 2020,” said IOM UK Chief of Mission Dipti Pardeshi. “The generosity and welcome shown by the UK government and the British people to those resettled is commendable.”

“Today, less than one per cent of refugees worldwide have been resettled and the need continues to be dire. Resettlement cannot be viewed as a one-off effort. Countries must step up to resettle more refugees and to view this as part of a holistic process to help vulnerable refugees rebuild their lives.”

The UK’s resettlement schemes are just some of the ways the Government is supporting vulnerable children and adults who have fled danger and conflict. The UK remains the second largest donor in humanitarian assistance and has pledged £2.46 billion in UK aid to Syria and the neighbouring countries, its largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.

“I cannot wait to move to the UK,” says 11-year-old Shahed. Most of her life has been overshadowed by the conflict in Syria. Last week her family arrived at the IOM offices in Beirut, Lebanon for the final preparations to resettle to the UK.

A big smile stretches across her face. She understands that this is an opportunity for a new beginning for her family, and Shahed’s plans are already in full swing.

“I want to study and one day be able to teach Maths, Geography or Philosophy. I also want to help other people.” Shahed and her family will resettle to the UK under the Voluntary Persons Resettlement Scheme that has provided an opportunity for over 10,000 refugees to rebuild their lives since 2015.

Since 2012, across Syria and the region, the UK has provided at least 26 million food rations, 9.8 million relief packages, 10.3 million medical consultations and 8.3 million vaccines.

For more information please contact Abby Dwommoh at IOM UK, Tel: +44 20 7811 6000, email:

The global displacement and refugee crisis has seen a record 65million people displaced from their homes - among them nearly 22.5million refugees - fleeing conflict and persecution. Thousands of vulnerable and desperate people continue to arrive to Europe across the Central Mediterranean. As agencies working closely to this crisis, we know that family is a driving factor in why people risk their lives with smugglers and traffickers to reach the UK and a critical factor in supporting refugee children to successfully rebuild their lives.

The UK can make a vital contribution to children’s safety and well-being in the context of the global refugee crisis by making it easier for them to reach family in the UK via official routes. All children deserve the safety and security of being with their loved ones, yet too few children facing conflict and persecution are being supported to reunite with family members. Family separation creates additional hardship for families who have already experienced many difficulties, and it can result in children risking their lives on desperate and dangerous journeys. We share the Government’s aim of trying to reduce these life-threatening journeys, so we are calling for an improvement in the UK’s Immigration Rules on refugee family reunion.

On the 15th December, Baroness Trafford, Minister of State, Home Office, highlighted the Government’s strong support for the principle of family unity and announced that the Home Office are currently considering a new Resettlement and Asylum Strategy[1] which amongst other areas will make improvements and changes to the UK’s policies on refugee family reunification.

We are calling for the UK Government to:
  • Amend its Immigration Rules on refugee family reunion to better facilitate close family members such as adult siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles who have refugee or humanitarian status to sponsor children in their family to join them in the UK, where this is in the child’s best interests and the relationship between the sponsor and the child is one of dependency[2];
  • Reduce some of the conditions required of non-refugee sponsors who have settled status in the UK or British citizenship, where the child to be sponsored has a protection need;
  • Reinstate legal aid for refugee family reunion cases
The UK’s current Immigration Rules on refugee family reunion are limited
After years of living in countries affected by conflict and persecution, many children have been orphaned or don’t know where their parents are, or have been forced to flee alone – often to avoid risks such as recruitment into armed groups or forced marriage. These children may have grandparents, aunts, uncles, or adult brothers and sisters in the UK who are best placed to care for them. The UK’s current Immigration Rules provide for the right of parents with refugee or humanitarian status to sponsor their under 18-year-old children[3] to join them in the UK[4], and do not provide this right to other family members. For other family members to sponsor a child to join them, there are many extra requirements in the rules, which prove to be real obstacles.

Options for applying outside of the refugee family reunion section of the Immigration Rules are even more limited

There are many requirements that other family members have to fulfil - even when the child to be sponsored is in real danger or has lost their main carer - which rules out most other family members in practice. For example, Rule 319X of Part 8 the Immigration Rules includes requirements such as having no recourse to public funds for maintenance or accommodation, paying an application fee, and proving “serious and compelling family or other considerations which make exclusion of the child undesirable”. Maintenance and accommodation requirements are often difficult to fulfil if a family member has recently been granted refugee status.

Families who fall outside of the UK’s Refugee Family Reunion Rules – including intended sponsors who were recognised as refugees but have since naturalised as British citizens – have to rely on a UK Entry Clearance Officer exercising their discretion to admit a child as an exceptional case outside of the Rules. They exercise this discretion extremely rarely, because:
  • Very few children apply – since they and their families are informed that their cases fall outside of the Rules. Why would families go through a complex process when they are advised from the outset that they don’t have a case?
  • There is no legal aid available for most of these cases, despite their complexity.
  • The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration Report 2016 found that when applications are made, UK Entry Clearance Officers often initially reject them[7] and then the family has to appeal or re-submit their cases, even though the children are still living in danger while waiting for the cases to be resolved. This is very common even in cases that fall within the Rules, and even more difficult for cases that fall outside of them[8]. Relying on Entry Clearance Officer discretion results in inconsistent decisions that leave vulnerable children at risk.

Since 2012 legal aid has not been available for refugee family reunion cases despite the fact that these cases routinely involve difficult procedures. Without legal aid assistance, applicants rarely know what evidence is required, how to collate it and present it, with the consequence that applications are regularly refused and appeals are lost.
This has resulted in long delays, keeping families apart for longer than necessary and often forcing family members in war zones to take repeated risks to cross borders to reach British embassies to overcome procedural errors. Where it may be in a child’s best interests to join their relative(s) in the UK, eg. where the child has lost their parents, or the child has no suitable care and is dependent on a relative in the UK (sibling, uncle, aunt or grandparent), their application should be facilitated.

In January 2017, after many legal hours and significant political intervention, the decision to refuse the visas was reversed, and Hana, Johannas, and Marina were safely united with their uncle and grandparents in the UK. Lawyers confirm that many applications by extended family members are refused, and decision-making is very inconsistent, and often relies on whether a family is lucky enough to obtain pro bono legal and political interventions.

How will Brexit affect the rights of children to reach relatives with refugee or humanitarian status in the UK?

The EU’s Dublin III Regulation determines which EU state decides a person’s asylum application, and has served in practice as a mechanism for reuniting children with their families within Europe, while the children wait for their asylum applications to be decided. Since there are so few options under the UK’s Immigration Rules, many children have to make it to a European country in order to apply to join their relatives in the UK. The Dublin III Regulation allows children to join close relatives such as grandparents, uncles, aunts and siblings, as well as parents, while they wait for their asylum applications to be decided. As a result of leaving the European Union, the UK’s membership of the Dublin III Regulation is likely to come to an end.

In 2016 applying the Dublin III Regulation criteria, more than 700 children were transferred from other European countries to join family members in the UK. Many of these children were joining relatives who were not their parents. If, post-Brexit, children in similar circumstances will only be able to rely on the UK Immigration Rules, most of them will not fit within the current rules. Their cases are, based on existing practice, unlikely to be accepted by Entry Clearance Officers on a discretionary basis. This situation has the potential to lead to a large increase in unaccompanied children forced to take dangerous journeys with smugglers and traffickers in order to reach their family here.

The recently announced agreement between the UK and French Governments to speed up Dublin III transfers to help children to reach the safety of their family in the UK is very welcome. However, these children should never have had to make dangerous journeys to Europe to reach the safety of their families in the first place. If the UK changes its own Immigration Rules, the UK Government can better facilitate the reunification of separated families and play a role in reducing the number of dangerous journeys and prevent needless and tragic deaths[12]. By allowing children to apply for family reunification more easily from their countries and regions of origin, we will create a safe and legal route for vulnerable children to reach the UK.

We are calling for the UK Government to:
  • Amend its Immigration Rules on refugee family reunion to better facilitate close family members such as adult siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles who have refugee or humanitarian status to sponsor children in their family to join them in the UK, where this is in the child’s best interests and the relationship between the sponsor and the child is one of dependency[13];
  • Reduce some of the conditions required of non-refugee sponsors who have settled status in the UK or British citizenship, where the child to be sponsored has a protection need;
  • Reinstate legal aid for refugee family reunion cases


[2] “Dependency” infers a social, emotional or economic relationship or bond.

[3] who is not leading an independent life, is unmarried and is not a civil partner, and has not formed an independent family unit, and was part of the family unit of their parent at the time that their parent left the country of their habitual residence in order to seek asylum – Immigration Rules Part 11, paras 352D and 352FG

[4] Spouses and civil partners with refugee or humanitarian status also have the right under UK Immigration Rules to sponsor their spouses or civil partners to join them in the UK.

[5] Name changed

[6] Name changed


[8] Unicef UK, The Refuge of Family,

[9] Name changed

[10] Name changed

[11] Name changed

[12] The changes in the Immigration Rules that we are proposing would enable a child to take on the leave status of their UK relative, who has refugee or humanitarian status, or has settled status or British citizenship. Under the Dublin III Regulation children are currently able to join their relatives in the UK who are still asylum-seekers. We are not proposing that the UK Immigration Rules should be extended to included sponsorship applications by asylum-seekers, as the children joining them would remain in an uncertain legal status in that case. This gap for children who only have asylum-seeking relatives to join should be addressed via bilateral agreements with other EU states or via an arrangement for the UK to retain some aspects of the Dublin III Regulation arrangements for receiving unaccompanied children.

[13] “Dependency” infers a social, emotional or economic relationship or bond.

Gaps in data covering refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and internally displaced populations are endangering the lives and wellbeing of millions of children on the move, warned five UN and partner agencies today. In ‘A call to action: Protecting children on the move starts with better data’, UNICEF, UNHCR, IOM, Eurostat and OECD together show how crucial data are to understanding the patterns of global migration and developing policies to support vulnerable groups like children.

The Call to Action confirms alarming holes in the availability, reliability, timeliness and accessibility of data and evidence that are essential for understanding how migration and forcible displacement affect children and their families. For example:
  • There is recorded information on age for just 56 per cent of the refugee population under UNHCR’s mandate;
  • Only 20 per cent of countries or territories with data on conflict-related internally displaced persons (IDP) break it down by age;
  • Nearly a quarter of countries and territories do not have age disaggregated data on migrants, including 43 per cent of countries and territories in Africa; and
  • Lack of information on migrant and displaced children deprives the affected children of protection and services they need.

“Information gaps fundamentally undermine our ability to help children,” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director for the Division of Data, Research and Policy. “Migrant children, particularly those who migrate alone, are often easy targets for those who would do them harm. We can’t keep children safe and provide them with lifesaving services, both in transit and at their destination, if we don’t know who they are, where they are or what they need. We urge Member States to fill these gaps with reliable disaggregated data and to improve cooperation so that data is shared and comparable.”

“Many refugee children have experienced or witnessed appalling violence and suffering in their countries of origin and sometimes also during their flight in search of protection and security. They need and deserve care and protection but in order to provide this, we need data on their identity and needs. In no area is coordination on data and strengthening capacity more important than for children, especially the most vulnerable,” said Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.

“We need reliable and better data on child migrants to protect them and guarantee their best interests. Data disaggregation by age, sex and origin can inform policymakers of the real needs of child migrants. This will ensure that no child is left behind and that they are not exploited. All migrant children are entitled to care and protection regardless of their migratory status,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

“Time is of the essence when it comes to integration into education,” said OECD Director for Employment Labour and Social Affairs Stefano Scarpetta. “Success or failure at this vulnerable age can have lifelong labour market consequences. Only with a comprehensive knowledge – backed up by appropriate data – can we identify and address the needs of these children, better protect them and build upon their skills and capabilities as they make their way through the school system and into the labour market.”

In many countries, available national data do not include information on migrants’ and refugees’ age, sex and origin, or if they travel unaccompanied or with their families. Differing criteria for age categories and for recoding data make disaggregation extremely challenging.
This makes it very difficult to estimate accurately how many children are on the move worldwide. Data on children moving undocumented across borders, those displaced or migrating internally, or children left behind by migrant parents, are even scarcer.

While much of global migration is positive, with children and their families moving voluntarily and safely, the experience for millions of children is neither voluntary nor safe, but fraught with risk and danger. Children who do not have access to safe and regular migration pathways often turn to irregular and dangerous routes, putting them at risk of violence, abuse and exploitation. Many children lose their lives taking perilous informal migration routes – drowned at sea or lost in the desert – but their deaths regularly go unreported and uncounted.

In 2016, over 12 million children around the world were living as refugees or asylum seekers, while an estimated 23 million children were living in internal displacement – 16 million as a result of conflict and 7 million due to natural disasters. Yet the true number of children driven from their homes remains unknown and is apt to be significantly higher than the estimate because of gaps in reporting and data.

In the absence of reliable data, the risks and vulnerabilities facing children on the move remain hidden and unaddressed. In some contexts, children who cross borders irregularly may be held in detention alongside adults or prevented from accessing services that are essential for their healthy development, including education and healthcare. Even in high income countries like, the number of refugee and migrant children out of school is unknown because it is not counted.

The need for better data collection and analysis are key features of the related but distinct Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees currently being developed for adoption in 2018. While there are ongoing efforts to strengthen data collection and analysis at both the global and country levels, far more needs to be done. As Member States work towards finalizing these two agreements, the five agencies and partners urge them to address the evidence gaps and include the rights, protection and wellbeing of children as central commitments in the final texts. If these gaps are not addressed, it will be impossible to implement and monitor the Compacts and the impact they could have for children on the move.

Note to editors:
UNICEF, UNHCR, IOM, Eurostat and OECD urge Member States to address the data and evidence gaps pertaining to children on the move, and include the following child-specific considerations in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration and the Global Compact on Refugees:
Disaggregate data by age and sex;
Cover key issues relating to children affected by migration and displacement;
Make better use of existing data, and share it;
Coordinate data efforts within countries and across borders;
Make special efforts to collect and analyse data on children.

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit

For more information, please contact:
Christopher Tidey, UNICEF New York, , +1 917 340 3017
Jorge Galindo, IOM HQ, , +41 22 7179205
Stylia Kampani, IOM GMDAC, , +49 3027877816
Spencer Wilson, OECD, , +33 1 45 24 81 18

Could better use of data help turn human mobility into an asset worth tens of billions of dollars?

That’s the finding of a study by the UN Migration Agency’s (IOM) Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC), working with the McKinsey Centre for Government (MCG), being released today at Davos’ World Economic Forum.

In the new report, entitled “More than Numbers: How migration data can deliver real-life benefits”, IOM and MCG illustrate how investing in better data can help manage migration more effectively and illustrates clear examples of this.

The International Organization for Migration´s Director General William Lacy Swing explained in launching the report: “Too often, data are seen as the abstract business of experts operating in backrooms. Yet data are essential to produce real-life results such as protecting migrants in vulnerable situations, fill labour market shortages and improve integration, manage asylum procedures, ensure the humane return of migrants ordered to leave or increase remittance flows.”

“In this report, we have taken a fresh perspective on migration data and statistics, one that could benefit the entire development world. By taking a value based approach to migration data we can ensure that investment is squarely focused on impact. Ultimately, if governments want to see better outcomes they need to prioritise more relevant data, not just more data.” Said Solveigh Hieronimus, Partner at McKinsey & Company.

The report illuminates how investing in migration data can bring huge economic, social and humanitarian benefits. It provides detailed calculations of these benefits, across a range of different policy areas, and for both developed and developing countries. Looking ahead, the report provides guidance to countries interested in realising these benefits and suggests ways in which they could develop their own strategies to improve data on migration.

For example, many migrants to the European Union have skills that do not match their jobs. Using data to reduce over-qualification would increase the income of migrants in the EU by EUR 6 billion, the report calculates.

Better data can also save labour migrants USD 6 billion in recruitment fees for jobs abroad or increase the money that migrants send home by USD 20 billion worldwide. But it is not only about money. Smart use of data can double the success rate of identifying human trafficking cases, speed up asylum applications or promote humane, voluntary returns.

“We are at a crucial moment,” said IOM Director-General Swing. UN member states have started negotiations leading towards the adoption of a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

Consultations leading up to the negotiations in 2018 have highlighted the importance of improving the evidence on migration. UN countries have also committed to several migration-related targets linked to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed in 2015. Without better data it will be hard to assess progress towards these common targets. “The time to invest in better migration data is now”, says Swing. “Just looking at the examples we have illustrated in the report would see a boost in USD 35 billion towards the opportunities and challenges that migration presents.”

Read the report here.

For more information please contact, Frank Laczko, IOM GMDAC, Tel: +49 (0) 30 278 778 20, Email: or Jasper Tjaden, IOM GMDAC, Tel: +49 (0)30 278 778 22, Email:

There are specific risk factors associated with increased migrant vulnerability to exploitation, violence, abuse and human trafficking, according to a new report published yesterday (21/12) by IOM, the UN Migration Agency.

The report, titled Migrant Vulnerability to Human Trafficking and Exploitation: Evidence from the Central and Eastern Mediterranean Migration Routes, analyses quantitative data on vulnerability factors and personal experiences of abuse, violence, exploitation, and human trafficking collected over the past two years from 16,500 migrants in 7 countries. While other IOM reports have documented the scale of exploitation on the main migration routes to Europe, this report is the first to identify key factors associated with increased vulnerability to exploitation and human trafficking during the migration journey.

“The findings contribute to our understanding of the factors that contribute to migrants’ vulnerability to abuse, exploitation and trafficking,” said Anh Nguyen, IOM Head of Migrant Assistance Division. “It improves the evidence available for policies to better identify and protect vulnerable migrants on their journeys, in line with IOM’s determinants of migrant vulnerability model,” he added.

“This report illustrates the kind of analysis that can be done with a unique set of survey data collected by IOM. The Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) plays a key role in providing a better understanding of the movements and evolving needs of mobile populations along the major migration corridors” said Nuno Nunes, DTM Global Coordinator.

The analysis found that migrants travelling the Central Mediterranean route are more vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking than migrants on the Eastern Mediterranean route, even when they share similar demographic and journey characteristics. Moreover, West Africans are more vulnerable to human trafficking and exploitation than migrants from other countries. In general, the presence of conflict in the country of departure predicts a higher vulnerability to exploitation and human trafficking on the journey. Individuals who travel alone are more vulnerable than migrants who travel in groups. Also, the longer or more costly their journey, the more likely it is that a migrants will be exploited along the way. Male migrants are more likely to experience forced and unpaid labour, or being held against their will, than female migrants.

The report also found that the factors that predict child migrants’ vulnerability to human trafficking and exploitation are similar to the factors associated with adult migrants’ vulnerability. In addition, migrants report that Libya is particularly unsafe, which is a major driver of onward migration towards what they perceive to be safer destinations.

This IOM analysis provides practical recommendations for improved programming along the main migration routes to Europe. These include the early identification and protection for all vulnerable migrants, taking into account the different risks that men, boys, women and girls may face during their journeys, and the different types of exploitation they may be subject to.

About the Determinants of Migrant Vulnerability Model

In 2016, IOM developed a framework for analyzing and responding to migrant vulnerability. This framework was specifically developed to address the protection and assistance needs of a specific sub-set of migrants: those who have experienced or are vulnerable to violence, abuse, or exploitation before, during, or after the migration process. It was also designed to be flexible enough to assess vulnerability of both individual migrants and migrant groups.

The framework differs from other conceptualizations of migrant vulnerability that focus on an individual migrant’s membership in a particular category, such as refugee, irregular migrant, or victim of trafficking, or on a single characteristic, such as age or sex. Rather, the determinants of migrant vulnerability framework looks at a range of factors at individual, household, community, and structural levels and assesses if these factors contribute to risk of, or protect against, violence, exploitation, or abuse within a migration context.
It considers the overall level of vulnerability of an individual migrant, or a migration-affected household, community, or group, to violence, abuse, or exploitation before, during, or after a migration process, or their ability to avoid, resist, cope with, or recover from such maltreatment, as the net impact of the interaction of these factors at different levels. It also considers the ways in which households, families, communities, and the state can mitigate vulnerability and reduce harm.

About DTM

The report findings are based on statistical models that use over 16,500 interviews with migrants. The data was collected through a network of field workers as part of IOM’s DTM flow monitoring operations in the Mediterranean, from December 2015 to November 2016.

The Flow Monitoring Survey on which the analysis of this report is based is a tool used by IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), a modular system developed by IOM, which tracks and monitors displacement and population mobility so that decision makers and responders can better understand the movements and needs of displaced people. The Flow Monitoring Survey unites two DTM components – the flow monitoring and the surveys. While flow monitoring aims to derive quantitative estimates of the flow of individuals through specific locations and to collect information about the profiles, intentions and needs of the people moving, the surveys component of DTM is used to enrich and complement the other components. It describes characteristics and provides a deeper understanding of populations of concern (such as internally displaced people, returnees, migrants).

For more information, please contact:
Jorge Galindo, IOM HQ, Tel: +41227179205, Email:
Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM Italy Spokesperson, Tel: +393470898996, Email:
Ivona Zakoska, DTM regional coordinator, or

Related documents:
Migrant Vulnerability to Human Trafficking and Exploitation: Evidence from the Central and Eastern Mediterranean route (Report)
A demonstrator marches to the Houses of Parliament, during a protest in support of refugees in London, September 17, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls

“What the world needs now, is love, sweet love”, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) UK’s partner, the Mixed up Chorus Choir sings. It’s a cold night in a community hall in London. This is a non-auditioning choir: everyone is welcome, and everyone’s voice is valued, no matter how different it is, because when everyone sings together in harmony, a sweet symphony arises.

As the United Nations Migration Agency, we are celebrating the theme of integration to mark International Migrants Day this year in the UK. In recent times, communities have seen a widening gap between their native citizens and migrants. There is a fear of the “other” – the migrant – which prevents productive dialogue, both between and within groups. This fear risks further entrenching polarised views and moves us away from constructing a shared set of values and norms - ones that can be established through community activities fostering connection and integration.

This is by no means the first time the importance of shared interests and common ground for the successful integration of migrants has been pointed out. Choirs and sports, are excellent mechanisms for supporting positive relationships and building the basis of thriving multicultural communities. The New Mixed Up Chorus choir provides a platform for migrants to share their stories and express a community voice through music. Recent studies have suggested that choral singing promotes increased speed of social bonding, and is effective for bringing together large groups.

What more can we be doing to encourage the acknowledgement that we are in fact more similar than we might think? As MP Jo Cox so poignantly stated, “we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”. Discussing the refugee situation in schools can ensure that our communities are more aware of the existing division. The British Red Cross has created resources to encourage primary school children to discuss their perception of refugees. At secondary level, students are encouraged to think about what it would be like to feel unsafe in their own homes and what they would take with them if they were forced to flee. Ideas such as these create a space in which we can educate the youngest members of our community how to respect migrants and alleviate fear of the “other”.

These activities and local integration policies can lay common foundations in our communities: assuring people that their way of life will not be eroded, while affording migrants the opportunity to engage, live in safety, and be included in their new home community. Existing research, including from the McKinsey Institute, University College London, OECD and the IMF posits that effectively managed migration presents advantages in fuelling social growth and innovation, economic gains, entrepreneurship, and improving living standards.[1] These reports highlight that focusing on long-term integration is vital.

City of Sanctuary, a grassroots movement, is building a network of towns throughout the UK which offer support to those in need of safety. By creating a sense of community and shared action, individuals are offered a safe space in which to confront their assumptions and fears of migration, and relate to the similarities between their own lives and the lives of others. Integration efforts however, come in more than one form. In November this year, IOM UK accompanied a group of refugees to a football match at Wembley Stadium. This served as an example of an existing community space that can provide a common purpose for integration. The results of using an existing communal atmosphere were incomparable.

A comprehensive approach by the government and society to integration is important for achieving successful outcomes that lead to strengthened social cohesion, greater economic activity and a win-win for the refugees and host societies. This International Migrants Day, we seek to celebrate these initiatives fostering integration and emphasise the need to continue to support these initiatives. Further development of a national integration strategy, and also more localised integration strategies supported by both government and community groups are therefore vital.

Opinion piece by Dipti Pardeshi, Chief of Mission at IOM UK, first published by Thomson Reuters Foundation News

[1] McKinsey Global Institute, ‘People on the Move: Global Migration’s Impact and Opportunity’, - J Woetzel et al, December 2016.
University College London, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration, Christian Dustmann and Tommaso Frattini, “The Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK”, Economic Journal, Vol.124, Issue 580, pages F593–F643, 2014.
OECD, Migration Policy Debates, ‘Is migration good for the economy?’, May 2014
International Monetary Fund, Spillover Taskforce, ‘Impact of Migration on Income Levels in Advanced Economies’ – Florence Jaumotte, Ksenia Koloskova, and Sweta C. Saxena, 2016.