Special lecture: Migration consequences of complex crises
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Recent humanitarian crises, whether set off by political conflict (Libya) massive earthquake (Haiti) or extensive flooding (Pakistan) have generated large and complex population flows – whether internal or across borders – before, during and after the events triggering the emergency. Nevertheless, the migration dimensions of such crises have been insufficiently addressed, both in theory and in practice.
While the drivers of crisis-related migratory movements vary, the challenges are particularly acute where poverty, political instability, weak governance, environmental degradation and natural disasters combine. Migration in response to an extreme crisis situation is common, yet the patterns of movement are far from straightforward.
As evidenced by previous crises, initially temporary displacement may become protracted; internal movements can spill across borders; and crises and displacement situations can give rise to other forms of migration such as search for work, migration to cities, irregular and mixed movements, trafficking and smuggling. Modern-day crisis situations clearly demonstrate that whether the movements of people are gradual or spontaneous – small or large-scale – they are increasingly likely to affect individuals and groups with different levels of vulnerability and different types of needs.
In light of these present-day realities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has sought to develop linkages between humanitarian and migration perspectives and improve its own responses to the migration consequences of complex crises. Instead of ad hoc reactions, the Organization is advocating for more systematic approaches on the part of national institutions and the international community to better manage the human mobility aspects of crisis situations.
During his visit to the University of Oxford, IOM’s Director General reflected upon the nuanced and complex relationship between crises and mobility, as well as the institutional set-ups and cooperation mechanisms that can complement and strengthen existing systems aimed at providing assistance and protection to crisis-affected populations. The discussion shed light on the types of migratory patterns that can result from complex crises; the effectiveness of migration policy tools in addressing certain aspects of crisis situations; and the ways in which mobility can be used as a positive strategy toward long-term recovery of crisis affected areas.