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Crisis Migration

About the Project

From the bubonic plague, the Irish potato famine and the great flood in China, to the more recent calamities in Japan, the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, hardly a week goes by in which ‘humanitarian crises’ do not precipitate some form of ‘crisis migration’. Whether it is the stranding of tens of thousands of migrant workers at the Libyan-Tunisian border, the exodus of malnourished individuals from famine-hit Somalia, or evacuations following Japan’s triple disaster, history warns of a need to respond to the migration implications of crises through effective and humane policies and practices.

Humanitarian crises—situations in which there is a widespread threat to life, physical safety, health or subsistence that is beyond the coping capacity of individuals and the communities in which they reside—occur with great frequency.  In these situations, people move within and across land borders, on a temporary or permanent basis, in a legal or irregular manner. People move on their own or with assistance from external actors, benefiting from evacuation mechanisms, voluntary migration programs or social and diaspora networks. Others resort to clandestine networks, traveling by land or sea, taking enormous security risks. Some, remain trapped unable to reach safety. Not all those who move or become trapped are nationals of the country undergoing a crisis; many are non-nationals, transiting or residing temporarily or habitually in legal or irregular status at the inopportune time.

With generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, ISIM launched a three-year project in late 2011 to explore the migration implications of a broad range of humanitarian crises and the associated protection needs of those affected by them. The project focuses on crisis-related movements that do not fit within legal and institutional frameworks designed to protect refugees—those who have fled due to a well-founded fear of persecution. The project’s recommendations will seek to identify principles and effective practices on (1) the rights of those who move or remain trapped in the context of humanitarian crises; (2) the obligations of governments; and (3) the responsibilities of international actors.

For more information, please download our Year One report

Institute for the Study of International MigrationHarris Building3300 Whitehaven St., Third FloorWashington D.C. 20007Phone: (202) 687.2258Fax: (202)

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