IOM-UNICEF strengthen sustainable reintegration services of migrants in Asia
21 July 2022
Over 2.1 million migrant workers returned to their home in ASEAN countries during the pandemic. Many are in need of sustainable reintegration assistance.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Thailand and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Regional Office for East Asia and Pacific held a three-day Regional Training Workshop on Sustainable Reintegration Services in Asia on 19, 20 and 21 July 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand. Around 35 government and non-government participants from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Mongolia, Thailand, and Viet Nam gathered to learn about challenges and best practices and discuss how to strengthen the coordination of services to support the sustainable reintegration of migrant returnees.
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have been significant for Asian countries, in particular for migrant workers and their families. The pandemic led to exacerbated vulnerabilities for migrants due to a multitude of factors including socio-economic, logistical, and health issues. Some migrants became stranded due to mobility restrictions, while others lost their income because of unemployment and unfavourable market conditions.
Authorities of the seven participating countries discussed existing practices as well as challenges faced in organizing the return and reception of migrants, as well as responding to the needs of victims of trafficking and those in exploitative situations. Children traveling with their families or unaccompanied are especially vulnerable in the context of returns and reintegration: the key principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, most notably the principle of the best interests of the child, must be applied, which calls for advanced coordination between governments and their partners to ensure adequate support. Underlying the complexity of the reintegration process, the training focused on the importance of an integrated approach to reintegration, taking into account social, economic and psychosocial dimensions.
“Children are often overlooked in return and reintegration processes. If children’s rights, needs and concerns are overlooked, then reintegration will not be sustainable. Understanding the principles that underpin child-sensitive return policies, as well as the safeguards that are required to protect children during returns processes, is therefore key,” explained Eri Mathers Suzuki, Acting Regional Advisor for Child Protection for UNICEF East Asia and Pacific.
Géraldine Ansart, Chief of Mission at IOM Thailand adds, “We are looking forward to the fruitful exchanges of best practices between the representatives of these governments and their civil society partners. IOM missions are working constantly to share methodologies and integrated approaches for sustainable reintegration as well as develop successful partnerships, with support from our Regional Office and Headquarters. Bringing in the expertise of UNICEF is a valuable collaboration to ensure reintegration services are attentive to the needs of migrant children as well as children who remain behind when their parents migrate.”
The training was organized with the support of the European Union (EU) through the EU-IOM Knowledge Management Hub initiative, as well as the United States’ Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. UNICEF’s engagement was made possible through the EU/UNICEF co-funded cross-regional programme “Protecting Children Affected by Migration in Southeast, South and Central Asia”.
The EU-IOM Knowledge Management Hub was established in 2017 under the Pilot Action on Voluntary Return and Sustainable, Community-Based Reintegration funded by the European Union. It aims at assisting the implementation of the EU-IOM Actions in support of migrant protection and reintegration by ensuring coherent voluntary return and reintegration approaches, including through capacity-building activities and cross-regional experience sharing workshops; harmonising monitoring and evaluation activities; setting up knowledge management tools; and producing knowledge products. As part of this, it is rolling-out a reintegration training programme, based on the Reintegration Handbook.