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Humanitarian System Suffers Serious Gaps on Migrants in Crisis

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 30 2015 (IPS) - Speaking at a panel discussion on migrants in crisis situations, Ambassador Michele Sison, Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, emphasised the increasing need to assist migrants affected by dire humanitarian and life-threatening situations.

“It is not right that hundreds of thousands of migrants are effectively left to themselves in this kind of chaotic or dangerous situation,” Sison said.

The panel discussion, held last week at the U.N. Headquarters, was co-organised by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Permanent Mission of the Philippines and the United States Mission.

This event was part of the New York Migration Series consisting of three briefings and three trainings, organised by IOM to raise awareness of migration amongst Permanent Missions, representatives of United Nations agencies, civil society and other stakeholders at the U.N. Headquarters.

Ambassador Irene Susan Barreiro Natividad, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations introduced the “Migrants in Countries in Crises Initiative (MICIC)”, led by the United States and the Philippines.

The initiative, which was created in the context of the Libyan crisis, aims at developing guidelines for the protection of migrants in crisis situations; to support countries of origin, transit and destination in assisting migrants returning from crises situations; and to address long-term consequences.

Kyung-wha Kang, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said international organisations and the U.N. had to realise that the humanitarian system suffers of serious gaps in assessing and addressing the needs of migrants caught in crisis situations.

“In the Central Africa Republic migrants are stranded. This confirms that we need to think more creatively to ensure that migrants are not overlooked in our humanitarian response,” Kang said.

Other vulnerabilities singled out include language barriers; lack of knowledge about services and rights; reservations to access services due to the fear of deportation; and lack of documentation.

Gender inequality especially with reference to mobility can place women and girls in particular danger of becoming victims of sexual and gender based violence, Kang said.

Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies underscored the specific vulnerability of migrants who are often caught in crises, and underlined the importance of assessing and addressing migrants’ specific vulnerabilities.

Regarding the involvement of the private sector, Abdiker cited a failure of the private sector in the Libya crisis in which companies did not provide any support.

Andrea Bellardinelli, Chief of the Italian Programmes at the Emergency non-governmental organisation (NGO) presented the NGO’s goal to provide free health care to vulnerable persons such as migrants, seasonal workers, homeless persons and unaccompanied minors.

Providing good health care services to migrants is not only a fundamental right but also prevents additional health care costs on the national system, according to Bellardinelli.

Secretary of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) Imelda M. Nicolas presented Philippines’ best practices and lessons learned in protecting the country’s nationals caught in crisis situations.

Philippines protection policy was developed during the Gulf War 1990/1991 and is based upon emergency preparedness, monitoring systems of political and environmental situations as well as the locations of citizens abroad, early warning systems, bi-lateral agreements with host states, as well as an active involvement of migrant communities.

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