Migrants playing at a Migration Response Centre in Obock, Djibouti. Situated in strategic locations along the main migration routes, in particular along the Eastern Route from the Horn of Africa towards the Gulf Cooperation Countries, MRCs facilitate the identification of migrants in vulnerable situations and ensure that they receive appropriate, immediate and short-term support, including direct assistance and referrals to government entities and service providers. Photo: Alexander Bee/IOM

Nairobi – Staff from the International Organization for Migrations (IOM), Migration Response Centres (MRCs) and similar facilities, along with partners organizations, met last week (27-29/9) in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss how to improve and strengthen the services provided to thousands of vulnerable migrants and migrant returnees in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, and Yemen. 

MRCs provide critical lifesaving support to vulnerable migrants each year in these countries, including food, water, shelter, and urgent and critical medical and mental health support. MRCs also provide information on assisted voluntary return and reintegration back home. The centres also fill one of the most critical gaps, helping to identify migrants, as many travel without any form of identification leaving them stuck or stranded, unable to return home, and unable to move forward to their desired country of destination. As a consequence of the extreme situation they face, many migrants can fall victim to violence, exploitation, and abuse by people traffickers and others. 

The region in East and Horn of Africa where MRCs are situated, including stretching to the Gulf state of Yemen, is characterized by one of the world’s most complex and mixed migration movements. Thousands of migrants travel along three main routes leading out of Africa – the Eastern route towards the Arabian Peninsula, where most of the MRCs are situated, but also the Northern Route towards Northern Africa and Europe, and the Southern Route towards South Africa. 

There are 12 MRCs in the region aiding more than 10,000 vulnerable migrants each year. MRCs might be the only facilities migrants come across along these dangerous routes when they need help, along with assistance from local communities. 

“MRC Hargeisa strives to assist migrants with quality direct service provision and local referrals. With the support of IOM, we have been able to effectively do so with the use of the Migrant Response Center Information System (MRCIS). MRCIS has strengthened our case management processes and allows for the analysis of migration trends to continually adapt our programming,” stated Ahmed Salim Osman MRC Hargeisa Director.

During the workshop IOM staff and other participants discussed case management, the delivery of services, the strengthening of referral mechanisms, as well as the life cycle and management of MRCs. The workshop also included introductory training on psychological first aid and introduced tools developed by IOM such as the Determinants of Migrant Vulnerabilities (DoMV) toolbox and the Migrant Resource and Response Mechanisms (MRRM) toolkit.

“Scores of stranded and vulnerable migrants make their way to any one of 12 MRCs in the East and Horn of Africa to access various services, including medical attention, information and assistance to return to their countries of origin. Leveraging the strategic location and engagement of MRCs, it is critical that all partners consider MRCs as collective spaces aimed at the comprehensive assistance and protection of migrants and returnees in vulnerable situations and jointly move towards the gradual handover of the centres to governments,” said Mohamed Abdiker, IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa.

Governments in the region also play a role to by helping to manage MRCs, secondment of staff, contributing to the MRCs’ running costs, with in-kind contributions such as the donation of land or buildings, or provision of services to MRC beneficiaries.

The workshop was organized EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa (JI), the Better Migration Management (BMM) Programme, and under the umbrella of Regional Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen.

Partners have agreed to strengthen MRC ownership and capacity via strategic partner involvement, as part of the Regional MRC Strategy for the East and Horn of Africa and Yemen (2021-2024). Sharing good practices and experiences with migration support centres and partners elsewhere cannot be overemphasized. 

About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative

 Launched in December 2016, with the support of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, along with the European Union and the International Organization for Migration, around the goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed, and better governed for both migrants and their communities.

The Better Migration Management (BMM) Programme is a regional, multi-year, multi-partner project co-funded by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The overall objective of the programme is to improve the management of safe, orderly, and regular migration in the region and support national authorities in addressing the smuggling of migrants and the trafficking of human beings within and from the East and Horn of Africa (EHoA) region. The programme is implemented by British Council, Civipol, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and covers Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Uganda.

The Regional Migrant Response Plan for the Horn of Africa and Yemen is a multi-stakeholder, multi-year and multi-country coordination framework bringing together governments, the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) as well as international and national NGOs in Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti and Yemen to strengthen humanitarian and protection assistance to migrants in vulnerable situations; support durable and development-oriented approaches to return, sustainable reintegration and community stabilization; strengthen protection of migrants by building the capacities of Governments; and strengthen partnership and collaboration around evidence-based analysis of drivers of migration needs and trends of migration along this route.