Global Resources

2015 situation report on international migration: migration, displacement, and development in a changing Arab region

Publisher: International Organization for Migration
Publication Date: Jan 2015

Human migration in the Arab region has a long and fascinating history. Whether it was nomads searching for fresh pastures, or today’s young students and scientists drawn to intellectual hubs, people have always moved with the aim of finding a better life. There is, however, a darker side to migration: movement that is forced through violence and war. In recent years, Syria, Yemen, the Sudan, and Libya, among others, have all seen significant campaigns of sustained conflict. As a result, millions of people have become refugees or internally displaced people (IDPs). It is in this context that the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the International Organization for Migration, and 12 United Nations agencies came together to investigate the plight of migrants and refugees in the region. This report represents the outcome of the investigation.

The report begins by outlining the three primary migration patterns in the Arab region: regular and irregular labour migration; forced migration; and mixed migration flows. With regard to labour, the Gulf countries are the primary destination, with Europe and North America following behind. Forced migration can be large in scale, and sudden, while the remainder somewhat defy categorisation, with a mixture of irregular flows and motives facilitated by human traffickers and migrant smugglers. The report then summarises international migration and emigration trends at regional and sub-regional levels, including socioeconomic-, sex-, and age-disaggregated data.

The third chapter presents an overview of developments in migration governance in the Arab region between 2012 and 2015. This work is based on a desk review of legal texts, government sources, media reports, and information provided by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Recent policy developments are discussed thematically, such as labour migration, human trafficking, and international cooperation on migration. Following this, the fourth chapter focuses on the link between development and forced migration, highlighting the need to coordinate holistic responses that incorporate health, education, environmental sustainability, labour markets, remittances, and social cohesion.

The report comes to a number of broad conclusions to consider in future responses to displacement:

  • Forced population movements in the Arab region will not cease until root causes are resolved, and political solutions to the conflicts are found.
  • The growth in refugee flows has put considerable pressure on basic infrastructure in host countries, as affirmed by the League of Arab States at the First Session of Intergovernmental Negotiations on the Post-2015 Development Agenda in January 2015.
  • As recognised by the Secretary-General of the UN, the inclusion of refugees, IDPs, and other displaced persons in the post-2015 development agenda was essential for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
  • There must be timely, adequate, and sustained financial support from the international community to aid host countries in the region.
  • Addressing displacement early within a development approach, and at a national level, is required to avoid some of the long-term problems described in this report.
  • All responses to displacement must be age- and gender-sensitive, and fully inclusive of persons with disabilities.
  • Access to education, healthcare, security and shelter, and other services is crucial for refugees and displaced children and youths.

Finally, the report outlines a number of observations and recommendations concerning practice within specific sectors involved in the response to displacement:

  • Health: in non-camp contexts, it is preferable to strengthen existing health systems in host countries to absorb displaced people’s needs, rather than establish parallel systems. Community-based approaches, and making use of trained people within displaced populations, are recommended alternatives and/or supplements to such an approach.
  • Education: as with health, it is best to strengthen existing systems in host countries where possible, and to provide alternative formal and non-formal education to displaced peoples where access is limited. Providing vocational training can help reduce dependence on long-term assistance, and employing qualified refugees and IDPs in education systems can mitigate the impact of displacement on native school systems.
  • Labour markets, human capital and remittances: policies should be enacted that seek to maximise the self-reliance of displaced peoples, protect them from exploitation, and facilitate their development to the benefit of the wider economy.
  • Environmental sustainability: displaced communities should be factored into national development and disaster risk reduction strategies, and be provided with help to adopt environmentally sustainable land use and resource management.
  • Social cohesion and stability: providing international assistance to host countries, implementing policies based on the principle of non-discrimination, incorporating gender into development planning, and promoting decentralised, community-based responses to acute and protracted emergencies, can all contribute to the maintenance of good relations between host populations and displaced people.