Supporting vulnerable migrants, refugees and other displaced persons is a long-standing tradition of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.  In today’s environment, even as the threats facing them have multiplied, the political discourse about their fate has hardened.


There is ample room for principled debate about migration, but there can be no doubt about the fundamental principle of humanity. Regardless of their legal status, all migrants are human beings and states must safeguard their safety, dignity and well-being. It is unacceptable that so many vulnerable migrants are facing death, exploitation and deprivation in ways that could be prevented without any loss of security or border control. This can and must change.  The Red Cross and Red Crescent is ready to do its part.

National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies engage – individually and together – with the IFRC, to address humanitarian concerns of vulnerable migrants throughout their journey, in countries of origin, transit and destination. They provide assistance and protection, promote rights, dignity and resilience, help identify opportunities, and promote social inclusion. Our policy and strategy supports the action of the Movement by setting principles and providing guidance on everyday work with vulnerable migrants, refugees and other displaced persons.

Our call to action on migrants

Today, many vulnerable migrants face unacceptable risks of death, abuse and exploitation.   Since 2014, more than 20,000 migrants have lost their lives or gone missing, and more than 2,500 are known to have died in the first eight months of 2017.  While figures are harder to come by, trafficking, exploitation, sexual abuse and other horrors are commonplace for many migrants in many contexts. Of particular concern are gaps in the protection of children on the move, especially those unaccompanied by their parents, who are most vulnerable to exploitation and abuse (see our policy brief here).

Migrants, in particular those without formal legal status (irregular migrants), are often denied access to services critical to meet basic humanitarian needs, such as emergency health care, or avoid service providers due to fear of arrest. Equally troubling are suggestions that the work of humanitarian organisations be curtailed or even criminalized when providing support to irregular migrants.  Meanwhile, prolonged detention is used with alarming regularity as an unnecessarily harsh means to control migration, even with extremely vulnerable populations, such as unaccompanied children.

In November 2017, the world’s 190 National Societies, joined by the IFRC and ICRC, unanimously adopted a “Movement Call for Action on the Humanitarian Needs of Vulnerable Migrants,” calling on states urgently to address these issues and offering their support to them in doing so.

The current negotiation process for the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration offers states an opportunity to develop joint solutions to these issues.  Click here for our policy brief.


Our call to action on displaced persons

We are deeply concerned about the fate of the millions of persons forcibly displaced, now in greater numbers than any time since World War II.  Those trapped in prolonged situations of forced displacement (whether as refugees or internally displaced persons) are particularly vulnerable.  Investments in their long-term well-being and accepting greater international responsibility-sharing are urgent. Moreover, investments in the role of local actors in addressing their humanitarian needs and supporting durable solutions, not only in situations of mass forced displacement, must be ramped up.

Finally, we must now start taking much more seriously the spectre of large-scale disaster-induced displacement, driven by the impacts of climate change. This growing possibility must be front and centre of climate change adaptation discussions at the global, regional and national levels.

The negotiation process for the Global Compact on Refugees offers an opportunity to address some of these issues, at least for those displaced across borders. Click here for our policy brief.

Our work on migration

With National Societies in 190 countries and 14 million volunteers around the world, the IFRC network has a truly global presence, allowing us to support migrants at different stages of their journeys in countries of origin, transit and destination.  Click here to learn about our programmes, tools and experiences.

Get involved

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