IOM in the World

IOM in the World

IOM, or as it was first known, the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe (PICMME), was born in 1951 out of the chaos and displacement of Western Europe following the Second World War.

Mandated to help European governments to identify resettlement countries for the estimated 11 million people uprooted by the war, it arranged transport for nearly a million migrants during the 1950s.

A succession of name changes from PICMME to the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) in 1952, to the Intergovernmental Committee for Migration (ICM) in 1980 to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 1989, reflects the organization's transition over half a century from logistics agency to migration agency.

While IOM's history tracks the man-made and natural disasters of the past half century - Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Chile 1973, the Vietnamese Boat People 1975, Kuwait 1990, Kosovo and Timor 1999, and the Asian tsunami and Pakistan earthquake of 2004/2005 - its credo that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society has steadily gained international acceptance.

From its roots as an operational logistics agency, it has broadened its scope to become the leading international agency working with governments and civil society to advance the understanding of migration issues, encourage social and economic development through migration, and uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants.

The broader scope of activities has been matched by rapid expansion from a relatively small agency into one with an annual operating budget of an estimated $1.3 billion and some 8,400 staff working in over 150 countries worldwide. IOM currently has 155 Member States and a further 11 states holding Observer status.

As "The Migration Agency" IOM has become the point of reference in the heated global debate on the social, economic, and political implications of migration in the 21st century.

IOM works in the following areas of migration management:

Migration and development

Migration is considered one of the defining global issues of the early twenty-first century, as more and more people are on the move today than at any other point in human history. If properly managed, the international migration can contribute to the growth and prosperity of countries of origin and of destination, as well as benefit migrants themselves. IOM, therefore, aims at harnessing the development potential of migration for the benefit of individual migrants and societies.

The programme activities in this area include: promoting policy establishment in the field of migration, strengthening the capacity of governments and partners to involve migrant populations in development processes in their countries of origin, fostering economic and community development in areas prone to economically induced outward migration, support of human capital development through labour migration programmes, enhancing the development impact of remittances on both  sender and recipient countries, and facilitating the return and reintegration of qualified nationals.

Migration and health

Migrants in each country benefit from an improved standard of physical, mental, and social wellbeing, which enables them to substantially contribute to the development of their home communities as well as host societies. IOM seeks to promote comprehensive preventive and curative health programmes and services which are beneficial and accessible for migrants and meet the needs of States in managing the migration. IOM assists in the health policy development and in capacity building in order to strengthen health of migrants and to provide them with a health care.

Facilitating migration

Mobility is an essential feature of today’s world. Integrated world markets, the emergence of transnational networks and the rapid growth of communication technologies all contribute to the increasing movement of both high and low-skilled workers, students, trainees, families and tourists. The changing demographic and social structure in the industrialized world has created the need for workers and professionals from other countries. Large-scale migration represents potentially difficult adjustments, but economies that desire to remain competitive cannot ignore the need for change. Legal labour migration can thus be a so called “win-win” solution.
Apart from providing policy and technical advice on the regulation of migrant labour and other migratory movements, IOM carries out programmes to assist governments and migrants with recruitment, language training, pre-departure cultural orientation, pre-consular support services, arrival reception, and integration as well as their return. These services, tailored to each programme, are provided seamlessly during all stages of the process from providing information and accepting applications, through document verification, conducting interviews, health assessment, and logistics management, to integration support which can help ease the difficulty of adjustment to a new culture, while ensuring social harmony between new and old members of the community.

Movement, Emergency & Post-Conflict Migration Management

Programmes in this area include resettlement assistance, repatriation assistance, emergency and post-emergency operations assistance. IOM assists refugees during and after crisis and it provides a permanent solution for some of these refugees through refugee resettlement schemes. Moreover, it develops activities to assist internally displaced persons, ex-soldiers, victims of ethnic conflicts, and communities which are in the transition and recovery process. With its expertise, IOM runs extensive compensation programmes in the post-conflict areas.

Regulating Migration

Unregulated migration can involve social, financial, and political costs for the individuals, society, and governments alike. Comprehensive, transparent, and coherent approaches to migration management can help address irregular migration, including migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings, minimize the negative impact of migration, and preserve its integrity as a natural social process. Good governance in migration matters at national, regional, and international levels is increasingly recognized as key to ensure orderly and humane population movements. IOM assists governments in the development and implementation of migration policy, legislation, and administrative mechanisms that enhance migration management such as replacing irregular migration flows with orderly, organized migration what serves the interests of all governments. IOM in this aspect implements programmes to facilitate the voluntary return of unsuccessful asylum seekers, stranded persons and other migrants, and their reintegration in countries of origin, taking into account the needs and concerns of local communities. Besides, IOM takes a rights-based approach to implementing a wide range of activities in support of the victims of trafficking in persons, providing technical assistance and training for governmental migration managers on border management, visa systems, regulating entry and stay, collecting and using biometric information etc.

Reparation Programmes

The challenges of migration in the twenty-first century increasingly demand actions by IOM beyond its traditional services. Post-emergency and post-crisis situations, for example, are unpredictable and likely to occur in any part of the world, in particular as a consequence of ecological degradations and disasters. Similarly, as more and more governments are called upon to return and/or compensate persons dispersed worldwide who have suffered displacement, dispossession, persecution, or other forms of personal harm under former regimes, IOM is being called upon to assist through its global network.

General Programmes

Some activities undertaken by the Organization are of a general nature and support a wide range of programmes cutting across specific areas of migration management. Among these are Migration Policy and Research, and Stranded Migrant Facility.

Research and analysis are key to understanding migration, developing effective new policies, and designing sustainable practical approaches. Providing public information on migration trends, challenges, and opportunities is a key function of the Organization. The regularly-published World Migration Report provides an overview of major migration trends and policy issues around the globe.

IOM seeks to strengthen its role in spreading, understanding, and implementing IML (International Migration Law). Along with governments and other partners in this area, IOM carries out training and capacity building activities on IML. Regular consultations among governments facing common migration challenges have become particularly important. With IOM’s substantive and logistic support, regional consultation processes exist in the Americas, Europe, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region. At the global level, the IOM Council’s International Dialogue on Migration is the principal international forum for intergovernmental migration policy debate, fostering enhanced understanding and cooperation on migration.

Migration, Climate Change and the Environment  

Environmental factors have long had an impact on global migration flows, as people have historically left places with harsh or deteriorating conditions. Migration caused by climate change is expected to grow as it can be a survival strategy in the event of climate change and environmental degradation.

Migration, climate change, and the environment are interrelated. Just as environmental degradation and disasters can cause migration, movement of people can also entail significant effects on surrounding ecosystems. Migration often seems to be misperceived as a failure to adapt to a changing environment. Instead, migration can also be an adaptation strategy to climate and environmental change and is an essential component of the socio-environmental interactions that needs to be managed because migration can have significant environmental repercussions for areas of origin, areas of destination, and the migratory routes in between and contribute to further environmental degradation.

Among long-term objectives of environmental migration is to support responsible government of individual countries in order to reduce environmentally induced migration. IOM aims at reducing vulnerability of populations exposed to environmental risk factors; assisting populations on the move as a result of environmental causes; and building the capacities of governments and other actors to face the challenge of environmental migration.

You can find more information on IOM worldwide activities on the global website