Most of the world’s refugees who flee persecution in their home countries are unable to travel far beyond their country’s borders. They tend to live in refugee camps for many years in neighbouring states in difficult situations with basic needs that cannot be addressed in those countries. One of the ways to assist these refugees is to offer resettlement to another country which allows them to rebuild their lives in safety and security.
IOM was founded to assist in the resettlement of Europeans displaced in the aftermath of World War II and for the past 60 years has played a vital role in refugee resettlement around the world. In the last decade alone, IOM has organised the resettlement movements for 892,243 refugees from 186 locations around the world.
IOM UK plays an important role in the resettlement of refugees to the UK, working on health assessments, document handling and travel assistance before they are helped to settle in communities by local authorities and NGOs.
The Gateway Protection Programme is the UK’s national resettlement scheme which forms part of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) global resettlement programme. In addition, IOM UK coordinates the resettlement of Syrian refugees under the Syria Refugee Resettlement Programme and for Iraqi and Afghan nationals under the Direct Entry scheme. IOM’s role in the resettlement programme is focused on the pre-departure and travel stages and relies upon IOM’s global network of offices. Once in the UK, local authority and NGO partners provide integration assistance.
IOM UK is a member of the Refugee Week partnernship, a nationwide programme of arts, cultural and educational events that celebrates the contribution of refugees to the UK and encourages a better understanding between communities. Refugee Week takes place every year around June 20th, to mark World Refugee Day.
For further information on the activities that IOM carries out in support of refugee resettlement to the UK, and as part of the European Resettlement Network, please see below.
Health Assessments and Travel Health Assistance
Health assessments and travel health assistance ensures that refugees are fit to travel. Health assessment protocols are based on the guidance provided by the UK government and are performed prior to a refugee’s departure for resettlement. Pre-departure refugee health assessments are intended to ensure that people travel in a safe and dignified manner, are fit to travel, receive appropriate assistance when required, and do not pose a hazard to other travellers or receiving communities.
Pre-Departure Cultural Orientation
Pre-departure cultural orientation is designed to assist refugees to develop realistic expectations and to become self-sufficient more quickly. Topics addressed in the cultural orientation include housing, health, money management, role of resettlement service providers, education, cultural adaptation, rights and responsibilities, and others.
Pre-embarkation briefings prepare refugees for their flight, including what to expect at the airport, in-flight, while in transit and upon arrival in the country of destination. This helps first-time travellers feel less anxious and more prepared for the journey.
IOM’s movement and travel operations ensure that refugees are transported smoothly from remote, often far-flung locations to their final resettlement destinations. Movement services for refugees may include any of the following:
- Obtaining travel documents: exit permits, transit/entry visas, passports, etc.
- Transportation to and passenger handling at embarkation airports: assisted check-in, help with customs and immigration formalities, etc.
- Arrangement of international and domestic air tickets: reduced fares, preferential baggage allowances, selected routings, etc.
- Provision of operational/medical escorts: help for passengers with special needs, monitoring and attending to medical requirements en route, liaison with flight staff and other authorities, etc.
- Assistance in transit: meals and accommodation as needed, direction to connecting flights, booking adjustments, etc.
- Arrival assistance: notification and handover to reception authorities, etc.
European Resettlement Network
Since 2007, IOM, UNHCR and ICMC have worked in partnership to facilitate European cooperation in refugee resettlement. The European Resettlement Network now also includes members from national, regional and local government, international organisations, civil society, academia, as well as others working at all stages of the resettlement process.
In 2013-14, the European Resettlement Network entered a new phase of development under a new joint IOM, UNHCR and ICMC project, ‘Strengthening the response to emergency resettlement needs.’ The project will support the existing European Resettlement Network and as such further promote cooperation among different stakeholders, and further build their capacity to increase and improve resettlement efforts. It will also focus on raising awareness of emergency resettlement, conducting outreach, and facilitating mutual learning and exchange of good practices amongst European Resettlement Network members and stakeholders.
For more information on the objectives and activities of the European Resettlement Network or to become a member you can visit the EU Resettlement Network website.
IOM UK works in partnership with the British Red Cross (BRC) to support the family reunification of refugees residing in the UK that have close family members still living in another country. Under UK and international law, refugees have a legal right to be reunited with their families who are abroad.
The Family Reunion Travel Assistance (FRTA) project allows eligible applicants who are not able to afford the travel costs to be reunited with their family members. The BRC assists individuals in covering the costs and IOM then provides end-to-end support in all travel logistics to bring the family members together. IOM offer the following services within the project:
- Flight bookings and internal transportation
- Assistance with obtaining exit visas if needed
- Ad hoc assistance on any other travel matter where necessary
- Ensuring all families are travel-ready
- In cases where an unaccompanied minor is set to travel, providing an escort
In 2015, IOM and the BRC assisted more than 1,000 individuals with family reunification.
For more information, please see the British Red Cross website here.