March 26, 2023

Category: Immigration

DimitrisAvramopoulos, Immigration, Miscellaneous

Outsourcing asylum

As the EU considers outsourcing asylum screening to North Africa, our Migration Editor looks at what lessons can be learned from Australia’s use of offshore processing for asylum seekers.

Australia’s offshore processing centre for asylum seekers on Manus Island

LONDON, 17 March 2015 (IRIN) – As Europe braces for a summer of record maritime migrant arrivals, the EU has revived plans to establish processing centres beyond the borders of the Union. 

All indications are that the onset of calmer waters on the Mediterranean will lead even more people to attempt the crossing this year than did in 2014, when over 170,000 reached Italy’s shores alone. As conflicts in Syria, Libya and elsewhere rage on, over 8,000 migrants and asylum seekers arrived by sea in the first two months of 2015 compared to 5,500 during the same period last year, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
Amid a growing sense of alarm, particularly among EU “frontline” states such as Italy and Greece, which receive the vast majority of sea arrivals, some European officials have renewed their enthusiasm for an old proposal to process migrants and asylum seekers outside the EU.

Germany’s Interior Minister was among the first to dust off the idea of setting up asylum centres in North Africa and Italy took up the proposal at a meeting of EU interior ministers in Brussels last week. The EU’s home affairs commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters afterwards that he would be visiting Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco “in order to create a zone in the area” to counter smuggling and irregular migration. 

“It’s about a humanitarian mission which would allow Europe to do screening and to dismantle a huge human trafficking market,” Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, explained. 

The proposal is being sold as a way to reduce the flow of migrants and asylum seekers embarking on perilous journeys to Europe by offering them legal ways to apply for visas or asylum in transit and origin countries. 

However, there are lessons to be learned here from Australia, where offshore processing began, ostensibly at least, as a way to ensure fair distribution of resettlement places; it has now overtly become a policy aimed at deterring migrants and refugees from ever reaching Australian soil. 

Australia started down the road of offshore processing more than 10 years ago when it began transferring asylum seekers intercepted at sea to detention centres on Nauru and Manus Islands. Measures implemented since then have become increasingly draconian and the evidence of human rights abuses at the offshore processing centres has piled up.

Canberra ignored warnings from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) that it was flouting its obligation as a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention to ensure people can access asylum, and recently wrote those obligations out of its domestic migration laws.  

In late 2013, Australia launched a military-led operation that has intercepted and turned back almost every boat carrying asylum seekers from Indonesia. Those detained on Nauru and Manu who are eventually recognized as refugees, can now only be resettled in Papua New Guinea, Nauru or Cambodia, according to bilateral agreements Australia has made with those countries.

“If you follow the logic of Australia’s policy, then you are going down a slippery slope”

“It’s become an out-of-sight, out-of-mind policy,” said Melissa Phillips, a migration researcher with the University of Melbourne. “If you follow the logic of Australia’s policy, then you are going down a slippery slope.”

There is no indication that Europe intends to follow Australia’s lead and intercept boats and send migrants to third countries for detention or processing of asylum applications. But public pressure on European governments to deter new arrivals is increasing – be it by detaining migrants or tightening borders.

However, different countries have different priorities and agendas when it comes to migration, and a system of processing asylum seekers in non-EU countries would depend on an agreement among member states about how recognized refugees would be distributed across the EU. Considering that a Common European Asylum Policy is still something of a pipedream and even the resettlement of Syrian refugees has been extremely uneven, it seems unlikely that member states will reach a consensus on this particular point.

Migrants detained in Libya, the departure point for most heading to Europe by sea

There are a number of other practical hurdles to setting up offshore reception centres, not least the question of their location. As the majority of boat departures in the past year have been from Libya, locating processing centres there would make sense except that Libya is in the midst of a violent conflict that is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco are potential candidates, judging by the EU home affairs commissioner’s remarks, but all three have worrying human rights records. How will the EU ensure that whichever country or countries end up hosting the reception centres, it runs them in compliance with international and EU refugee and human rights laws? 

The legitimacy and legality of the policy would depend to a large extent on endorsement and technical assistance from UNHCR. William Spindler, a spokesperson for UNHCR, told IRIN that although the refugee agency has not ruled out third-country processing of asylum claims through multilateral arrangements “in exceptional circumstances” and “subject to appropriate safeguards”, “UNHCR’s position is that asylum seekers should normally be processed in the territory of the State in which they arrive.”

He added that UNHCR is advocating for offering other legal avenues for those seeking international protection in the EU such as humanitarian visa schemes, extended family reunification and increased resettlement places more evenly distributed across member states. 

Migration researcher Nando Sigona who is based at the University of Birmingham, noted in a recent blog that “proposals like this are easier to write on paper than implement in practice and would require a significant devolvement of financial and human resources”. 

“It is over ten years that similar proposals championing externalisation of asylum processing are on the table but they never fully reach implementation stage,” he added. 

The current sense of urgency driving EU migration policy may be enough to get the current proposal off the drawing board. If so, will Europe avoid Australia’s “slippery slope”?


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ECHA, Immigration, Miscellaneous

IOM calls for the inclusion of migrants in TB prevention and treatment strategies

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Geneva — In today’s increasingly mobile and interconnected world, migration has become an integral part of the lives of about 215 million international and 740 million internal migrants. It also profoundly affects the lives of their families back home, as well as people in communities of migrant origin, transit and destination world-wide.

“On World TB Day, we note that despite well-established diagnosis and treatment regimens, TB remains a public health burden in many parts of the world, disproportionately affecting poor and marginalized populations, such as migrants. TB prevention and control efforts often do not address the specific vulnerabilities of migrants and we therefore frequently see delayed diagnosis and/or discontinued treatment of TB,” says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing. “The absence of targeted TB prevention, control and surveillance strategies for migrants is a barrier to reaching global TB elimination targets, including the aspirational goals of Zero TB Deaths, Zero TB Disease and Zero Suffering ,” he adds.

As many studies have shown, migrants and their families have higher levels of TB-related morbidity and mortality, as they generally lack access to routine TB diagnostics and continuity of treatment.

The way in which many migrants travel, live and work can carry risks for their physical and mental well-being.  Many work in dangerous, difficult and demeaning (3D) jobs, and live in isolation and sub-standard housing. Others may be detained in over-crowded detention facilities, or live in camps as refugees or internally displaced persons. Migrants are thus among the vulnerable groups that face a particularly high level of TB risk factors. Consequently, migration can be considered as a social determinant of health.

As part of IOM’s on-going global health assessment programme for refugees and immigrants, IOM conducts screening for TB and provides a range of comprehensive services, including physical exams, radiological interventions, sputum smears and cultures and directly-observed-treatment (DOT), either directly or through a referral system in partnership with national TB programmes.

It has adopted several state-of-the-art TB diagnostic technologies, including digital radiology and drug susceptibility testing (DST.) In 2011 alone, IOM conducted approximately 270,000 health assessment exams in over sixty countries, detecting about 755 TB cases.

In partnership with WHO’s TB REACH programme, IOM is increasing TB case detection and treatment among migrants in Lao PDR, Thailand, Nepal, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana and Myanmar.

In Cambodia, for example, IOM works to detect and treat TB among vulnerable migrants at the Cambodia-Thai border. Many Cambodians cross the border into Thailand to support their families as low-skilled, undocumented migrant workers. But in Thailand their access to health care is limited, and their work and living conditions put them at risk of contracting TB and other health problems. IOM uses community health workers to reach out to these migrants to improve their access to TB diagnosis and treatment.

IOM is also an active member and co-chair of the Scientific Working Group on TB and Migration at the International Union against TB and Lung Disease (IUATLD), which brings together the WHO and other UN partners, governmental and non-governmental partners, and migrant associations to address the challenges of working on TB and migration.

This week, IOM is participating in a high-level event in Swaziland with the South African and Swazi Ministers of Health and UNAIDS’ Executive Director Michel Sidibé. (

At the event, “Towards Ending TB and the TB/HIV Co-epidemic in SADC Countries,” IOM will emphasize the cross-border dimensions of TB in light of regional mobility patterns and confirm its on-going commitment to ending TB, especially in the mining sector where many migrants work.

IOM also carries out TB programmes as part of its comprehensive emergency response. In Jordan, for example, IOM is working with the local health authorities on active TB detection, referral and TB awareness-raising services among Syrians refugees and host communities, in close coordination with UNHCR and WHO. From March 2012 to date, 41 TB cases have been detected and referred for treatment from a screened pool of 196,931 refugees, while over 63,000 Syrians have benefitted from TB awareness-raising sessions. 

“IOM’s experience has shown that not addressing the health of migrants has severe consequences for the well-being of millions of migrants and communities of origin, transit and destination. In the case of TB, migrants urgently need to be included in national and global TB prevention and control strategies. For the achievement of global health goals, it is therefore indispensable that migrants’ health is addressed in the post-2015 UN development framework, and the World Health Assembly Resolution 61.17 on the Health of Migrants is implemented in all countries,” says Ambassador Swing.

See for instance: Alimuddin Zumla, M.D., Ph.D., Mario Raviglione, M.D., Richard Hafner, M.D., and C. Fordham von Reyn, M.D. (2013): Current concepts – Tuberculosis; in: The New England Journal of Medecine, 2013;368:745-55. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra1200894.

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Immigration, Miscellaneous

Migrant Health an Increasingly Important Policy Concern for Asia

Bangladesh – Governments must  play a greater role in ensuring labour migrants can access affordable health care while abroad,  representatives from nine Asian countries heard at a major regional consultation on migrant health which closed in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, yesterday (5/3).

The event, organized by IOM and the Government of Bangladesh examined how government health services should be aligned to accommodate the unique needs of labour migrants. Delegates agreed to work towards the creation of multilateral agreements between sending and receiving countries to ensure health is included within migration policies.

They also undertook to look at how to make the private sector more accountable for the health care of migrants it employs, and improve migrants’ access to health information in their own languages.

The regional consultation was founded on the soon-to-be-published IOM study on the “Baseline Assessment of the Health Vulnerability of Migrants in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan”. 

It pinpoints the high costs of healthcare and language barriers as key reasons why migrants fail to seek appropriate healthcare while abroad.  According to the study, 49 per cent of Bangladeshi and 32 per cent of Pakistani migrant workers found healthcare unaffordable while abroad, and as a result many chose to forgo both treatment and health insurance. 

In the case of Pakistan, migrants had no pre-departure training on health issues, and only 25 per cent of returnees had received health advice while abroad. Of these, 45 per cent reported difficulties understanding the content.

All nine participating countries – Cambodia, Philippines, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Viet Nam, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – shared experiences during the meeting, and agreed on the following key recommendations:

  • To establish health insurance packages at destination country through Governmental Cooperation for Migrants (following Thailand’s Health Premiums for Migrants).
  • To increase accountability of agencies and employers for the wellbeing of migrants, especially regarding healthcare coverage, contract transparency, acceptable working hours, and safe workplaces with zero-tolerance policies on sexual abuse and violence.
  • To produce language-appropriate health promotion, addressing relevant diseases, occupational hazards, mental health problems, sexual violence and the importance of prevention and seeking healthcare.
  • Destination-specific health information should be made available pre-departure.

Secretary for Bangladesh’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Syed Manjurul Islam told the meeting that his government is at an early phase of programme development. “We recognize that our current national health policy does not refer to migrant health and has no provisions to ensure specific responses. This is a major gap and that’s why we are grateful for IOM’s support in this endeavour.”

Sarat Dash, Chief of Mission, IOM Bangladesh, reaffirmed IOM’s commitment supporting governments on a comprehensive strategy for promoting and protecting the health of international migrants. “IOM is ready to support the Government and other important stakeholders in taking the lead in the process of developing a migration health strategy for the benefit of all.”

For more information, please contact

Sarat Dash
IOM Bangladesh
Tel. +8802 9889765

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Immigration, Miscellaneous

IOM May Assist in Nauru-Cambodia Refugee Relocation

Thailand – IOM has announced that at the request of three of its Member States – Cambodia, Nauru and Australia – it will develop a program aimed at facilitating the relocation and integration of refugees from Nauru to Cambodia.

IOM has communicated this decision to the Cambodian and Australian governments, who last year signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the Settlement of Refugees currently living in Nauru.

IOM, the world’s leading migration body, comprised of 157 Member States, believes this initiative will help improve access to services for all refugees in Cambodia.

Some 400 foreign nationals have been living in the Nauruan community since the Government of Nauru began making refugee status determinations in mid-2014. A further 800 foreign nationals are currently living in Nauru awaiting refugee status determination.

It is unclear how many will choose to move to Cambodia if offered the opportunity. Yet after a lengthy assessment and consultation process, IOM has decided to offer support to any foreign nationals living in Nauru, who freely and voluntarily make a decision to relocate to Cambodia.

IOM has built up global expertise over the past 64 years, having relocated millions to new home countries. The organization will offer similar services once the status of those foreign nationals in Nauru is determined and if they opt for relocation to Cambodia.

These services could include pre-departure orientation; language training and pre-travel preparation; arranging transport to and reception in Cambodia; and working with partner organizations and local authorities to help them find work and access services after they arrive.

IOM set out several conditions before agreeing to become involved in the relocation process. These included the possibility of family reunification for those who seek it; the right to live and work anywhere in Cambodia; sufficient funding for all aspects of the program to allow them to establish self-reliance, possibly to the point of naturalization for those who may need it; efficient provision of recognized legal documents that would allow them to access health care, educational and employment opportunities; sufficient time to prepare the integration package prior to arrival in Cambodia; and an agreement that all designated refugees in Cambodia, including those who are already in the country, would have access to similar entitlements.

The Government of Cambodia has given assurances that it will cooperate with IOM in fulfilling these conditions.

IOM will not be involved at any time in discussing relocation options and any decision to move from or remain in Nauru is one for the foreign nationals themselves and for the governments determining their eligibility for the program.

IOM believes that its involvement will facilitate improvements for the good of all parties in this extremely complex situation, bearing in mind IOM’s mandate to ensure the well-being and dignity of all migrants. Using IOM’s extensive and global operational experience with such programs, IOM can bring significant credibility to the process.

For more information please contact

Joe Lowry
IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
Tel. +66 818 708 081

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HumanTraffic, Immigration, Miscellaneous

Southeast Asia Study Shows Gaps in Health Care for Trafficking Survivors


Trafficking in persons is a gross violation of human rights that often involves extreme exploitation and abuse. Trafficked persons may have health problems that are minor or severe, but very few escape uninjured. Most people who are trafficked are exposed to health risks throughout the entire trafficking process—before, during and even after trafficking has ended—and caring for trafficked persons poses certain diagnostic and treatment challenges.
The guidelines and practices of frontline health care personnel are also of great importance to the recovery of victims. A manual and facilitator’s guide for health care providers will be presented at the workshop as one tool to improve healthcare responses to victims of trafficking.
Though many medical needs can be treated through standard clinical practices, those who have been trafficked have complex and diverse health needs and some may require a comprehensive and long-term strategy.

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Viet Nam – Human trafficking may lead to complex and long-term health complications, according to new research unveiled in Vietnam today.

The study, carried out in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region by IOM and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, highlights the health outcomes and consequences of human trafficking and calls for greater emphasis on the healthcare needs of victims of trafficking.

“Research on the health consequences of human trafficking remains limited, with the health care sector often left out of integrated responses to cases of trafficking,” said David Knight, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Vietnam, speaking at a November 21st workshop in Hanoi.  “There is a clear need for the active involvement of the health sector in directing trafficking-related policy and implementation,” he noted.

Co-funded by Spanish health agency ANESVAD and IOM, the study worked with local post-trafficking support organizations and the survivors themselves. It aimed to identify the health risks, consequences and service needs of people using post-trafficking services in Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam, and the resulting policy recommendations that will foster the development of integrated health policies for human trafficking responses.  

The workshop provides an opportunity for healthcare providers and other stakeholders to explore the health consequences and specific care needs of trafficked people. Policy gaps and recommendations also will be discussed.

Click here for a manual and facilitator’s guide for health care providers to be presented at the workshop.

For more information please contact:

David Knight
IOM Viet Nam
Tel: +8443736 6258 (Ext. 106)

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