Deployment of Experts
Photo: ICMC expert Gibson Karuma advises refugees in Kigeme Camp in Rwanda. For forcibly displaced people, receiving adequate information about their rights and available services is vital. © Gibson Karuma/ICMC Archive
Protecting Refugees in a COVID Era
In 2020, the unparalleled global disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic created a particularly complex context for the ICMC Deployment Scheme. Through this 20-year partnership with the UN Refugee Agency, ICMC has sent experts in refugee settlement and protection to support UNHCR field operations throughout the world.
Country lockdowns, travel bans, and quarantines limited or curtailed face-to-face interviews with refugees at UNHCR duty stations until mid-year, when remote interviewing procedures were gradually rolled out. Travel restrictions made travel to and from assignment location difficult, and many ICMC experts took up teleworking until they were able to deploy to the field. Flight bans also caused significant delays in refugee departures to resettlement countries, leading to much hardship and distress for those ready to leave to start a new life.
Despite pandemic restrictions, ICMC was able to respond to refugee resettlement needs worldwide, thanks to robust partnership and collaboration with UNHCR and the Government of Canada’s agency for immigrants and refugees (IRCC). ICMC deployed 82 experts to field operations in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and Northern Africa in 2020. It also maintained a roster of 507 experts, allowing it to react rapidly to evolving needs.
Once remote processes had been put into place, ICMC personnel interviewed refugees via video and phone conferencing to assess their claims for resettlement. Deployed experts also advocated with resettlement States for more flexible processing to ensure that resettlement quotas were maintained.
In 2020, ICMC personnel submitted the cases of 24,416 refugees for consideration for resettlement to third countries, significantly strengthening UNHCR’s referral capacity in the midst of the pandemic. ICMC further provided much needed support through the deployment of experts in child protection, refugee status determination, complementary admission pathways, and the prevention of sexual and gender-based violence. In addition, ICMC personnel developed a number of valuable new tools and procedures for interviewing and counseling refugees.
To assist Deployment Scheme experts in navigating the pandemic situation, ICMC developed a COVID-19 questions-and-answers document and provided regular updates, guidance, and check-ins.
Resettlement offers a durable solution for those who cannot fend for themselves. ICMC, in partnership with UNHCR, provides a lifeline. We focus on refugees who require resettlement because of their background and vulnerability.
Erik Morrison, ICMC resettlement expert deployed to Mexico
Strengthening UNICEF’s Child Protection Capacity
In 2020, ICMC launched a new deployment partnership with UNICEF to provide rapid, vital help for children caught in humanitarian disasters. Through this Standby Arrangement, with funding from USAID, ICMC is bolstering the UN Children’s Agency’s capacity to respond quickly and efficiently to children, women, and families in situations of both sudden-onset and protracted crisis. By deploying qualified personnel in child protection, psychological support, and the prevention of gender-based violence to UNICEF operations throughout the world, ICMC is playing a key role to protect the lives, rights, and futures of children on the move.
In every emergency, children are among the most affected. This new partnership with ICMC will improve UNICEF’s emergency response capacity, enabling us to provide life-saving assistance to children in need.
Meritxell Relaño Arana, Deputy Director, UNICEF Office of Emergency Programs
ICMC sent its first expert under this agreement to assist UNICEF’s operation in Libya, where a decade of political instability and armed conflict has uprooted children and their families. Economic collapse, deteriorating basic services like healthcare and education, and the COVID-19 pandemic have sharply increased children’s vulnerability. Libya also is a migration destination and transit country, with some 47,000 migrant and refugee children who are at particular risk of violence, exploitation, and abuse. Based in Tunis, Tunisia, for security reasons, this ICMC expert coordinated inter-agency child protection efforts and enhanced systems to ensure that children could not only survive but also grow and develop in safety and dignity.
Offering International Protection in Greece
In 2020, nearly 120 ICMC experts in Greece provided operational support for UNHCR and national authorities. ICMC personnel played a crucial role in responding to the international protection needs of some 94,950 newly arrived refugees and migrants, an increase of over 20,000 from the previous year. Children, a particularly vulnerable group, made up over one-third of those reaching Greece in 2020.
Committed to the humanitarian obligation “Do no harm,” ICMC experts respected national pandemic protocols at all times, suspending travel when advised and switching to remote work as needed. As protective measures, ICMC ensured that staff received personal protection equipment and guidance on preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
ICMC experts assisted UNHCR to put into place more efficient procedures to register uprooted people arriving in Greece and to improve conditions in related reception centers. They further helped the UN Refugee Agency to reduce the vulnerability of new arrivals by developing fairer, faster asylum procedures, as well as providing information about the process to those seeking asylum and other people of concern. ICMC asylum experts also contributed to analysis of asylum seekers’ country of origin as well as documentation processes.
Special attention was paid to children and other uprooted people with heightened vulnerability. ICMC experts assessed the protection needs of children on their own, families, and other people seeking asylum in order to decide a course of action in their best interests and prioritize placements for the most vulnerable.
ICMC deployed personnel to a number of locations in Greece to assist UNHCR, under coordination of the European Asylum Support Office, and supported the relocation of unaccompanied children to EU Member States as part of an agreement to protect vulnerable asylum seekers. ICMC experts assessed the best possible care arrangement for unaccompanied minors and provided those being considered for relocation with information about the process and relevant legal aspects.
Since detention continues to constitute a core policy of Greek authorities to address irregular migration, ICMC experts supported UNHCR efforts to improve conditions in detention centers and prevent arbitrary detention.
ICMC personnel strengthened the refugee integration efforts of municipalities all over Greece. A three-expert team spearheaded activities of the Cities Network for Integration, an initiative of the Municipality of Athens, backed by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration.
An ICMC advocacy expert gave targeted assistance to the Racist Violence Recording Network, established in late 2011 by UNHCR and the Greek National Commission for Human Rights, to craft an effective response to increasing xenophobic violence. Core work included highlighting the nature and context of incidents of racially motivated violence and drafting policy recommendations for authorities.
To help stateless persons access protection, an ICMC expert was deployed to the Special Secretariat for Citizenship Issues of the Ministry of Interior, assisting staff to compile and process essential statistical data.
In September following the fire in Moria reception camp on the island of Lesvos, three ICMC-affiliated staff were deployed to assist UNHCR in providing asylum seekers with emergency shelter and essential relief items.
Protecting children … means safeguarding children’s futures and their capacity to lead their community’s long-term recovery, whether that be in a host country, country of origin, or third country.
Introduction to Section 2.9 in “Implementing the Global Compact on Refugees for Children: Examples of Child-Focused Work”