IOM recognizes that the core need behind addressing the vulnerabilities of migrants is to determine how to effectively raise their levels of resilience to current and future stresses. To this end, the situation of each migrant participating in socio-economic resilience building activities is contextualized within their communities’ physical, social and economic wellbeing and resources and, at the same time, integrated with Government services.
Migrant Return and Reintegration Assistance
IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programmes will continue to form a major component of this area of cooperation through the provision of assistance to vulnerable Sri Lankan individuals and families who choose, but have no independent means, to return home. Over the years, IOM has assisted thousands of Sri Lankans to voluntarily return to Sri Lanka from many destination or transit countries around the world and to reintegrate into their communities of origin. IOM emphasizes that voluntariness remains a precondition for all of its AVRR activities. Return and reintegration programming continues to be considerate and informed of social and economic contexts and real-time challenges for returnees thanks to IOM’s long-term presence and well established network of contacts.
Limited economic opportunities, compounded by low skills to engage in income generation and livelihood activities within the communities of origin, represent important push factors for prospective irregular migrants and can present a barrier to the sustainable reintegration of those who choose to return home. Hence, IOM will complement individual reintegration assistance with small scale community productive infrastructure development linked to market driven job based skill trainings and job referrals or employment and income generating activities for community members, including youth. To provide each returnee the chance of a better future within their own communities, AVRR’s community development component will aim at developing both the physical infrastructure and human resource base through: a) institutional capacity building to committee members of Community Based Organizations (CBOs); b) technical support for CBOs; and c) links with private sector for collective marketing. Furthermore, IOM plans to provide improved access to psychosocial support services for returnees.
Returnees can only be truly reintegrated within their own communities if their future is supported by local-level decision making and empowerment through equal access to socio-economic opportunities and support networks. Therefore, IOM’s community-centered approaches aim at addressing the needs of both the returnees and their receiving communities and are sensitive to gender and the special needs of children and other highly vulnerable groups, as well as considering the economic and social challenges that may be faced by returnees.
Addressing migrants’ vulnerability
With the assistance of local institutions and community liaison officers in target villages where there is a high prevalence of irregular migration, IOM’s safe migration information campaigns will continue to enhance public access to accurate information on the risks of irregular migration and available options for legal and safe migration with an aim to enable potential migrants to make an informed decision about their choice to migrate. Building upon current actions, campaigns will be accompanied by an expanded IOM hotline service offering advice on safe migration to potential migrants. The hotline will also be used to generate statistics to help analyse migration patterns and perceptions and will assist IOM to identify and select beneficiaries for its campaigns and programming.
IOM adopts a dialogic approach to its safe migration outreach work by providing migrants and their communities with an opportunity to communicate directly about their situation and identify emerging concerns. This approach empowers them and serves as an important tool for exploring effective behaviour change and communication with the goal of better understanding potential migrants’ perceptions on migration, their push factors and how to best disseminate accurate information to deter attempts or re-attempts at irregular migration. Considerations of each migrant’s age, gender, livelihoods and education, as well as social, economic and special needs indicators are included in IOM outreach strategies and data are disaggregated to reflect these findings.
Activities to support the Government’s efforts in the prevention of, and response to, human trafficking will remain a priority area for IOM Sri Lanka through the provision of technical support to the National Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force which is coordinated by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and comprised of eighteen Government agencies. Recently, IOM supported the Task Force in the development and implementation of a nationwide anti-trafficking campaign through TV and social media as well as through awareness-raising sessions held at the grassroots level for CBOs and local level government authorities and training for law enforcement officials on identification, referral and assistance for victims of trafficking. IOM will now support the development of dedicated online training solutions for government officials at overseas diplomatic missions, the development of guidelines for effective government reporting on human trafficking cases, and will further explore means of replicating outreach and grassroots awareness work to other regions of the country which are known to be vulnerable to the occurrence of trafficking in persons.
Empowering vulnerable youth
Youth are one of the most at-risk groups in post-conflict Sri Lanka, struggling with issues such as finding employment and their exclusion from national reconciliation and social cohesion processes. Many Sri Lankan youth who have grown up over the past 30 years have been separated spatially, linguistically, politically and culturally and have been exposed to ideologies that spread suspicion, fear and mistrust. Furthermore, youth are prime target audiences for politically motivated groups to deepen existing polarizations between ethnic groups. Representing about a third of the total population of Sri Lanka, youth can and should play a crucial role in peace-building and reconciliation activities, particularly those that draw together youth from diverse communities in both urban and rural regions to be actively included in social, economic and political processes to secure a sustainable peace for the country.
A disproportionate number of youth from disadvantaged districts are resorting to irregular migration as a livelihood option. Past and ongoing safe migration campaigns of IOM reveal that a lack of livelihoods and income generating opportunities lead communities to seek migration opportunities, and often resort to irregular migration channels.
Against this backdrop, and based on recommendations from evaluations conducted on previous IOM projects, IOM will continue to ensure the inclusion of assistance for youth who are unemployed and the most marginalized.
The selection of youth for participation in skills development and training opportunities will be undertaken based on well-developed eligibility criteria. Following the identification of the training needs of selected youths, relevant service providers will be mapped. Accordingly, tailor made training programmes will be designed and delivered. Upon completion of the trainings, IOM will facilitate meetings between job providers and trained youths, and explore on the job training/job placement opportunities available with the local business community and the private sector.
IOM will also continue to enable trained youth to start group-based income generation activities. Each group will be assisted to start their business activities under the supervision of Government line departments or CBOs through the provision of small-scale machineries, equipment, and tools required for an income generation activity or assistance to establish a business at a small scale. Additionally, business development trainings will be provided to improve their capacity to leverage resources effectively.
Refugee repatriation and reintegration assistance
The long-drawn-out conflict in Sri Lanka, which came to an end in 2009, brought about the physical displacement of families and communities and the formation of a large refugee population in the Indian State of Tamil Nadu, which, since 1983, has traditionally hosted Sri Lankan refugees. The Government approved a National Policy on Durable Solutions for Conflict-Affected Displacement which aims to ensure that all those who have endured displacement will be restored to a life of normalcy, safety and dignity. Against this outset, the conditions are more conducive for the voluntary, informed, dignified, and sustainable return and reintegration of Sri Lankan refugees from Tamil Nadu.
To this end, in partnership with the UNHCR and other partners, IOM will contribute to ongoing and future initiatives of the Ministry of Resettlement and other relevant ministries through: a) enhanced preparedness for return and repatriation through outreach, profiling, registration and other pre-departure support services in Tamil Nadu; b) orderly, safe and dignified repatriation assistance; and c) sustainable reintegration through combined individual and community based support services at the arrival and post-arrival stages. Social cohesion activities will be an integral feature of this work in line with IOM’s Approach to Social Cohesion and Reconciliation.
 Reintegration can be considered sustainable when returnees have reached levels of economic self-sufficiency, social stability within their communities, and psychosocial well-being that allow them to cope with (re)migration drivers. Source: IOM, Towards and integrated approach to sustainable reintegration in the context of return, 2017
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