The history of migration is as old as the history of humanity. People have moved for many reasons, ranging from wars to better economic prospects, from climate change to geographical discoveries. In 2017,  the global migrant population was estimated to be approximately 257 million, of which 25.9 million were refugees. 

There has been a significant rise in refugee flows across the world recently, with the number of refugees increasing from 13.3 million in 2005 to 25 million in 2016. Although the influx of refugees to Europe since the outbreak of civil war in Syria is only a small fraction of global refugee flows, it has received significant attention in the media and among the international community. This influx coupled with an inflammatory public discourse resulted in restrictive measures not only towards refugees but also towards regular migrants. 

The need to re-establish the distinction between refugees and migrants have led us to compile this page as both movements have different implications for the Justice and Security Sectors in countries of origin, transit and destination. Framing the international norms governing migration and refugees, this page puts forward examples of good practice of migration governance. 

Definitions - Distinguishing Migration and Forced Displacement

Migrant: Any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a State (IOM). 

Forcibly displaced: A person who is forced to migrate due to persecution, war or violence. This definition includes refugees, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and asylum seekers (UNHCR). 

The outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011 led to a significant increase in the refugee flows to Europe from the Eastern Mediterranean. Although the years 2015 and 2016 witnessed a sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers in Europe, host nations and local authorities were not adequately prepared for the magnitude of the incoming refugees. This period, which came to be known as the refugee crisis, was terminated with the signing of the "EU-Turkey Deal" reducing the number of Eastern Mediterranean crossings to a minimum. During this period, pictures and videos of the forcibly displaced coming to Europe in great numbers were widely circulated in the media. Immigration policies and public discussion on migration intensified both in national and international settings. This public discourse interchangeably used the words refugee and migrant, distorting the well established universal terminology on migration that is worth exploring here. 

The refugees from Syria as well as well as others fleeing conflict fall in the category of forcibly displaced. Forced Displacement refers to the fleeing of people due to war, conflict or direct threats to their security. The number of the forcibly displaced is estimated to be 25. 9 million in 2017, up from 13,3 million in 2005. Migration on the other hand, refers to the global movements of people due to various reasons. The global migration flow is estimated to be around 257 million in 2017. 

This distinction not only does justice to the internationally accepted terminology and policy frameworks but it also enables the SSR community to better design, implement and monitor justice and security responses to migration and forced displacement.

International Norms and Policy Framework

The international policy framework on refugees has been well grounded in the UN Refugee convention signed in 1951. This convention focuses on the human security of the refugee fleeing war and defines the responsibilities of the state parties to protect the refugee. The influx of refugees in 2015-2016 to Europe triggered the New York Declaration which resulted in the development of the Global Compact for Refugees and the Global Compact for Migration,  expected to be ratified by the end of 2018. Each compact is designed to provide a global response to migration and unexpected crises so that the immediate burden does not fall on the neighboring countries. 

Migration for Employment Convention - ILO, 1949

Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol - UNHCR, 1951

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights - UN, 1966

Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention - ILO, 1975

International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW) - OHCHR, 1990

Global Migration Compact - UN, 2018

Global Refugee Compact - UN, 2018

DCAF/ISSAT Knowledge Products

Over the years, ISSAT has monitored developments in the field of migration and forced displacement and closely followed the international responses to the phenomenon. As such, we have collated several Knowledge Products that address the issue and that are available to our members and partners. 

ISSAT Mandate with a Migration FocusSudan Police Scoping Mission - Mandated by Switzerland, 2018

Examples of Good JSSR Responses to Migration

Although migration is not a new phenomenon, dealing with large scale migration has been a challenge to host countries.  The section below highlights a selection of well designed migration policies  and justice and security responses drawn from several host countries. A clearly defined policy framework, together with well set up institutional mechanisms can lead to well designed and sustainable responses which benefit both migrant communities and host countries. 


Swiss Migration Partnerships

Starting from 2008, Switzerland established Migration Partnership agreements with 5 countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Nigeria and Tunisia. These partnerships frame Swiss cooperation with countries of origin and transit to promote the positive effects of migration. The objective of the partnership agreements is to address challenges arising from migration constructively and to encourage a degree of stability and good governance in the partner country. An external evaluation found out that the partnerships have institutionalised and legitimised long term cooperation especially with regards to the returns process.

Migration Governance in Sweden

Right to education: All children who live in Sweden have the right to attend school – including children seeking asylum and children who do not have a residence permit or the right to stay in Sweden.

All persons with a legal right to reside in Sweden and who can be expected to stay for one year or longer have the same rights as Swedish citizens. In 2013, health care rights were strengthened to grant irregular/undocumented migrants the same access to health care as regular migrants and asylum-seekers.

The Swedish labour market regulation makes few distinctions between Swedish and EU/non-EU citizens. As a result, non-EU migrants who have a work permit or who are exempt from the requirement for one have equal access to employment. Refugees and other beneficiaries of international protection have access to special introduction programmes aimed at facilitating their integration into the labour market. Other newly arrived migrants have access to information on the labour market through, for example, the Migration Agency, the Public Employment Service, social partners and several multilingual websites. An example is the The Swedish Trade Union Center for Undocumented Migrants established in 2008 to protect undocumented migrants from discrimination, low wages or any other exploitative practice due to their legal status. 

Sweden has a transparent set of rules relating to migration. The Swedish Migration Agency provides information on its website regarding these rules and regulations in an easy to understand manner. For example, the website offers a detailed explanation of the asylum application process translated into 20 languages, with infographics for further clarification.


Better Migration Management Programme (2016)

EU countries launched the Khartoum Process in 2014 to cooperate with states in East Africa and the Horn of Africa to reduce the causes of irregular migration from the region. Reducing irregular migration has become an important aspect of migration management in the European policy framework in addition to strengthening external border security and assisting boats in distress, strengthening the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and creating regular immigration options. Irregular migration which entails illegal border crossings generates the greatest human security risk among other forms of migration and hence, to address the root causes of irregular migration is extremely significant.  

Better Migration Management (BMM) programme was set up in April 2016, for an initial period of three years. It is financed by the EU Trust Fund for Africa (40 million euros) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany (BMZ, six million euros). The programme supports the Khartoum process and aims to deepen cooperation with Member States, strengthen the capacities of partner countries, reduce human trafficking and increase protection against violence and exploitation. Expertise France, the British Council, Ministry of Interior Units in France and Italy are among the implementation partners which are being coordinated by GIZ. In line with addressing the root causes of irregular migration, BMM focuses on

  • Helping partner countries to develop national policy strategies;
  • Setting up police, judicial and migratory policy authorities in the partner countries, inter alia, to prosecute human traffickers and improve border management
  • Protecting refugees and migrants, strengthening migrant rights, improving identification of individuals and promoting voluntary return and reintegration within the region
  • Promoting campaigns to raise awareness about the risks of irregular migration and alternative options.

The BMM addresses the need of long term prospects for the people in the partner countries. For this reason, the impact of the BMM Programme should be monitored in due course for its ability in reducing irregular migration from the region. Currently, the programme is praised for securing refugee and migrant care in the region: 

  • Djibouti: Mobile teams providing health care for refugees and migrants
  • Ethiopia: Planning a safe house for underage victims of human trafficking 
  • Eritrea: Providing initial and further training of investigators, prosecutors and judges to prosecute human traffickers

Resource: »Better Migration Management« A Good Approach to Cooperating with Countries of Origin and Transit?, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, SWP - 2017. 

European Migration Network

The European Migration Network is an EU network of migration and asylum experts who work together to provide objective, comparable policy-relevant information since 2008.

The European Commission (Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs) coordinates the European Migration Network. National Contact Points (EMN NCPs) are established in Member States with each EMN NCPs appointed by the relevant national government. EMN NCPs are located within Ministries of Interior and of Justice, specialised government agencies dealing with migration, research Institutes, non-governmental organisations or national offices of international organisations. The EMN gathers objective, policy-relevant, comparable and up-to-date information and knowledge on emerging issues relating to asylum and migration in Europe.

Challenges for the International Community

The development, migration and SSR agendas need to be aligned. 

Focusing on gender, education, health, citizenship policies in source, transit and destination countries will improve security of the concerned populations (SDG 16) and will eliminate the reasons for people to migrate. 

Collective responses are needed to tackle the challenges arising from migration and forced displacement. 

The migration trajectory is fluid; there is no single source or destination country, therefore a coordinated response is needed. Support to the Global Migration Compact is vital as the lack of international cooperation results in pragmatist agreements that could potentially violate international conventions and commitments. The EU-Turkey Deal as a quick solution for the governance crisis in Europe is an example. The Deal was found to be in breach of international law relative to the return of asylum seekers to a safe country. 

The international community needs to focus on long-term and sustainable solutions. 

Root causes of the crises need to be addressed in order to provide adequate response to similar situations. An example is the Sahel region where the focus of the international community is on tightening border control rather than promoting good governance. 

Host/transition countries need to move away from the perception of Migration as a source of insecurity.  

Migration is not a security issue in itself. If adequate immigration policies and practices are crafted, migration brings benefits to both origin and host countries. Although migration could have security implications, the idea that societies will be safe if they are able to stop migration is falsely grounded.