January 2012, New York, USA – On 13 December 2011, the UNITAR New York Office, jointly with IOM, UNFPA, MacArthur Foundation and the NGO Committee on Migration, commemorated International Migration Day with a panel discussion on “Migrants in Crisis Situations: Human Security Concerns.” The Panel aimed to provide delegates with a comprehensive knowledge foundation regarding migrants’ human security concerns, especially in relation to the recent conflict in Libya, and to explore the practices and policy strategies to protect migrants affected by conflict. Approximately, seventy delegates attended.

UNITAR’s New York Office, head, Yvonne Lodico, defined human security concepts, emphasized that state security and human security are intertwined, but one may not guarantee the other. This is particularly the case for states caught in extreme situations, such as Japan after the Tsunami or such as Libya during and after the political strife. Turmoil may place the human security for everyone in peril, but the migrants may find his or her human security especially threatened. Ann Pawliczko, Senior Project Advisor, Population and Development Branch with UNFPA briefed that migrants, especially female migrants are especially vulnerable to the human security crisis, and the international response to crisis is often fragmented and lacks long-term sustainability. She highlighted the rights-based, gender-sensitive approach of migrants to protect and empower the migrants are needed with better understanding of the issue.

Katsuhiko Takahashi, Minister of Economic Affairs at Permanent Mission of Japan emphasized that since 1994, Japan has sought to take a lead in disseminating the concept of human security and its implementation. The concept of human security influences Japan’s approach for national development policy, and represents a guiding principle for promoting equitable economic growth and building a resilient society. He urged many countries’ participation in the UN Trust Funds for Human Security. The H.E. Libran N. Cabactulan, Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Philippines, discussed the national comprehensive policy regarding Filipino migrants. The Philippines dedicates four agencies to support the migrant workers, mostly relating to those going abroad; the government provides ‘total support’ to protect a massive number of overseas Filipino workers. Dianguina dit Yaya Doucoure, Minister Counselor from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Mali, described the situation of the Malian migrants caught in Libya. He discussed the government’s actions to ensure Malian migrants’ repatriation and reintegration in Mali. He highlighted numerous challenges: limited state’s financial resources, lack of safety net, inconsistent statistical data, and lack of coordination.  Jane E. Bloom, Liaison Officer, International Catholic Migration Commission, defined the recent exodus in Libya as a complex, a mixed migration flow that has never been before, involving thousands of migrants fleeing. She depicted how several UN agencies organized to protect the migrants’ human security and emphasized ongoing critical needs of strengthening emergency response to provide protection to the most vulnerable in the complex, mixed migration flow.

Amy Muedin, Programme Specialist with IOM, explained the migrants’ situation in Libya and post-crisis challenges to protect migrants’ human security in Libya. She underscored that among the 785,000 migrants who left Libya since the beginning the crisis, Third Country Nationals (TCNs) accounted for 45% of the flows. Also, IOM carried out a massive effort to register and profile returning migrants. Timely intervention of the international community, however, prevented a serous humanitarian crisis and irregular flows. Grainne O’Hara, Senior Policy Advisor, UNHCR Liaison Office, discussed some important legal instruments to protect the civilians in crisis: such as human rights laws, international maritime law, and international criminal law including the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. All the panelists agreed and the 70 some attendees confirmed, that more attention and coordinated effort is required to ensure that migrants human security must be addressed, especially during turmoil and crisis situations.