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Migration, Development and Natural Disasters

Insights from the Indian Ocean Tsunami

image of Migration, Development and Natural Disasters

According to the present report, the recent Asian tsunami highlights the need to take migrant communities, both regular and irregular, into account when planning for natural disasters in order to ensure they are treated in accordance with the core principles of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. The report concludes that a number of measures need to be taken to ensure that migrants are fairly treated in the aftermath of a disaster, including the setting up of systems to monitor their immediate, medium and long-term well-being.

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Vulnerability of migrants post-natural disaster

The status of being a migrant can lead to increased vulnerability post-disaster due to compromised access to services and protection in the affected area. Legal residence rights can become a real or perceived bar to assistance. This is particularly crucial for irregular migrants who lack legal rights in the first place. However, it can also affect regular migrants who may lose their documents in the disaster and find themselves in a legally precarious situation. Internal migrants may also be implicated, as there may be rules on the registration of internal movements. Access to assistance may be further complicated by linguistic, cultural and religious barriers, as, for example, aid not being adapted to the particular needs of migrant communities, and information not being available in the migrants’ languages, or the provision of food they are not used to. Moreover, they may not be sufficiently aware of their entitlements, a problem affecting certain categories of migrants, in particular women.

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