Policy and Partnerships

Thematic Info-Sheet


 RO Cairo MENA coverage


 Syria, Yemen, Libya

Covering period:

 2019 -2020

Contact Name(s):

 Kristina Mejo


Thematic Title – Regional Overview

Overall situation

Descriptive 2 paragraphs of the regional situation relating to your thematic area.

The UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants took place in New York in September 2016 marked a significant time in history. Notably, the issuance of the New York Declaration was a key document that opened the path to the development of two global compacts to be adopted in 2018 — one on refugees, and one for safe, orderly and regular migration

The New York Declaration recognized the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and enhanced cooperation at the global level to save lives, protection rights and share responsibility on a global scale. In December 2018, this concluded with the adoption of the two compacts. Notably, the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM), framed by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), consistent with target 10.7, whereby States commit to cooperate internationally to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration.

As such, the IOM Regional Office works to support Member States to achieve a Whole of Government and a Whole of Society approach with the aim to assist through policy and technical support Member States achieve the 23 Objectives outlined in the GCM[1]. The[MK1]  GCM equally calls for capacity building mechanism in the United Nations, the establishment of a connection hub, a start-up fund for initial financing to realize project-oriented solutions, and a global knowledge platform as an online open data source to support Member States in achieving their GCM objectives. This will ultimately seek to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.

Migration is a multi-faceted, non-linear and complex phenomenon, thus requiring an integral approach as it affects and is affected by all sectoral areas and all levels of governance. The IOM Regional Office works together with partners, such as the League of Arab States (LAS) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA), and together co-lead, since 2013, a Working Group on International Migration in the Arab Region. This  working group conducts capacity building activities as well as convenes regional conferences in order to discuss lessons learned and good practices of Member States as they work towards the objectives of the GCM and the goals of the SDGs. This furthermore can provide Member States with opportunities to share best practices and seek out regional synergies for implementation.

The IOM Regional Office, in the sprit of cooperation, thus works with partners, UN agencies, civil society, academia, and other regional body entities in a whole of society approach to support Member States in achieving the Objectives of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, together with the goals of the 2030 Agenda. This is in line with the Migration Governance Framework (MiGOF) that outlines IOM’s objectives and principles accordingly.

The GCM expresses the collective commitment to improve cooperation on international migration and recognizes that migration has been part of human history throughout time. It is a source of prosperity, innovation and sustainable development.

  • It rests on Common Understanding, acknowledges that the compact is the product of unprecedented review of evidence and data gathered during an open, transparent and inclusive process.
  • It furthermore ensures that the human rights of women, men, girls and boys are respected at all stages of migration.
  • It recognizes that migration is a multidimensional reality that cannot be addressed by one government policy sector alone, and requires a, whole-of-society approach, involving all relevant stakeholders in migration
  • It is a non-legally binding cooperative framework that recognizes that no State can address migration on its own due to the inherently transnational nature of the phenomenon.
  1. Important Figures[AF2] relating to your thematic area

Number of MENA International Migrants abroad


Number of refugees & asylum-seekers hosted in the MENA region


MENA Migrants affected by forced migration worldwide (21,797,801)

Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)




Asylum seekers


  • In addition to high levels of labor migration, protracted conflicts in several Arab countries have led to high levels of displacement in the region. Around 41 per cent of all people internally displaced globally due to conflict and generalized violence were living in the Arab region at the end of 2016.
  • The number of female migrants in the Arab region has doubled over the past 25 years to 11.6 million in 2015 from 5.6 million in 1990.
  • The GCC countries are a major hub for labor migrants, with a greater concentration of migrants than anywhere else in the world. The Maghreb continues to send and receive labor migrants and serve as a transit area for mixed migration flows. Within the Mashreq, labor migration has been a long-standing trend, along with persistent forced displacement within and across borders.
  • The Arab region received nearly $51 billion in remittances in 2015, an increase for all countries over the 2000-2015 period. However, estimates for 2016 showed slowed growth and even decline in remittances to some Arab countries. The GCC countries were the source of 93 per cent of all remittance outflows from the region in 2015. Mashreq countries were the main receiving countries, receiving 70 per cent of all remittance inflows to the Arab region in 2015.
  • 2019 Situation Report on International Migration in the Arab Region (SRIM 2019)
  • The report highlights important pattern of mixed migration from North Africa through the Mediterranean to Europe, though the numbers have significantly decreased in the last four years; as well as the large numbers of refugees and migrants from Mashreq and in Mashreq countries, with children representing 31% and youth 15.2% of the migrant and refugee population.

The report explores smuggling and trafficking activities in the region and emphasized that understanding the different motives and mechanisms behind both is a precondition to tacking these issues. It also calls for filling the knowledge gap, guaranteeing migrants full inclusion including access to health and naturalization, and combatting smuggling and trafficking in origin, transit and destination countries (including the change of European asylum policies).

Migrant Story 

Towards an Inclusive Approach to Mixed Migration in West and North Africa

Aswan, Egypt – While the word “migration” is often used to encompass a wide variety of migrant profiles and statuses (regular, irregular), a better understanding of the motivations of migrants and the context surrounding the mobility of people on the move can help address their needs of protection and strengthen migration management.

To shed the light on this need, 14 experts and academics with in-depth and advanced understanding of migration flows in West and Northern Africa gathered together in Aswan, Egypt for a three-day high-level expert meeting convened by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Regional Offices for West and Central Africa, and for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) from the 16th to 18th of June 2019.

Given the increasing diversity of people on the move and the various motivations pushing thousands to migrate within the regions and beyond, there is an urgent need to better understand migrants’ needs and vulnerabilities.

The discussions aimed to pave the way for a more inclusive approach to discuss the risks migrants are exposed to along the migratory routes. The meeting also invited participants to reflect on how to increase the efficiency of the services available to migrants in host and transit countries; and to improving joint migration strategies between West African states and North African states, in terms of policies affecting the region.

“The diverse and interconnected drivers of migration in our regions shape the nature of human mobility and are one of the major features of what we call ‘mixed migration’,” said Carmela Godeau, IOM Regional Director for MENA, in her opening remarks.

“While the public opinion and States tend to simplify the status of migrants as an indistinct mass of people moving towards Europe, the situation is much more complex than that” explains Sophie Nonnenmacher, Deputy Regional Director for IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa. “There is a real need to capture the profiles, the motivation and the context that make people move, who leave for work and who sometimes take risks, so we can better address their needs through support to Members’ States action and legislation”.

During the meeting, the participants presented the results from their research and recommended moving beyond the current rigid categorization of migrants to better encompass the diversity and complexity of such regional phenomena.

“I think there is a great added value in this kind of meeting that brings together experts from different countries with different specialties in different backgrounds,” said Curtis Bell, Director of Stable Seas, a programme specializing in maritime security and governance. 

A policy brief compiling the papers presented during the meeting and summarizing the recommendations will be published in the next months. IOM will then propose a road map based on these analyses, methodologies and emerging trends.

  • The IOM Regional Office co-leads, together with the League of Arab States, and the UNESCWA, a Working Group on International Migration in the Arab Region, of which 18 UN agencies participate.
  • The IOM Regional Office is coordinating, together with Working Group Members, the upcoming Regional Conference on the Global Compact for Migration: Implementation and Policy Implications for the Arab Region to be held in Beirut, Lebanon on October 29-30th.
  • The IOM Regional Office, together with Members of the Working Group, is equally holding a capacity building workshop on migration governance in relation to the GCM on 31st October in Beirut.
  • The IOM Regional Office, in coordination with the League of Arab States and UNHCR, will host the Conference on Internal Displacement in the Arab Region on November 11-12th, 2019.
  • The IOM Regional Office supports the North African Mixed Migration Task Force that is comprised of UN agencies and NGOs.

IOM Regional Office works with a variety of partners. These include: the League of Arab States, UN ESCWA, the Arab Parliament, among other regional entities. It furthermore works with UN sister agencies and NGOs. As part of the Working Group on International Migration in the Arab Region, it works with 18 different UN agencies.