The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is the leading body dealing with migration issues worldwide. Running 393 offices in 169 member states it works closely together with governmental and non-governmental partners. Its main goal is to assure a “humane and orderly migration”.
Especially in the past few years, Europe has increasingly been faced with the challenge of migration. Figures published by IOM say that In 2017 a billion people were on the move worldwide, equalling one-seventh of the Earth’s population. Ever since its establishment in 1951, IOM is concerned with providing advice and services to migrants either settling in to a new country or leaving. As one of 393 offices worldwide, Ireland’s branch was established in 2001. IOM Ireland is involved in many missions worldwide, with four predominant fields of work, namely the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programme, the Resettlement programme, Family Reunification, and Counter-Trafficking.
An important body of work consists of the so-called “Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration program” (AVRR). It understands itself as a “door-to-door assisted return”, supporting migrants who want or have to leave the country. The work includes taking care of the flights, transportation to and from the airport, and helping with legal documents such as passports. Also, IOM Ireland assists the migrants in getting settled in to their home countries, which may also include helping them start their own businesses or gain access to further education. AVR is designed for migrants whose motion was denied or people overstaying their student or tourism visa. However, Eoghan Coleman, working as Communications Coordinator with IOM Ireland, says there are cases where people seek them because they want to leave the country for personal reasons. ”We might be naive to think that every single person who comes into Ireland thinks it’s the most wonderful country in the world and they have made the greatest decision they have ever made in coming here. Oftentimes reality can be very much different,” he says. Coleman emphasizes that “it is an entirely voluntary program. We won’t assist anybody’s return to a country that would be designated as a danger zone. Their safety has to be fully assured.”
Handling incoming and outgoing migrants
Apart from the assisted return programme, the IOM also helps migrants and refugees settling into Ireland. “Pretty much any refugee who is being resettled in the country has come through IOM’s books,” says Coleman. Working closely together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Irish Red Cross, IOM organizes transportation and medical screenings. Helping refugees to start their lives in Ireland is a major part of the organization’s agenda. Another important part of IOM’s work is the Family Reunification programme. Once asylum seekers are allowed to bring their loved ones over to Ireland, IOM organizes the whole movement, including collecting family members from the airport. “Being at the airport and seeing people come in and seeing family members that haven’t seen each other in sometimes years and years [is]quite enlightening and heartening. It is a really positive experience.”
Understanding migration in Ireland
Migration has become a delicate issue that needs to be treated cautiously and, more importantly, humane. Ireland, as part of the EU, is doing its part of helping to manage migration. Sadly, in recent times more and more countries’ political agendas are influenced by populist and anti-migration views. It sure is an issue that all of Europe, and the world, is concerned with. To Coleman, organizations like IOM bring structure into the chaos by providing the “right services to the right people at the right time”, as he puts it. Like others, he is very much concerned by the hateful messages that are dominating public discourse, especially in the media. “Really raw videos are put out there that are utterly false, statistics that don’t exist, alternative facts. People build a wall around themselves, imprison themselves in their own beliefs.” However, concerning Ireland, he keeps a positive attitude. To him, the country has always been open to migrants, especially because of its history. “The Irish understand the background of migrants and how we were not so long ago one of those countries that was in the position where people had to leave the country.”