In contexts of migration or displacement, individuals and groups are often challenged to maintain and strengthen existing or new skills, resources and livelihoods necessary for a self-sufficient and dignified life.
The aim of these guidelines is to support Red Cross and Red Crescent (RCRC) staff, volunteers, and technical practitioners working in different contexts of migration and displacement to design, review and organise livelihood interventions.
In line with IFRC’s 2009 Policy on Migration, the term ‘migrants’ refers to “persons who leave or flee their habitual residence to go to new places – usually abroad – to seek opportunities or safer and better prospects. This includes migrant workers, stateless migrants, undocumented migrants (who are not registered and deemed irregular by public authorities), as well as asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, and refugees.
A migrant´s regulatory status throughout the journey affects rights and access to services and will heavily influence his/her vulnerability and need for external support in the area. These guidelines refer to migrants and displaced people, including different stages of migration and displacement, from internally displaced, to refugees, undocumented migrants, or returnees.
Migrants and displaced persons are exposed to many of the same vulnerabilities as other citizens, but often to a greater extent, and are at increased risk of being left behind in access to services and opportunities. This is intensified in countries experiencing socio-economic crises, where popular demands for employment and social protection increase. In countries where informal economies are dominant, migrants encounter difficulties in accessing labour markets, either formal or informal, as do most vulnerable groups of the host population. In addition to these difficulties, the gender dimension –including gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, also shapes the migration experience and has to be taken into account.
Migrants also bring with them a plethora of diverse experiences and knowledge, which contribute to spawning innovation. Migration has been shown to have positive economic impacts, filling important workforce gaps supporting aging and shrinking populations of host countries, and also becoming tax contributors. Given the opportunity and supported by progressive policies, migrants’ social and economic contributions to society are positive and highly valuable.
Livelihoods support is often nonprioritized in acute humanitarian contexts, particularly when people are displaced or on the move because it can be perceived as too difficult or outside the scope of humanitarian work. Prolonged humanitarian assistance may make it more difficult to become self-reliant. The earlier that livelihoods interventions take place, the easier it will be for migrants to sustain their own well-being and self-esteem, ensuring self-sufficiency and breaking with dependency dynamics.
Livelihoods are vital to migrants and displaced persons. Programmes and activities should be considered whenever possible. Beyond economic enhancement, having a livelihood promotes self-esteem, self-resilience, facilitating meaningful social connection and integration, or reintegration upon return to the place of origin.
A holistic approach to livelihoods support increases impact and sustainability. Projects with a holistic approach may integrate socio-economic empowerment, protection, health, social inclusion, and psychosocial support (in liaison with the Psychosocial Support team) and incorporate the human rights framework. When considering social cohesion approaches, it is key to also address host communities’ needs and include other vulnerable groups.
There is no one-size-fits-all when designing livelihoods interventions. All contexts require systematic and participatory assessment of situations and needs, with a meaningful engagement of groups and individuals including different gender, age, and backgrounds.
This guidance is informed by years of lessons learned from the RCRC Movement’s work in livelihoods support in different humanitarian settings, yet it provides only a brief insight into what is being done at country/National Society (NS) level. For further understanding, references to key resources have been included throughout the document.