IOM in the East and Horn of Africa provides protection and assistance to migrants in vulnerable situations:

  • trafficked persons,
  • smuggled migrants with protection needs,
  • rejected asylum seekers,
  • migrants in irregular situations,
  • stranded migrants,
  • unaccompanied and separated migrant children,
  • migrants subjected to violence, exploitation or abuse. 

In the region IOM contributes to protecting and assisting migrants in need through four key areas:

Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR)

Assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) is a core activity of IOM and has provided vital assistance to tens of thousands of migrants returning home every year. It is also a growing area of work as an increasing number of States – both those hosting migrants as well as countries of origin – recognize the value of AVRR as an essential component of an effective and humane migration management framework.

AVRR is an indispensable part of a comprehensive approach to migration management aimed at the orderly and humane return and sustainable reintegration of migrants who are unable or unwilling to remain in host or transit countries and wish to return voluntarily to their countries of origin, including migrants in vulnerable situations. Under certain conditions, IOM can provide post-arrival and reintegration assistance to migrants returning under the auspices of other stakeholders than IOM or returning with their own means.

IOM is promoting an “Integrated Approach to Reintegration” in the East and Horn of Africa.  To this end, IOM in partnership with governments and other stakeholders is working to enhance the management of the migration process in the region by developing evidence-based return and reintegration procedures; promoting safe, humane, dignified voluntary return processes along main migration routes in a sustainable manner and supporting sustainable economic, social and psycho-social reintegration that benefit migrants and communities.


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Migrants in Vulnerable Situations

Over the past 20 years, IOM has provided protection and assistance to thousands of migrants in vulnerable situations, including migrants who have suffered from violence, exploitation, or abuse, including in the East and Horn of Africa.  

Based on its unique experience, IOM has developed a ‘determinants of migrant vulnerability’ model, an innovative tool to holistically assess migrants’ vulnerabilities and capabilities. It analyses factors at the individual, household/family, community, and structural levels that contribute to vulnerability or, conversely, those that contribute to resilience, mitigate vulnerability, reduce harm, and can inform comprehensive and sustainable solutions.

To respond to the needs of migrants in vulnerable situations in the East and Horn of Africa region IOM has supported a network of Migration Response Centers (MRCs).  MRCs are situated along key migration routes, where they fill critical gaps by providing direct assistance, including food and temporary shelter, information, and service referrals to migrants on the move. Working collaboratively, MRCs bring together key partners to facilitate the identification of migrants in vulnerable situations, and ensure that they receive appropriate, immediate, and longer-term support.

MRC services vary based on location and needs, and include food, temporary shelter, and information and service referrals. As of September 2023, Eight MRCs are currently operational in the Horn of Africa: Hargeisa and Bossaso since 2009, Obock since 2011, Metema since 2014, Dire Dawa and Togochale since 2019, Moyale since 2021 and Dewele since 2022.

Countering Trafficking in Persons

IOM works in partnership with governments, the United Nations, international and non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and development partners on all aspects of counter-trafficking responses, including prevention, protection, and prosecution aspects.

Since the mid-1990s, IOM and its partners have provided protection and assistance to nearly 100,000 men, women, and children, who were trafficked for sexual and labour exploitation, slavery, or practices similar to slavery, servitude, or for organ removal.

IOM takes a comprehensive approach to addressing human trafficking. Respect for human rights, the physical, mental and social well-being of the individual and his or her community, and the sustainability of our actions through institutional capacity development and partnerships are at the centre of all of IOM’s counter-trafficking efforts. 

Protecting Migrant Children

Migrant children, unaccompanied and separated children, are most vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking. IOM works with a wide range of partners to protect the rights of migrant children, keep them safe from harm, prevent their detention and improve their access to assistance, including through AVRR programmes.