International Organization for Migration

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International Organization for Migration

Organization type United Nations subsidiary
Abbreviation IOM
management António Vitorino Portugal
status active
Founded 1951
Headquarters Le Grand-Saconnex Switzerland
Upper organization United NationsU.N. United Nations
IOM member states and states with observer status (as of Mar. 2019): members observers non-members

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is a global intergovernmental organization within the UN system that carries out operational aid programs for migrants at national and intergovernmental level. 173 states are members.


The IOM emerged in 1951 from the activities of the International Refugee Committee (IRC), an organization that cared for the displaced in post-war Europe. The first name was "Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe " ( PICMME). In 1952, the organization was renamed the " Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration " ( ICEM).

At that time, the mandate was to help European governments find countries of return for around 11 million refugees from World War II. The organization was able to relocate nearly a million people in the 1950s.

From 1980 the organization was called the Intergovernmental Committee for Migration (ICM) and since 1989 it has had the current name. This also clearly shows the change of the organization over half a century from a logistics agency to a migration agency. In 1992 she was granted observer status at the General Assembly of the United Nations (GA resolution A / RES / 47/4). Since September 2016, the IOM has been part of the United Nations system as a related organization.

The expansion of the IOM's activities led to a growth that can be described today with an annual budget of around 1.4 billion US dollars and around 9,000 employees in 150 countries around the world.


Many international and national, public and private organizations participate in the programs that IOM implements as part of the policies of their member governments.

The organization is headquartered in Le Grand-Saconnex GE / Switzerland and has around 400 offices. The official languages ​​are English, French and Spanish. General manager is António Vitorino.

The highest decision-making body of the IOM is the Council, in which all member states are represented. It has rules of procedure and meets at regular intervals to approve the annual budget and determine the political and programmatic objectives of the organization.

The IOM budget consists of an administrative and an operational part. The administrative part is financed by the member states according to a defined contribution assessment scale. The funds for the operational part of the budget are voluntary payments by states and organizations. These funds are used for the practical implementation of migration programs.

For 2016, the organization had revenues of $ 1.62 billion and expenses of $ 1.60 billion.


The organization runs programs for the management and control of migration and for the onward migration and return of refugees and migrants on behalf of governments.

In Germany, the IOM coordinates the REAG / GARP program financed by the federal government for the voluntary return of asylum seekers, tolerated and recognized refugees. In connection with the planned from 2009 accepting refugees from Iraq should [as?] Perform IOM health checks and joint flights to Germany.

From 2002 to 2006 the organization operated the Nauru Detention Center on the Pacific island of Nauru on behalf of the Australian government , where Afghan boat refugees intercepted by the Australian military were detained.

In 2005, in response to the onslaught of refugees in the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla , the IOM organized the voluntary return of 221 men from Morocco to Mali. In early 2008, a center for refugees was opened in Libya's capital Tripoli to help them return to their homeland. Libyan immigration officers are also trained at the center.

In 2007, the Swiss government published an IOM-produced TV spot that is shown in countries such as Cameroon and Nigeria and was produced by IOM as part of an awareness campaign. An African is shown begging and fleeing the police. "Die Presse" reported on November 27, 2007 "TV spots are supposed to scare Africans". IOM Switzerland publishes the “Going Home!” Newsletter.


Asylum groups such as the No Border Network , as well as the human rights organization Human Rights Watch , criticize the fact that the IOM acts less on humanitarian than on business-oriented principles: it does not provide humanitarian aid, but rather controls and prevents refugee and migration movements. The IOM is wrongly portraying itself as a human rights organization and is in reality by no means an independent organization, but acts as a service provider on behalf of the state in migration control. On behalf of and in the interests of state authorities, IOM actively supports democratic and undemocratic states in the implementation of measures to control migration and is also involved in human rights violations itself - for example by preventing refugees from accessing the right to asylum and running internment camps.

The organization of deportations to unsafe countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq is criticized. Human Rights Watch also criticizes Australia's participation in the “ Pacific Solution ”. On the Pacific island of Nauru , IOM operated the Nauru Detention Center on behalf of the Australian government from 2002 to 2006 , where Afghan boat refugees intercepted by the Australian military, including many families with children, were detained.

According to information from the Berlin Refugee Council, “return counseling” is a prerequisite for many social welfare offices for (further) granting of benefits under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act . As part of the consultation, the refugees should declare on the IOM application form that their return is “voluntary” and that they waive any right to residency. If they refuse to sign, the result will be reductions in benefits and cancellations in accordance with the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act.

List of member states and observer states

173 states are members of the organization. Another 8 states have observer status.

Full members

Countries with observer status

Previous directors

António Vitorino, IOM Director since 2018

The IOM director is elected by the delegates of the IOM member states for five years. The following table lists the previous directors of the IOM and its predecessor organization, the ICEM. The previous directors were all US-Americans with two exceptions. For decades it was certain that the candidate nominated by the US President would also be elected. Accordingly, it was a surprise that the candidate Ken Isaacs, nominated by President Donald Trump in February 2018, did not achieve the required quorum in three ballots. The Portuguese politician António Vitorino was elected in his place . Isaacs had previously posted comments on Twitter criticized as "anti-Islamic" and xenophobic.

Directors of IOM, ICM and ICEM
No. country director Term of office
1 United StatesUnited States United States Hugh S. Gibson June 10, 1954 - Dec. 12, 1954
2 United StatesUnited States United States Harold Tittman Apr. 27, 1955 - May 13, 1958
3 United StatesUnited States United States Marcus Daly May 14, 1958 - October 3, 1961
4th NetherlandsNetherlands Netherlands Bastiaan Wouter Haveman Oct. 27, 1961 - Feb. 8, 1969
5 United StatesUnited States United States John F. Thomas Feb. 14, 1969 - Feb. 28, 1979
6th United StatesUnited States United States James L. Carlin March 1, 1979 - Sep 30 1988
7th United StatesUnited States United States James N. Purcell, Jr. Oct. 1, 1988 - Sep. 30 1998
8th United StatesUnited States United States Brunson McKinley Oct. 1, 1998 - Sep. 30 2008
9 United StatesUnited States United States William Lacy Swing Oct. 1, 2008 - June 28, 2018
10 PortugalPortugal Portugal Antonio Vitorino June 29, 2018 -


  • Bernd Jaenicke : Structure and tasks of the "International Organization for Migration" (IOM) . In: Journal for Immigration Law and Policy on Foreigners (ZAR) . tape 10 , no. 2 . Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden 1990, ISBN 3-7890-2135-0 , p. 90-95 .
  • Fabian Georgi: Managing Migration? A critical history of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Bertz + Fischer, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-86505-803-4 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. International Organization for Migration: António Vitorino Begins Term as IOM Director General. October 2, 2018, accessed October 19, 2019 .
  3. a b Member States. International Organization for Migration, March 2019, accessed April 12, 2019 .
  4. a b Observer States. International Organization for Migration, June 2018, accessed on August 20, 2018 .
  5. About IOM. International Organization for Migration, accessed June 30, 2018 .
  6. Intergovernmental Organizations. International Organization for Migration, accessed June 30, 2018 .
  7. ^ Summit on Refugees and Migrants Opens as IOM Joins United Nations . In: International Organization for Migration . September 20, 2016 ( [accessed May 9, 2017]).
  8. a b Organizational Structure. International Organization for Migration, accessed June 30, 2018 .
  9. ^ Civil Society & NGOs. International Organization for Migration, accessed June 30, 2018 .
  11. Expenditure by Agency | United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination. Retrieved November 22, 2018 .
  12. REAG / GARP. International Organization for Migration Germany, accessed on December 18, 2015 .
  13. Archive link ( Memento of the original from October 22, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  14. ^ Migrant center to open in Libya. BBC News, March 12, 2008, accessed June 30, 2018 .
  16. TV spots are supposed to scare away Africans
  18. Human Rights Watch: The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Human Rights Protection in the Field (2003)
  21. ^ DG and DDG: DIRECTORS GENERAL. International Organization for Migration, accessed June 30, 2018 .
  22. Ken Isaacs: UN migration agency rejects Trump. BBC News, June 29, 2018, accessed June 30, 2018 .
  23. Margaret Besheer: Trump Candidate Loses Bid to Lead UN Migration Agency. VOA News, June 29, 2018, accessed June 30, 2018 .