On the occasion of World Refugee Day on June 30, 1402, the Emergency and Disaster Health Department at Tehran University of Medical Sciences and the Iranian Public Health Scientific Association (UPHA) are conducting a one-day workshop on the health needs and situations, opportunities, challenges and limitations of refugees at Tehran University. The head of operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross participated in Tehran to hold a meeting in the humanitarian response panel of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement for the promotion of migrants and provided the services of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to migrants.
Below you can find the his speech:
Ladies and gentlemen,
My name is Patrick Huser, I am from Switzerland, and I am the head of operations of the delegation of the ICRC in Iran. The ICRC is grateful to the organizers of this event for the kind invitation.
Allow me in by following presentation to share some thoughts with you on the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement before I talk about how the movement responds to the needs and the health situation of vulnerable migrants.
The movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has three components.
The first is the different national societies like the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS).
The second one is the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
The third one is the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The IFRC and the ICRC are both present in Iran and have activities together with the national society, the IRCS.
On the background of the ensuing humanitarian needs and under the lead of the IFRC, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement agreed in 2009 on a common approach (“policy”) on migration to address these needs and to coordinate the humanitarian response of the movement.
This approach builds on the experience and expertise of different national societies and the ICRC, and it respects the fundamental principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.
The movement hence acknowledged that the vulnerability and the needs of migrants are not only a result from the tough realities of migrant’s life they must face in their countries of origin but also from the circumstances of their migration in countries of transit and destination.
The approach also includes a broad operational description of migrants encompassing all who leave or flee their country of origin or their habitual residence to seek safety or better prospects abroad and who may be in distress and need protection or essential services.
Hence, the movements approach on migration includes economic migrants, migrants deemed irregular by public authorities, but also refugees and asylum-seekers who are afforded special protection under international law.
Building upon its global presence, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement thus focuses on bridging gaps along migratory routes and alleviating the suffering of migrants and their families.
In the past decade, the Middle East and North Africa witnessed large movements of populations due to a combination of factors, such as: armed conflicts and other situations of violence, economic instability leading to poverty and lack of professional opportunities, natural disasters, the impact of climate change and the overall degradation of the natural environment.
Thus, migrants may become victims of conflict dynamics, lose contact, and become separated from their families, die and/or go missing, fall injured due to weapon contamination, may be exposed to forced recruitment or other abuses, they may be exploited and endure gender-based violence.
Some migration policies may also contribute to putting migrants in difficult circumstances, for instance by forcing them to take more dangerous routes, including routes running across areas controlled by non-state armed groups or criminal networks involved in human smuggling or trafficking.
Migrants may face further specific protection concerns which are migration-related, such as, forced deportations or forced returns in violation of the principle of non-refoulement or border management practices, including excessive use of force, denial of access to asylum and problematic screening practices, etc.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent movement has on several occasions reiterated the increasing scale of humanitarian needs linked to migration. In most contexts where it is present, the RC/RC Movement together with the volunteers and staff from national societies works to respond to the needs of migrants, including the access to basic health services.
The ICRC, using its operational presence along migration routes, and in collaboration with the national societies, provides medical and forensic assistance, visits detention facilities, and improves the access to water, hygiene and food in emergencies. The ICRC is particularly of added value in critical settings such as hospitals, detention facilities and refugee camps and settlements.
In Iran, the ICRC has started to work with and for migrants in Mashad since 2013. This project is carried out together with a local NGO partner, the Society for Recovery Support, SRS, and the IRCS and aims at providing essential services to vulnerable residents in Golshahr district and the outskirts of Mashhad; most of these are undocumented Afghan migrants.
These services include primary health care, mental health care, harm reduction (addiction) as well as physical rehabilitation and the protection of family links.
Also, in 2022 following a new wave of displaced persons from Afghanistan arriving in Iran, the IRCS, the ICRC and the IFRC put in place a contingency plan to respond to the immediate humanitarian needs.
This included a Covid-19 vaccination campaign for migrants and enhancing the capacities of the IRCS to protect family links. Also, other national societies from countries across the migratory routes were approached to prevent that migrants went missing or families separated.
On a regional level, the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies have also scaled up their efforts to facilitate the access to essential services and humanitarian assistance to migrants, irrespective of legal status.
Several national societies found innovative ways to adapt to challenges presented by movement restrictions and other public health measures and, in many contexts, were recognized as providing an essential humanitarian service and so had specific exemptions.
For instance, in 2021, the ICRC in partnership with the Jordanian Red Crescent Society supported the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign of the Jordanian Ministry of Health. This included the deployment of 30 mobile vaccination teams.
These mobile vaccination teams reached out to persons who otherwise were unable to get to vaccination centers, including vulnerable migrants and residents of remote areas. In the end, more than 28’000 doses of vaccine were administered.
In conclusion, while the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement recognizes the challenges that state authorities face at national, regional and global level and the pressures on their public services resulting from an increasing number of migrants, yet, states need to seek developing migrant-inclusive responses to care for their whole society.
The inclusion of migrants in public health policies and programmes is thus not only essential to reduce the impact of health risks on migrants themselves, but it is also central to manage public health and hygiene in general.
Therefore, the specific vulnerability of migrants must be factored into national public health plans. Appropriate outreach strategies are required to ensure that migrants have access to information, are included in prevention measures and have equal access to health-care services.
Also, societal, political, and legal barriers that prevent migrants from being included in humanitarian responses and from accessing essential services need to be addressed with the appropriate authorities.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent movement hence stands ready to support state authorities in Iran and the region to develop inclusive public health programmes and to adapt the health systems to the specific health needs of vulnerable migrants
Thank you for your attention.