The International Organization for Migration (IOM) was born in 1951 out of the chaos and displacement of Western Europe following the Second World War. In the 1950’s IOM arranged transport to new homes for nearly a million European migrants. In 2011, as the Organization celebrates its 60th Anniversary, IOM has become a global intergovernmental organization with 132 Member States and 97 Observers, including 17 States and 80 International Organizations and NGOs.
The organization now operates in more than 420 field locations with over 7,000 staff worldwide. Sri Lanka became a Member State in 1990 and the Sri Lanka country office in Colombo was established in 2002.
“In a world in which more people are on the move than at any other time in recorded history, the IOM continues —after more than 60 years—to assist migrants and help build dialogue among nations to ensure orderly and humane responses to the challenges and opportunities presented by human mobility in the 21st Century,” observes IOM Director General William Lacy Swing,
Reflecting the development of the Organization as a whole, IOM’s first involvement with Sri Lanka was providing transportation assistance to 95,000 Sri Lankans fleeing the Gulf War in 1990. Since then, IOM has continued to provide support to the Government of Sri Lanka and its citizens in situations of crisis, but the focus of its work has increasingly moved into the area of technical cooperation for migration management. Since 2002 it has provided support in the fields of labour migration, border management, human trafficking, reintegration of returning nationals and migration health.
“It is humbling to think that since 1990 over 1,300,000 Sri Lankans have directly benefited from our activities. We thought we should use the occasion of IOM’s 60th anniversary to express our gratitude to the Government of Sri Lanka with whom we have worked so closely over the years, as well as to the many donor countries that have funded our projects and contributed so much to the lives of so many Sri Lankans,” says IOM Sri Lanka Chief of Mission Richard Danziger
Currently IOM is active in Sri Lanka in a number of areas including technical assistance to the Department of Immigration and Emigration and the Ministry of External Affairs’ Consular Department; technical support to the Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare, as well as Sri Lanka’s Bureau of Foreign Employment; Migration Health Policy Development; assistance to the Ministry of Justice in combating human trafficking and smuggling; community development and shelter construction in the Northern, Eastern and Central Provinces; and socio-economic reintegration support to former LTTE cadres.