Understanding Forced Migration

Forced Migration

Different Facets of Forced Migration

According to IOM, forced migration is “a migratory movement which, although the drivers can be diverse, involves force, compulsion, or coercion.” The definition includes a note which clarifies that, “While not an international legal concept, this term has been used to describe the movements of refugees, displaced persons (including those displaced by disasters or development projects), and, in some instances, victims of trafficking. At the international level the use of this term is debated because of the widespread recognition that a continuum of agency exists rather than a voluntary/forced dichotomy and that it might undermine the existing legal international protection regime.” (IOM Glossary on Migration, 2019).

According to the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol refugees are persons who flee their country due to “well-founded fear” of persecution due to reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, and who are outside of their country of nationality or permanent residence and due to this fear are unable or unwilling to return to it. UNHCR includes “individuals recognized under the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, the 1969 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, those recognized in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, individuals granted complementary forms of protection, and those enjoying temporary protection. The refugee population also includes people in refugee-like situations.” (UNHCR, 2017).

Persons in a refugee-like situation includes “groups of persons who are outside their country or territory of origin and who face protection risks similar to those of refugees, but for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained.” (UNHCR, 2013). According to UNHCR, asylum-seekers are “individuals who have sought international protection and whose claims for refugee status have not yet been determined” (2017, 56).

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are defined as “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.” (Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, E/CN.4/1998/53/Add.2.).

Mixed movement (also called mixed migration or mixed flow) is “a movement in which a number of people are travelling together, generally in an irregular manner, using the same routes and means of transport, but for different reasons. People travelling as part of mixed movements have varying needs and profiles and may include asylum seekers, refugees, trafficked persons, unaccompanied/separated children, and migrants in an irregular situation.” (IOM Glossary on Migration, 2019). Disaster-induced migration is the displacement of people as a result of “a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society involving widespread human, material, economic or environmental losses or impacts, which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope using its own resources.” (UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, 2009).

Resettlement, according to IOM, is the “transfer of refugees from the country in which they have sought protection to another State that has agreed to admit them — as refugees — with permanent residence status.” (IOM Glossary on Migration, 2019). Resettlement programmes are carried out by both IOM and UNHCR.

  • Conflict-Induced Displacement -occurs when people are forced to flee their homes as a result of armed conflict including civil war, generalized violence, & persecution on the grounds of nationality, race, religion, political opinion or social group.
  • Disaster-Induced Displacement -occurs when people are displaced as a result of natural disasters (floods, volcanoes, landslides, earthquakes), environmental change (deforestation, desertification, drought, land degradation, global warming) & human-made disasters (industrial accidents, radioactivity).
  • Development-Induced Displacement -occurs when people are compelled to move as a result of policies & projects implemented to advance ‘development’ efforts. Examples of this include large-scale infrastructure projects such as dams, roads, ports, airports; urban clearance initiatives; mining & deforestation; & the introduction of conservation parks/reserves & biosphere projects.
  • Human Trafficking : people moved illegally for profit, include those who have been forcibly displaced as well as those who have left their homeland in search of better economic & social opportunities
  • Irregular Migrant Laborers: While immigration restriction is admitted to have generated illegality throughout this century, receiving-oriented regulatory policies have also produced flows of irregular migrants.
  • Asylum-seekers: An asylum seeker is someone who claims to be a refugee but whose claim hasn’t been evaluated. Someone is an asylum seeker for so long as their application is pending. So not every asylum seeker will be recognised as a refugee, but every refugee is initially an asylum seeker.
  • Refugees– People who have fled the country of origin due to ‘well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a political social group, or political opinion’.
  • Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)–who have fled the place of origin due to armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters but not crossed an internationally recognized State border

Rationale Behind Durable Solutions

Emergence of New Refugee Rights Regime

Conventionally, refugees count on THREE durable solutions: local integration, resettlement and voluntary repatriation. These “allow them to rebuild their lives” and “to live their lives in dignity and peace”. Durable solutions are a key component of the refugee regime as they are instrumental for assisting refugees in accessing either protection or rights. They have to be seen as protection tools – not simply as burden-shifting or sharing. Refugee protection should not be divided into what happens before RSD and after it.  A contradiction between refugee protection and durable solutions should not exist. They need to be seen as mutually reinforce able: durable solutions are instrumental for the protection of all rights refugees are entitled to under refugee law and human rights law; and protection is a goal of durable solutions ascertaining rights throughout refugee hood. Refugee protection needs to be seen in a more holistic manner, encompassing traditional refugee protection topics and durable solutions.


There are no legal entitlements to durable solutions in International Refugee Law; they are not rights per se and remain at the discretion of states. This imposes challenges, as, although the international community needs to work with durable solutions as “answers” to refugee conditions, core aspects of them are still rather feeble. The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) could be an excellent reference point to take stock of the existing practices.


In pursuing its goals and objectives, the notion of durable solutions is guided by 7 Core Principles which are the guiding principles for FOMSA for its action: 


  • Perceiving durable solutions as protection – An idea so vital that it has to be at the basis of the framework (foundation) but also an aim (i.e. a principle). Traditional refugee protection and durable solutions need to be revisited to comply with the current context.
  • Respecting the human rights principle of non-discrimination – Different solutions can be applied to different scenarios, but any difference in treatment needs to be justified and always be based on the best interests of refugees. Non-discrimination needs to be present throughout refugee hood.
  • Commitment to not establishing limitations on human rights – Integral protection is the aim, and the most comprehensive protection should always be the goal. Refugees should not suffer excessive or unjustified restrictions on their human rights because of their refugee condition.
  • Balancing States’ interests and refugees’ needs – Benefiting States, local host communities and refugees seem to be the better way forward in securing long-term adequate solutions. In any case, the protection of refugees needs to be a priority.
  • Involving refugees in seeking and implementing durable solutions – Refugees should have an active part in the decisions on the solutions for their cases, thus respecting not only autonomy and individuality, but also increasing the chances of successful solutions through empowerment. The best mechanisms to use to give a voice to refugees need to be sought on a case-by-case basis.
  • Seeing durable solutions as part of a non-hierarchical toolbox – No a priori preferences among the existing durable solutions should guide action and options in each case. All possibilities need to be taken into consideration to find the most adequate durable solution in a particular situation.
  • Choosing the best solution for each case – Taking into account particularities and peculiarities as much as possible and to address them in a principled way. This would entail, at the very least, the incorporation of a gender, age and diversity approach in all solution-seeking actions; and would allow for the inclusion of other perspectives on vulnerabilities and particular situations of refugees.

In the rapidly changed context of forced migration, FOMSA will be guided by the following recently developed mechanisms in the field of refugee protection and migration management:

  1. New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was adopted on September 19, 2016 under the auspicious of the United Nations General Assembly unanimously. The New York Declaration reaffirms the importance of the international refugee regime and contains a wide range of commitments by Member States to strengthen and enhance mechanisms to protect people on the move. It has paved the way for the adoption of two new global compacts in 2018: a global compact on refugees and a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

In adopting the New York Declaration, Member States:

  • expressed profound solidarity with those who are forced to flee;
  • reaffirmed their obligations to fully respect the human rights of refugees and migrants;
  • agreed that protecting refugees and supporting the countries that shelter them are shared international responsibilities and must be borne more equitably and predictably;
  • pledged robust support to those countries affected by large movements of refugees and migrants;
  • agreed upon the core elements of a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework; and
  • agreed to work towards the adoption of a global compact on refugees and a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.
  1. The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework

The New York Declaration sets out the key elements of a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) to be applied to large-scale movements of refugees and protracted refugee situations. The CRRF focuses on the importance of supporting those countries and communities that host large number of refugees, promoting the inclusion of refugees in host communities, ensuring the involvement of development actors from an early stage, and developing a ‘whole-of-society’ approach to refugee responses. Its four key objectives are to:

  1. Ease the pressures on host countries and communities;
  2. Enhance refugee self-reliance;
  3. Expand third-country solutions; and
  4. Support conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.

Since the Declaration was adopted, UNHCR has been working with States and all other relevant stakeholders to develop and initiate the practical application of the CRRF in a number of countries. The CRRF is formally applied in a dozen countries, including two regional contexts in Africa and Central America. Afghanistan has been part of the CRRF as a sole country in Asia.

  1. The Global Compact for Refugees (GCR)

In addition to setting out the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, the New York Declaration called upon the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to propose a ‘global compact on refugees’ in his annual report to the United Nations General Assembly in 2018. The Global Compact for Refugees, the first draft of which was released at the end of January 2018 and underwent formal consultations with Member States until July 2018, built on the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework and set out practical measures that can be taken by a wide range of stakeholders to enhance international cooperation in response to large movements of refugees and protracted refugee situations, and to ensure a more equitable and predictable sharing of the burden and responsibility for providing protection to refugees. The document was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2018. FOMSA is specifically guided by the letter and spirt of this instrument.


  1. The global Compact for Migration (GCM)

The New York Declaration also provides for the negotiation of a global, compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, which is to be adopted in 2018. Although they are to be run at the same time, the General Assembly has directed that the two processes leading to the two global compacts are to be “separate, distinct and independent”. The migration compact will enhance coordination on international migration and present a framework for comprehensive international cooperation on migrants and human mobility. UNHCR has been asked, in the New York Declaration, to also contribute to this process and to help in the elaboration of non-binding principles for migrants in vulnerable situations. Issues where UNHCR is contributing include responses to flows of refugees and migrants, the protection of migrants in countries in crisis and other vulnerable situations, and displacement due to climate change and natural disasters.

In sum, the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) and the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) provide important new frameworks for responding, amongst other things, to rights violations experienced by people on the move, including in mixed movements. Both include strong calls for a whole-of-society approach to these issues. Civil society, in which FOMSA is art of,  therefore has an important role to play in promoting more effective responses to mixed movements, which can ensure greater respect in practice for the rights of refugees and others on the move.

Leaders’ Summit on Refugees

Following the adoption of the New York Declaration, the UN Secretary-General and seven Member States on 20 September 2016 co-hosted the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees to increase global responsibility-sharing for refugees. At the summit, 47 States committed to legal or policy changes to enhance refugees’ access to education, lawful employment and social services; substantially increase humanitarian aid; and expand access to third-country solutions, including through resettlement or complementary pathways.

Source: https://www.unhcr.org/new-york-declaration-for-refugees-and-migrants.html

FOMSA Four Pillar Approach

Partnerships for a Supportive Operating Environment

Research and Advocacy

Through advocacy, FOMSA strives to advance all human rights for all at the national, regional and international levels. Our goal is to ensure national and local ownership of international human rights protection mechanisms with harmonized national framework that is consistent with international standards based on the well-researched realities and needs at national and international context.

Under this pillar, FOMSA will strive to work with local civil society actors and encourages the formation of inclusive local networks across the communities. Through this pillar, we aim to create and widen space for advocacy with local and national bodies responsible for human rights protection and promotion in all civil, political, economic, social and cultural fronts especially of forced migrants. To coordinate, plan and evaluate these advocacy strategies, FOMSA will hold multiple and inclusive national, regional and local level consultations, roundtables, and workshops throughout the three decades to come.


 Capacity Strengthening

FOMSA will coordinate and convene trainings and workshops targeted at strengthening the capacity of concerned institutions, civil society groups and stakeholders to respond to key human rights protection challenges more effectively (legal aid, advocacy, refugee law, forced migration, counter-trafficking, stress management, disaster response, GESI, transitional justice and overall community resilience drive) so that the target population will be self-sustained to claim, exercise and enjoy their rights.

Under this pillar, FOMSA will cater its wealth of experience and expertise that will be shared throughout the affected community. Accordingly, our capacity strengthening initiatives will empower local civil society organizations and other monitoring groups in the long-run by putting them in a better position to work as genuine catalysts towards claiming rights and rendering responsibilities even in the absence of human rights defenders and legal practitioners.


Knowledge Products and Outreach

FOMSA aims to continue to build and strengthen informed citizenry on human rights and justice in general and, migration, counter-trafficking, disaster response, climate change, refugees and gender in particular through civic education by enhancing improved knowledge sharing activities in the forms of production of various tailor-made IEC materials and dissemination channels so that the community becomes adequately informed, empowered and resilience in the direction of understanding from local to national to global dynamics impacting them.

Under this pillar, outreach and awareness-raising will be conducted with the aim of increasing our actions’ visibility and impacts by highlighting human rights concerns and fighting against growing incidences of rights violation, gender injustice, marginalization, poverty and deprivation compounded with unsafe and forced migration with a giant impact on rights and freedom, health, education and livelihood.  Through FOMSA’s research and archiving initiative, the organization will be in a strong position to conduct advocacy activities based on the needs of the community towards ensuring locally owned transformation drive.

FOMSA will continue collaboration with like-minded organizations and promote mutual respect between collaborators/partners irrespective of size, coverage, power and resources by making mutual reverence of each other’s mandates, obligations and independence and also by ensuring mutual recognition of each other’s constraints and commitments. The existing networking in the area of refugee protection, mental health, education and transitional justice will be further fostered for sharing information, ideas and support through the effective use of information, research and evidence.


Under this pillar, FOMSA will continue to share and exchange information to taking joint action through the development of an equitable collaboration among resource partners, project collaborators, community institutions, academic partners and local watchdog groups/partners to combine knowledge and resources to advance rights-based societal transformation. This will be founded on reiteration of mutual respect and appreciation, allowing each party equal stake, responsibility and benefit.


Note: The “Vision-50 and Beyond” is not a mere dream project but a futuristic roadmap towards a realistic transformation drive dedicated to  the  heavily affected communities across Afghanistan and beyond in helping move towards a  self-sustained mode in which the communities will be able to lead their dignified lives even in the absence of outside world to look after them

Broader Program Priority Areas


1-TechForEd: Advancing Distant Digital Education


Before the Taliban seized the capital without a fight, about half the 20,000 or so students at Kabul University, the country’s oldest university, were female. Women’s education was perhaps the single strongest sign of change and hope for the new Afghanistan. Over two decades, the U.S. spent about $1 billion on education for Afghan women and girls—with some marked success. Yet despite Taliban assurances during negotiations with the U.S. that all Afghans would have a right to education, the new government has barred women from stepping foot on university and high-school campuses—a situation that shows no signs of ending, despite pressure from Western governments. Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid recently said they would be allowed to resume their studies when there is “an environment where female students are protected.” That has strong echoes of the Taliban banning girls from education during their rule over Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. Women and girls face severe discrimination when it comes to education. The spread of COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation as Afghanistan was forced to close schools and limit numbers in classrooms before the Taliban takeover.


Remote and digital online education via smart phone, laptops and tablets can help bridge the educational gap for women, girls and children. FOMSA aims to open remote learning opportunities which we believe will serve as a lifeline for many women and girls who are forced to quit their education. Banned from in-person classes in Kabul, our initiative will facilitate to register for a remote learning program launched by the universities that we hope to tie-up for this program which will be geared specifically at women and girls banished from their education by the Taliban. They can study at home, and no one needs to know. This program appears to be instrumental in offering large numbers of full scholarships for Afghan women and girls to earn degrees online, without leaving their homes. Although the students can take the courses for free, they will probably be required to pay fees in order to sit exams and formally graduate. The fees will be, we hope, minuscule, compared to average tuition at a U.S. university—about $4,800 for a four-year B.A. degree, and $3,000 for an MBA. Nonetheless, it is out of reach for the great majority of Afghan women. Pending funding, such exam fee will be covered by our project.


The other form of the program is to provide training on digital literacy to Afghan educators abroad who will be teaching alternative education called Out of School Program (OSP) to adolescent dropouts and never school-going adolescents. A special training manual will be developed covering modules with non-conventional curriculum such as human rights, justice, peace, child rights, migration, reproductive health, disaster, displacement, environment, climate etc., to name few. We will also develop tools that enable students to learn outside of school, including an app that lets them access games, books, and videos when they can connect to the internet and continue their lessons later, offline. This is truly effective to enhance the ability to use and understand technology, such as navigating a website, using social media and sending emails. It can also refer to having marketable software skills, such as coding websites and apps and creating blogs. Digital literacy in the form of OSP opens a wide array of opportunities to such adolescents. It can allow them to find job offers online but also makes them more employable in most industries. Additional training in computer science can also give them access to work in the fast-growing field of telecommunications and IT.


In sum, the TechForEd has to be designed to facilitate women, girls and dropouts to secure their desired degrees and at the same time ensure information about refugees is safe and their data rights are protected. The program will help the beneficiaries to tackle new challenges faced by refugees due to COVID-19.  It will also address the different connectivity needs of rural and urban displaces and help local integration. Such initiative will enhance their digital literacy and computer skills to help them access job and education opportunities.

Mental Health Intervention Program

Defending Democracy and Human Rights

There is arguably no population more affected by the recent Taliban takeover of Afghanistan than Afghan women and girls. In the 1990s, the Taliban consistently committed human rights abuses against women and girls, restricted their involvement in public life, denied them access to education, denied them access to essential health services, and forced them to marry, among a whole host of other draconian and gender-specific measures. In parts of the country, Taliban forces have recently instituted some of these same measures. Many Afghans––especially women––worry that that it is only a matter of time until the Taliban revert wholesale to their old ways. In a matter of weeks, the Taliban have already begun to erase the gains that Afghan women have made over the last 20 years.


Our work with individuals primarily focuses on individual wellbeing and sustainable community based psychosocial support and integration into host communities whether temporary or permanent. We measure this work through an impact framework that measures indicators across domains of physical, social, cultural, psychological and economic integration. We consider as key element for refugee need.


Considering that women and girls feel overwhelmed or confused and distressed, and experience extreme fear and worries, outbursts of strong emotions such as anger and sadness, nightmares and other sleep problems and many are affected by multiple losses and are grieving for people, places and life left behind, it is vital to address the feeling of being fearful or anxious, or numb and detached. Many have reactions that affect their functioning and thinking capacities and therefore undermine their ability to care for themselves and their families and cope with dangers and risks on their path. As part of this effort, the FOMSA will focus on two overarching goals. The first is to ensure that Afghan women and girls are provided appropriate mental health service inside Afghanistan and are able to seek meaningful refuge outside of Afghanistan. The second is to train counsellors who could stand up an effective, gender-sensitive response with mental health at its core to a deteriorating human rights and humanitarian situation.

A particularly pressing concern is that many of the IDPs as well as new arrivals have immediate or long-term physical and mental health conditions caused or exacerbated by their traumatic experiences. It is vital to effectively address these health needs. Humanitarian aid groups across various host countries have been addressing the Afghan arrivals’ immediate needs. These groups have mobilized resources and volunteers to help ensure that individuals forced from their homes receive essential items upon arriving here—including shoes, culturally appropriate clothing, baby formula, diapers, and toiletries.


Beyond immediate settlement needs, however, both the Afghan IDPs, vulnerable persons and evacuees will require a long period of psychosocial counselling and many services—beyond basic housing and food assistance to education and employment. The more common mental health diagnoses associated with refugee populations include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression, generalized anxiety, panic attacks, adjustment disorder, and somatization. Other barriers to overcome concerning mental health include: loss of family and social supports, particularly for women after childbirth, unemployment, lack of recognition of professional qualifications, drop in socioeconomic status, language barriers, isolation from others of a similar cultural background, and experiences of trauma before and after settlement.


Opportunely, FOMSA is equipped with  time-tested proven experiences and expertise  to providing mental health care for victims of rights violation, IDPs and refugees—and addressing the social determinants that impact health—that can guide efforts to assist both the IDPs and the new arrivals from Afghanistan.

The Taliban are steadily dismantling the human rights gains of the last twenty years.  Contrary to the Taliban’s repeated claims that they will respect the rights of Afghans, incidences of human rights abuses including targeted killings of civilians and surrendered soldiers constitute crimes under international law. Restrictions have also been reimposed on women, freedom of expression and civil society. There is a growing climate of fear for human rights defenders as attacks on human rights defenders have been reported on a near-daily basis. The Taliban are conducting door-to-door searches for human rights defenders, forcing many into hiding which shows that the threat faced by human rights defenders stranded in Afghanistan is real. They are under attack on all fronts as they are seen as enemies of the Taliban. Their offices and homes have been raided. Their colleagues have been beaten. They are forced into permanent hiding. They live under the constant threat of arrest, torture or worse.

In such a situation, FOMSA cannot turn a blind eye to the violations being committed by the Taliban and other heinous crimes committed in the past. We believe that taking concrete action at the UN Human Rights Council will not only send the message that impunity will not be tolerated, but also contribute to preventing violations on a broader scale. Under this activity, FOMSA will go hand in hand with support for the ongoing investigation at the International Criminal Court, in order to secure accountability for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by all parties. Besides, under this activity, FOMSA engages in human rights monitoring, documentation, analysis and reporting, as well as protection, advocacy and technical cooperation activities. Reliance on accurate and independently verified data lies at the core of FOMSA’s reporting and advocacy. FOMSA will produce a “Human Rights Yearbook”  by primarily focusing on the following thematic areas for research, documentation and advocacy by mobilising expert researchers, monitors and documentalists in the field.

  • Extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture;
  • Safeguards of rights of children and prevention from abuse and neglect;
  • Elimination of violence against women and promotion of women’s rights;
  • Prevention of torture and respect for procedural safeguards;
  • Prospects for refugee returns, reintegration and restitution;
  • Compliance with human rights standards and access to justice;
  • Campaign on victim-centred transitional justice to confront the past; and
  • Safeguarding the rights of human rights defenders and the free media

Exploring Durable Solutions

Favoured solution for Afghan refugees in both a protracted situation and fresh exodus is dignified repatriation. Earlier, the crumbled democratic government was keen to see the return of the refugees.  Before current crisis, Iran, Pakistan, and  EU also wanted refugees to be repatriated to Afghanistan. In economic terms, the displaced millions represent a large potential labor force and consumer market. Rebuilding the nation can only be achieved with stability that comes from maintaining a fixed and permanent population. Nevertheless, considering the complex situation at hand in Afghanistan, it is now important to secure a guarantee that refugees will not be forcibly returned to their country.

Under this activity, the primary action will be to undertake mapping and documentation of past and existing practices on durable solution  with assessment of bright as well as dark aspects. FOMSA will mobilise university students, scholars and practioners to undertake field research covering the most viable/doable prospects for durable solutions. The field survey/assessment  will include questionnaire aiming at collecting view and experience primarily from refugees themselves, as well as inter-governmental agencies, civil society working on refugee protection inside Afghanistan and especially in Pakistan and Iran. Based on the initial perception survey, a position paper will be developed on prospects for conventional and complementary pathways for durable solutions based on the provision of the Global Compact for Refugees and the Comprehensive Framework for Refugee Response (CRRF). The research outcome document is expected to serve as a guiding tool for the international community to explore proper pathways for durable solutions.