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International Migrants Day 2019

MERF at a glance in 2019

  • by Helen James
  • 18 Dec 19

Working with refugee communities to construct shelters in Niger (Photo credit: Mercy Corps)

Blog Post

On International Migrants Day 2019, the number of people who are migrants and refugees across the globe has reached an estimated 272 million, 51 million more than in 2010, according to the UN. Under this year’s theme of #WeTogether, Start Network takes stock of its work in 2019 to understand, anticipate, and address migration needs and patterns, using a collaborative and speedy approach in its work.

The Start Network’s Migration Emergency Response Fund (MERF) is a rapid response fund that allows its 24 member organisations to rapidly respond to needs that are not covered under ongoing mixed migration responses and that can benefit from a short intervention. The MERF also funds Collaborative Information Collection and Analysis (CICA) grants for needs assessments, context analysis or information gathering that allow members to improve their understanding of migration trends along migration routes in Africa and identify where intervention is needed. The below projects highlight humanitarian needs and reflect the new or emerging trends that MERF members have identified along the migration routes in North, West, and Central Africa.

MERF at a glance in 2019

  • MERF members: 24 NGOs
  • People reached in 2019: 19,897
  • Number of responses funded: 3 responses
  • Total amount of funding for responses in 2019: £1,095,000
  • Number of CICAs funded: 2 CICA requests
  • Total amount of funding for CICAs in 2019:  £63,110
  • Speed of decision making for interventions in 2019: 60.5 hours


Alert 17 Morocco (Anticipation of spike in needs over winter)

Most migrants in Morocco live either in overcrowded housing in working-class neighbourhoods, in the forests near the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, or until recently in informal urban camps. Until June 2019, Casablanca hosted one of the last informal camps near the Ouled Ziane bus station. On any given day, between 800 and 1,800 migrants, primarily sub-Saharan African adult males including a noticeable proportion of unaccompanied minors, took shelter in the increasingly overcrowded and unsanitary camp based on a 400m2 basketball court. With the cold winter months approaching and social tensions increasing in the neighbourhood, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) raised an anticipation alert at the end of December 2018. With this rapid funding, HI and its partners were able to distribute food vouchers, hammam tickets, hygiene kits, winterisation kits, cooking kits, first aid kits, and clean up kits, reaching over 3,800 people. HI was also able to negotiate for and install permanent toilets near the camp which helped to address the pre-existing sanitation problems. 

Description: Cleaning activities in Ouled Ziane camp, Casablanca (Photo credit: Humanity & Inclusion)


Alert 19 Niger (Arrivals of Nigerian refugees)

In April and May, around 20,000 Nigerian refugees began arriving in Niger displaced by growing insecurity in north-western Nigeria. Although Nigerien authorities and UNHCR were coordinating to register arrivals and provide support, there were large gaps in humanitarian need. The MERF funded a consortium of Mercy Corps, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC), and World Vision to help fill this gap. The consortium was able to distribute non-food items, provide emergency shelter kits and clean drinking water. It also provided sanitation facilities and provided training and support for protection activities. The consortium took a community-led approach to many of these activities giving community members the skills and tools to construct latrines and shelters.

A community member involved said: "I was chosen with another young man from the village to participate in the 5-day training with artisans from other villages. It was really worthwhile because we learned to repair 6 types of pumps and it was very educational because there was a theoretical phase of 2 days and another practice of 3 days. At the end of the training, a box of tools and small equipment was given to us for our village. Before I saw the pumps in other localities but today it is in “my home” (village) and I am part of repairers in case of failure, what an honour!"

The MERF played an important role in allowing these NGOs to become a part of the response and the agencies responding felt that this played a significant role in securing funding for similar work. 

Working with local communities to improve water and sanitation in Niger (Photo credit: Mercy Corps)

Alert 20 Morocco (Sudden relocation of vulnerable groups)

A fire broke out in the night of 29 June 2019, destroying the informal migrant camp next to Ouled Ziane bus station in Casablanca. All camp residents lost their possessions and were forced to disperse throughout the city to find shelter. Humanity and Inclusion (HI) urgently raised an alert to provide housing for those displaced by the fire, prioritising the most vulnerable people first. Migrant communities also attended social cohesion activities such as music and dance classes as well as a football tournament alongside Moroccans as to encourage understanding of one another. HI and its partners had to adapt to an increasingly dispersed and hidden population, which led to a number of lessons learned such as various initiatives to manage inter- and intra-community tensions. In a country where limited funding is available for mixed migration responses, the MERF has played an important role in covering the needs of the most vulnerable.

CICA 5 Tunisia (Needs assessment)

When fighting renewed in Libya in the summer of 2019, MERF members started discussing the potential impact it might have on migration flows in neighbouring Tunisia. With little data available, REACH Initiatives and HI submitted a CICA request to better understand migratory dynamics and primary needs of migrants and refugees in the south of Tunisia. The final report outlined that “respondents’ journeys were mostly long and fragmented, increasing their vulnerability to risks such as exploitation and abuse along the way. Half of the respondents reported transiting through three to four countries before arriving in Tunisia.”

CICA 6 Mali (Protection assessment)

Mali is an important country of origin and transit for mixed migration flows within the region and beyond. In recent months, field research by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and others has highlighted the emergence of a new migration route towards Timbuktu in Northern / Central Mali to Algeria possibly due to insecurity in Gao, which had been the main route. The lack of information and appropriate response along this new route leaves migrants more exposed to protection risks. DRC submitted a CICA request to conduct a protection assessment along the route to fill this knowledge gap and provide an evidence base for an appropriate response. This assessment will get underway in January 2020.  

Read more about the Migration Emergency Response Fund 

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Refugees and Migrants

  • by Helen James