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International Organization for Migration
Organisation Internationale pour les Migrations
Organización Internacional para las Migraciones
Formation 1951
Type Intergovernmental organization
Headquarters Geneva, Switzerland
Membership 127 member states
Official languages English, French and Spanish
Director General William Lacy Swing
Staff 6000

The International Organization for Migration is an intergovernmental organization. It was initially established in 1951 as the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) to help resettle people displaced by World War II.

It is the principal intergovernmental organization in the field of migration. IOM is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants.

IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration problems and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need, be they refugees, displaced persons or other uprooted people. The IOM Constitution gives explicit recognition to the link between migration and economic, social and cultural development, as well as to the right of freedom of movement of persons.

IOM works in the four broad areas of migration management: migration and development, facilitating migration, regulating migration, and addressing forced migration. Cross-cutting activities include the promotion of international migration law, policy debate and guidance, protection of migrants’ rights, migration health and the gender dimension of migration.

In addition, IOM has often organized elections for refugees out of their home country, as was the case in the 2004 Afghan elections and the 2005 Iraqi elections. These elections were directed by Peter Erben supported by senior electoral managers such as Craig Jenness, Richard Atwood and Stuart Poucher.

IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners.


IOM, or as it was first known, the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe (PICMME), was born in 1951 out of the chaos and displacement of Western Europe following the Second World War.

Mandated to help European governments to identify resettlement countries for the estimated 11 million people uprooted by the war, it arranged transport for nearly a million migrants during the 1950s.

A succession of name changes from PICMME to the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) in 1952, to the Intergovernmental Committee for Migration (ICM) in 1980 to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 1989, reflects the organization's transition over half a century from logistics agency to migration agency.

While IOM's history tracks the man-made and natural disasters of the past half century - Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Chile 1973, the Vietnamese Boat People 1975, Kuwait 1990, Kosovo and Timor 1999, and the Asian tsunami and Pakistan earthquake of 2004/2005 - its credo that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society has steadily gained international acceptance.

From its roots as an operational logistics agency, it has broadened its scope to become the leading international agency working with governments and civil society to advance the understanding of migration issues, encourage social and economic development through migration, and uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants.

The broader scope of activities has been matched by rapid expansion from a relatively small agency into one with an annual operating budget of close to $1 billion and some 5,400 staff working in over 100 countries worldwide.

As "The International Migration Agency" IOM has become the point of reference in the heated global debate on the social, economic and political implications of migration in the 21st century.


IOM has been criticized by antiracist groups, migrant organizations and NGOs for propagating and actively organizing practices such as deportations, militarized border controls or detention centers - all practices that they consider to be inhumane. However, it should be noted that Article 1 of IOM's Constitution clearly specifies that the purposes and functions of the Organization shall be: to provide, at the request of and in agreement with the States concerned, migration services such as recruitment, selection, processing, language training, orientation activities, medical examination, placement, activities facilitating reception and integration, advisory services on migration questions, and other assistance as is in accord with the aims of the Organization. Article 1 also clearly specifies that IOM can only engage in voluntary return migration and repatriation.

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