Skip to main content

Repository of Practices

Cooperation between Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies and their Governments to provide humanitarian assistance and protection

Primary GCM Objectives

GCM Guiding Principles*

*All practices are to uphold the ten guiding principles of the GCM. This practice particularly exemplifies these listed principles.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


2021 - Present

Type of practice


Geographic scope


Sub Regions:


The Northwest Africa - Atlantic route refers to the maritime route connecting several countries and territories along the Northwest African coast with the Canary Islands. This route, already active in 2006, saw an increasing number of movements in 2022 and 2023 after a period of comparatively lower flows. The Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the region are first responders to the needs of people on the move on the Atlantic route and in the other countries in West Africa through multiple projects, including the IFRC Global Route-Based Migration Programme. National Societies in Senegal, The Gambia, Mali, and Mauritania, as part of this Global Programme, are working with each other, as well as with their respective governments and IOM, to provide assistance and protection to people on the move, including survivors of shipwrecks and other returnees. To facilitate this work, National Societies have signed Memorandums of Understandings with their governments to ensure that they can provide unhindered humanitarian assistance. In The Gambia, for example, the National Society works with the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs and has signed an MoU with The Gambia Immigration Department. The Gambia Red Cross is also part of the National Coordination Mechanism on Migration and participates in relevant working groups with several Ministries and departments. This allows the Red Cross to cooperate with the authorities, including in situations of displacement or migrants being stranded at borders. The National Society has also trained authorities (including border police and security officers) about migrants’ rights and referral pathways to the Red Cross, to facilitate access to assistance such as temporary shelter, food and non-food items, family reunification, life-saving information, first aid, psychosocial support (PSS) and counselling, and medical referrals. The Gambia Red Cross also collaborates with medical facilities, pharmacies, and restaurants to provide free medical care, medication, and food for migrants, including at border crossing points. National Societies in West Africa also coordinate their activities through the Sahel Plus Migration Technical Working Group (Sahel +), of which National Societies in Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, The Gambia, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Guinea Conakry, Niger, Senegal, and Chad are members. Through this coordination platform, National Societies communicate with each other and share or exchange information for learning, coordination, collaboration, and support, and for early information about the conditions of migrants moving along the Transatlantic route. This type of exchange also allows relevant National Societies to prepare themselves to go to the border and assist returnees with transportation to their families, Restoring Family Links services, provide medical assistance including first aid, PSS, food and non-food items, and shelter.


Main Implementing Organization(s)

The Red Cross National Societies

Detailed Information

National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of The Gambia, Senegal, Mali, and Mauritania, with cross-border collaboration with other National Societies in West and Central Africa

Partner/Donor Organizations

National governments
International Organization for Migration - IOM

Benefit and Impact

Emergency assistance to migrants in distress, including food, water and medical care provided to people on the move, including survivors of shipwrecks and other returnees can contribute to directly saving their lives. Psychosocial support, Restoring Family Links and other protection services may also indirectly prevent loss of life and further distress. Migrants who are returned following shipwrecks or other interruptions to their intended journeys need to recover from the shock of the incident, and those who, either by choice or not, return to their countries of origin may face stigma, shame, and mental health symptoms that, if left untreated, can be life-threatening. The RCRC approach therefore emphasises the importance of PSS for all migrants, and for referrals of people with potentially more serious needs to be referred to services as soon as possible to mitigate severe mental health outcomes.

Key Lessons

A key challenge identified relates to the sustainability of some activities that are compelled to stop at the end of funding cycles. Another challenge is the discrepancy of services between neighbouring National Societies providing services to migrants across borders. For example, in The Gambia, transportation to their families is provided for returnees by the Red Cross, but it is not necessarily the case in other National Societies.

Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)

Developing partnerships with the authorities and training them about migrants’ rights and needs will improve the protection and services provided to migrants.


The cross-border response implemented by the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in West Africa is innovative and particularly relevant in a region where migrants in their care may come from many countries in the region. The Sahel+ Migration Network enables cross-country continuity of care that is crucial to support migrants who have been through difficult events such as shipwrecks or interceptions at sea.

Date submitted:

07 November 2023

Disclaimer: The content of this practice reflects the views of the implementers and does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations, the United Nations Network on Migration, and its members.



*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).