Skip to main content

Repository of Practices

Humanitarian Rescue Operations (HRO) as part of the Migrant Response and Resource Mechanism (MRRM)

Primary GCM Objectives

Secondary 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)


2016 - Present

Type of practice


Geographic scope



Sub Regions:


The practice emerged due to actions occurring along the Northern Nigerien border, where international migrants reach a designated area near the Nigerien border referred to as "point zero." From this point, migrants are required to cover a 12km distance to reach Niger. Since 2016, this practice has led to arrivals in Assamaka, Niger, with an annual average of around 13,000 migrants in distress and vulnerability. These migrants receive aid through IOM's Migrant Response and Resource Mechanism (MRRM), including direct assistance in transit centers such as shelter, food, medical and psychosocial aid, and consular support. This assistance ultimately facilitates assisted voluntary returns to their countries of origin. During the expulsion process, some migrants become stranded due to various factors like disorientation, dehydration, fatigue, distress, disability, or other vulnerable conditions. They are rescued through either proactive or reactive Humanitarian Rescue Operations (HRO) in collaboration with safety forces, security personnel, Civil Protection, and local NGOs. The core activities involve providing initial aid, such as water, food, and transportation to the nearest village, followed by essential support like hygiene, sanitation, registration, medical screening, and access to the MRRM program and transit centers, eventually leading to voluntary returns. Women, children, LGBTQI+ and other vulnerable beneficiaries are managed as a matter of priority assistance and are transferred to a more suitable place according to their needs to provide adequate assistance including referral to patterns or specialized establishments of care, if judged necessary. Crucial resources include the remote presence of IOM in Assamaka village, ensuring life-saving assistance through HRO. Additionally, the existence of a transit center guarantees fundamental aid before transferring migrants to other centers and facilitating their voluntary return to their countries of origin.


Partner/Donor Organizations

Local Authorities

Benefit and Impact

HRO extends vital and prompt aid to migrants stranded in the desert, offering them immediate life-saving support when they're unable to continue their journey. This assistance preserves their dignity and well-being, addressing the aftermath of both their expulsion and failed migration attempts. Concurrently, local communities and pertinent authorities are empowered to actively safeguard human rights and ensure efficient migration management. Collaboration with IOM and neighboring countries in the region, primarily ECOWAS member states (constituting over 90% of migrants), contributes to this effort.

The continuation of this practice hinges on sustained funding to support operations in Assamaka, and as long as migrants continue to arrive through expulsions, the practice remains in operation.

Key Lessons

The foremost challenges revolve around the demanding and remote setting of Assamaka, situated within the Saharan desert and a military zone. This location lacks access to basic services like health and water, compounded by a dearth of communication means such as stable phone and internet connections. These factors render interventions exceptionally difficult. Mitigating such challenges involved adopting a rotational approach with support teams, addressing immediate needs in a structured manner. Additionally, a seasonal strategy accounted for fluctuations in arrivals, allowing staff to recuperate. Overcoming obstacles has also emerged through sustained practice, assimilating best practices, and deepening insights into local migratory patterns for arrivals. This continuous learning process has been instrumental.

For enhanced effectiveness, alternative approaches could encompass intensified training for staff, involving third-party personnel for specific roles to facilitate operational flexibility. Implementing a rotational scheme could allow for crucial rest and feedback cycles. Substantial investments in communication infrastructure and logistics, facilitated through fundraising efforts, could further aid operations. Moreover, maintaining an ongoing assessment process and collaborating with local partners and authorities for mechanism refinement would be a strategic alteration in differing circumstances. The acquired knowledge has already been shared with local authorities and partners, including NGOs engaged in similar endeavors, fostering a collective understanding.

Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)

Referring to point 14, a dual approach was undertaken, marked by innovative and unconventional design thinking processes tailored to the intricate demands of a challenging environment. This approach was coupled with physical presence, fostering effective communication and a feedback loop. This intricate dynamic facilitated ongoing evaluation, iterative enhancement, and pertinent assistance. It's important to note the sensitivity of this subject, as it touches upon matters of public advocacy and the sovereignty of distinct member states. Applied principles governing these aspects are pivotal considerations when navigating this complex terrain.


The practice's innovation lies in its organic evolution as a response to exigencies, remaining adaptable and ad-hoc in nature. It has also contributed to a distinct sub-category of Search and Rescue (SAR) Operations carried out along migratory routes within Niger's Saharan desert. This practice holds the potential for theoretical scalability, contingent upon available funds and the number of arrivals with their corresponding needs. Amidst the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, adjustments were implemented, including the establishment of a tangible transit center in Assamaka. Additional capacities were introduced, aligning with quarantine and general sanitary imperatives. Remarkably, local authorities are now achieving vaccination rates of 95% or higher among arrivals, underscoring the practice's adaptive responsiveness.

Date submitted:

05 September 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).