Wednesday, August 6, 2008

International Organization for Migration

Joanna Ghosh writes from Geneva:

This summer I am working at the headquarters of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Geneva, Switzerland. Although it is somewhat lesser-known than the United Nations organizations that neighbor it, the IOM is by no means unimpressive.

IOM is highly decentralized and service-oriented. There are about 40 field locations and 6,000 operational staff members all over the world. At headquarters we mostly coordinate and organize projects(and the local missions or field locations physically implement them and provide services), communicate with members states, participate in
international forums, research and produce publications, and handle the internal affairs of the Organization.


Working for the International Migration Law and Legal Affairs Department is like working for two different departments. In its 'Legal Affairs' capacity, the Department handles all the legal issues that arise in the daily operations of the Organization (ranging from employment contracts to contracts for the purchase of pre-fabricated homes for refugees). In its 'International Migration Law' capacity, the Department has the initiative of defining, forming, and contributing to an area of law that is somewhat amorphous—international migration law involves just some of the following subjects: entry, residence, citizenship, labour, trafficking, borders management, human rights, transport, asylum, displaced persons, extradition, state security, and health.

I spend most of time working on IOM's International Migration Law Database, which is publicly accessible. The purpose of the database is to consolidate the norms and instruments relevant to migration at the international, regional and national levels. Once I have scanned through and compiled the laws of a
particular state or region, I usually contact the original copyright holders for permission to include the materials on our database. I enjoy this work because, in the course of doing it, I become familiar with the laws of various countries and legal systems and find out interesting things about them. In one particular case I remember surprising my supervisor by telling her that we could not contact a copyright-holder "because Parliament was dissolved in a 2006 coup and the government websites have not been updated since!" In another situation I had to explain why theoretically there was and (at the same time) was not such a thing as Puerto Rican citizenship.

I have also had the opportunity to contribute to IOM publications regarding discrimination of migrants in the workplace, migrants' right to health, and trafficking in persons.

Overall I think the goal of IOM's initiative is to facilitate migration that is positive for both the countries of origin and destination, and of course, the migrants themselves. By working on the database and publications, I feel that I am helping make available the tools for legal and beneficial migration. Thank you Equal Justice Foundation for making this summer internship possible.

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