Improving Migration Management in the Silk Routes Countries

On 19 April 2013 the Istanbul Ministerial Declaration on a Silk Routes Partnership for Migration was adopted at the 5th Budapest Process Ministerial Conference; it established the operational framework for cooperation along the Silk Routes from Asia to Europe.

Subsequently the United Kingdom initiated the first operational project entitled “Bridging Measures for Migration Management in the Silk Routes Region”. This project focused on capacity building in migration management and carried out initial assessments and pilot trainings for officials of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. It also laid the groundwork for a more comprehensive and regional migration management project. “Support to the Silk Routes Partnership for Migration under the Budapest Process” was launched in February 2014 as the first big step and multilateral pledge to contribute to the implementation of the Istanbul Declaration.

During its three years of implementation the project strengthened the migration management capacities of authorities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan at national level and at regional level also including Bangladesh and Iran. It also initiated the development of sustainable training systems, enhanced data management and expertise and supported migration policy development frameworks. First Migrant Resource Centres were set up in Pakistan and the initiative Regional Law Enforcement Cooperation Silk Routes and Turkey (RELEC) was launched.

The EU-funded project “Improving Migration Management in the Silk Routes Countries” builds on the foundations and achievements set by these and other earlier initiatives implemented under the Budapest Process; it started in August 2017 and seeks to achieve further benchmarks in partnership with the Silk Routes Countries (SRCs). The “Silk Routes project”, in brief, aims at maximising the development potential of migration and mobility within the Silk Routes region and towards major labour receiving countries. It also aims to establish comprehensive regional responses to migration and mobility with full respect of human rights and protection of migrants.

In a nutshell, the “Silk Routes project”

  • strengthens the regional migration dialogue under the Budapest Process, based on a shared and clear understanding of migration and mobility between Silk Routes countries, Central Asian countries and European counterparts,
  • enhances migration governance and mobility and operationalises the Budapest Process through concrete initiatives such as the establishment of further Migrant Resource Centres (MRCs), the Silk Routes Facility for capacity building, Protection of Migrants’ Rights (MIGRA.P) and continuation of the RELEC initiative.

Start date and end date of the project: 01 August 2017 – 30 April 2022

Target country(ies) or region(s): Silk Routes: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan

Final beneficiaries: migrant and displaced population, their families and communities, as well as potential migrants from partner countries


The highlight of the Dialogue component (in the form of the Budapest Process) are the adoption of the “Istanbul Commitments on the Silk Routes Partnership for Migration” and the successful implementation of the “Call for Action”, the action plan adopted at the 6th Ministerial Conference. A total of 31 meetings of various types (thematic, regional working groups, ad-hoc) took place in which more than 2,000 representatives from 37 countries participated. Twelve knowledge materials directly under the Budapest Process were developed and published tackling issues such as return and reintegration, smuggling and trafficking, labour and skilled migration, migration narratives and climate-induced migration.

In spring 2021, the Budapest Process set-up a Reference Group (RG) to strengthen the link between meetings and development of operational opportunities for deepened engagement in the dialogue. The 1st meeting of the RG took place in May 2021 and saw 15 countries come together virtually to endorse the Terms of Reference of the group. Pakistan and the Netherlands were endorsed as Rapporteurs of the RG. The 2nd meeting of the RG took place in July focused on discussing three project proposals brought forward to the RG, namely: community of law enforcement cooperation or COLEP, reinforcing return and reintegration, and vocational training for labour migration.

Under the Facility component, the development of three national migration policies (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan) are milestones in countries where government stability and capacity are limited, with each policy initiative reaching final versions after undergoing thorough and inclusive development process, and have been submitted to the focal national ministries for endorsement and approval. The development process is an achievement itself because it strengthened the capacities of national authorities, enabled a bottom-up approach to policy formulation, and highlighted the importance of a strategic and holistic approach to migration management.

Some elements are already being implemented despite the absence of formal approval, which is a manifestation of their importance and alignment with other development policies and initiatives in the covered countries.

The policies also resulted to additional requests. MOPHRD in Pakistan has requested ICMPD support to develop national Reintegration Policy that would be applicable to all those in need of reintegration support in the country. MORR and DIREC in Afghanistan requested for development of programme-based budgeting arising from CMP, in addition to capacity building.

Furthermore, and as part of the implementation of the Strategic Plan for the FIA Academy, the Facility component established an Online Training Platform for Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency Academy. The Platform will be used to organise and conduct (remote) trainings for FIA officers – beyond those being conducted within the Academy premises. Moreover, the Platform has been developed to support trainings by all FIA partners by streamlining the content, methods of delivery, further reducing possibilities for duplication of efforts, and allowing for enhanced coordination of partners in the delivery of thematic trainings.

Six grant projects implemented under the Call for Proposals (CfP) for the Larger-Scale Actions were completed with tangible outputs. All grant projects demonstrated high engagement with beneficiaries
and efficiently adopted to changed implementation modalities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These grant projects enabled ICMPD to work on two important and pressing issues not yet fully recognised or addressed in Silk Routes – climate-induced migration and female migration. They also reinforced the value of partnerships and cooperation with civil society organisations which were able to work at grassroots level and which affirmed the continuation of the grant projects’ outputs through their own capacity and resources.

The Flagship component supported the set-up and operationalisation of seven Migrant Resource Centres (MRC) in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Iraq. With an outreach of more than 85,000 migrants (potential, departing and returning as well as migrants’ families), MRCs were able to provide specific counselling, information and guidance to migrants on safe, regular and orderly migration and on dangers and consequences of trafficking of human beings, smuggling of migrants, and irregular migration. MRCs have utilised all possible platforms (traditional and social media entities, community volunteers, national and local authorities, private sector, CSO, academia, faith-based groups) through multiple strategies (pre-departure briefings, community outreach, social media, transport-based campaigns, counselling, hotline numbers) addressing all types of migrants (labour, student, emigration) across all phases (pre-migration, pre-departure, on-site, return and reintegration) – with a reach of over 80 million people. They gathered various information from potential migrants on the ground that are important for migration intelligence and trends useful for policy formulation, programming or prompt action by both countries of origin and destination. They also provided alternatives for potential migrants on issues related to local employment, academic opportunities, family reunification and reintegration.

Under the Flagship initiative MIGRAP – Protections of Migrants’ Rights – the highlights are the development of the online pre-employment, pre-departure and post-arrival orientation modules for migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan and to Iraq, which were fully operational in November 2020. For Afghanistan, a pre-departure rules and regulations for labour migration and labour market assessment were submitted to MOLSA. In Bangladesh, 10 TTCs became interim DEMOs that helped reduced costs and time for prospective migrants in availing pre-departure services. Ten Labour Migration Fiches for potential countries of destination of Bangladesh migrant workers were also submitted to BMET. In Iraq, an expanded rules and regulations for labour migration was endorsed by MOLSA. Several post-arrival sessions for migrant workers and workshop for private hiring offices were also conducted. In Pakistan, the Operations Manual for Community Welfare Attached was submitted to MOPHRD.

Under the Flagship initiative RELEC – Regional Law Enforcement Cooperation on was trafficking in human beings, smuggling of migrants and irregular migration, one SOP on data collection on trafficking, smuggling, and irregular migration for Pakistan was submitted to MOI. Various regional and national workshops and capacity building were conducted for Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq and Pakistan government officials, aligned with the newly developed RELEC strategy for 2020-2021, with a roadmap that reflects concrete actions aimed at national capacity building and the development of SOPs on data collection on trafficking, smuggling, and irregular migration.

Project was funded by the European Union


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