Migration, Forced Displacement and Social Protection

The purpose of this paper is to set out a common framework, language and understanding of the relevance of social protection to different groups of migrants and forcibly displaced people.

Social protection is fundamentally a policy response to vulnerability. Given the different vulnerabilities that mobile populations face, there will be a range of different social protection responses to these. This paper provides a framework for considering the potential role that social protection interventions – or the lack of social protection interventions – can play in terms of precipitating, directing or halting movement (e.g. from a country of origin without a functioning social protection system).  It also considers the different forms of social protection that may be needed by different groups at different stages of their journey and after arrival in a place of destination. Legal or illegal entry or presence in a territory or state is just one factor that influences access to social protection. Other factors, including operational, political and financial factors that affect coverage, adequacy and portability of benefits may restrict the scope of social protection in practice and this is also considered.

It is important to recognize that many forms of social protection are informal (relying on community, kin, clan or other forms of reciprocity). This is especially the case in less developed countries where the majority of forcibly displaced both come from and are hosted, and where formal state-based social protection is weak. This paper acknowledges the importance of these forms of social protection, but is primarily focused on assessing the impact of formal social protection programmes on forcibly displaced and low-income migrant populations. Formal social protection is normally conceived of as state-led, but in certain contexts – particularly when considering forced displacement – non-state internationally led social protection is actually the norm.

The rest of this paper comprises two sections. First, it defines and describes the specific groups and populations of interest in this paper, laying out the drivers and scale of movement as well as the vulnerabilities that these groups face at origin, during journeys and at destination. The second section describes a social protection lens and framework for understanding and engaging with the types of mobile populations of interest here. The paper concludes by offering some thoughts on current gaps in our understanding of how social protection can apply to migrants and populations of forcibly displaced people, and identifying areas where further work is needed.