Asia-Pacific was home to roughly 60 per cent of the world’s population in 2020 and nearly a quarter of the global international migrant stock accounting for 65 million migrants in 2019. Due to complex socio-economic, political, and geological reasons, a considerable number of migrants in the region migrate through irregular channels and are vulnerable to human trafficking, migrant smuggling, exploitation, and abuse throughout their migration cycle. For migrants in such vulnerable situations, accessing protective services, including immediate assistance, referral services or justice is often a challenge. Migrants may also need support in returning home sooner than planned and face many barriers to reintegration into their home communities. These can include debt, stigmatization, lack of access to income generating and social protection activities, and if not addressed easily, can lead to unsafe re-migration choices and a vicious cycle of exploitation, abuse, and trafficking. IOM’s Asia-Pacific Migration Data Report 2020 estimates that the majority of IOM-assisted victims of trafficking originating from Asia-Pacific had been exploited in the region. Forced labour also featured heavily as one of the most prevalent forms of exploitation amongst migrants assisted in the region.

To address some of the identified vulnerabilities, the Protection Division at the IOM’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP) contributes to the protection of migrants in vulnerable situations, including victims of human trafficking, exploitation and abuse, unaccompanied and separated migrant children, stranded migrants and migrants in detention, and children in the context of migration, while also ensuring sustainable return and reintegration support for returning migrants at their communities of origin.

Interventions across the region include direct assistance to migrants in situations of vulnerability;  training and capacity building of government and civil society partners; thematic guidance on migrant vulnerability issues including identification, assistance and referral, advocacy and communications on safe and regular migration pathways, facilitating convening and dialogue across the thematic landscape and improving the evidence base in the region on migrant vulnerability issues, including enhancing administrative data on trafficking and irregular migrants.

Prominent protection best practices throughout the region include:

Voluntary Returns Support and Reintegration Assistance Program for Bali Process Member States (AVRR BP)

AVRR BP aims to provide a regional support mechanism to assist the voluntary, safe and dignified return of stranded migrants, including irregular migrants and rejected asylum seekers, who are unable or unwilling to remain in host countries and wish to return to their countries of origin but lack the means to do so. When migrants travel with IOM, they are guided through exit clearance for regular travel, while taking into account health vulnerabilities and protection needs, in coordination with Bali Process authorities.


Asia Regional Migration Program (Asia RMP)

The Asia RMP aims to strengthen the capacities and resources of Governments in Asia to manage the complex migration flows in the region, particularly migrants in vulnerable and crisis situations, through enhanced structures, policies, processes, safe and legal migration pathways, and effective partnerships at the national, sub-regional, and regional level.


Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking (CREST)

CREST is a three-pillar programme designed to help companies and their suppliers uphold the labour and human rights of workers, particularly migrant workers in their operations and supply chain. The first is training for the private sector on human trafficking and modern slavery, the second is pre-employment and post arrival orientation training for migrant workers, and the third is support to companies with labour supply chain mapping and ethical recruitment.


Governance of Labour Migration in South and South-East Asia (GOALS) Programme

The GOALS programme, a three-year (August 2020 – July 2023) joint regional programme between IOM, ILO and UN women, aims to ensure that labour migration is safe, orderly and regular for all women and men from the Colombo Process Member States through strengthened collaboration and effective labour migration governance.


Bridging Recruitment to Reintegration Migration Governance (BRIDGE) Programme

The BRIDGE programme, a two-year (2020 - 2022) joint regional programme between IOM, ILO and UN women, aims to support the Government of the Philippines in promoting fair and ethical recruitment, and in ensuring that returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are able to successfully reintegrate through an approach that puts them at the center, addresses challenges to women in particular, and is inclusive of all groups, including the OFW community and civil society organizations.


Bangladesh: Sustainable Reintegration and Improved Migration Governance (PROTTASHA)

The Prottasha project, a five-year (April 2017 - April 2022) project in partnership with BRAC, aims to contribute to the sustainable reintegration of returnees and the progressive achievement of Sustainable Development Goal Target 10.7 to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people through the implementation of planned and well-managed policies.

Ship to Shore

Ship to Shore Rights Southeast Asia is a four-year (2020 - 2024) programme implemented by the ILO in collaboration with IOM and UNDP. Its overriding objective is to promote regular and safe labour migration and decent work for all migrant workers in the fishing and seafood processing sectors in Southeast Asia.

Aligning Lenses Toward Ethical Recruitment (ALTER)

ALTER, an 18-month project (August 2020 - January 2022), aims to increase access to ethical recruitment channels for Overseas Filipino Workers by supporting wider adoption of ethical recruitment principles in the Philippines, and creating an enabling environment for employers and recruiters to commit to and practice those principles. 


IOM X is an innovative campaign to encourage safe migration and public action to stop exploitation and human trafficking. It produces videos for television, online platforms and community screenings, seeking to educate viewers on different issues related to human trafficking and exploitation.