At the cutting-edge of migration issues in the twenty-first century: causes of migration and responses from field work and policy making perspectives |

At the cutting-edge of migration issues in the twenty-first century: causes of migration and responses from field work and policy making perspectives

20111110_Valerie_Dourdin-Fernade_04w170On 10 November 2011, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy hosted a career talk by Mrs. Valerie Dourdin-Fernandez, Chief of Mission of the International Organisation for Migration, Malaysia entitled “At the Cutting Edge of Migration Issues in the 21st Century: Causes of Migration and Responses From Fieldwork and Policymaking Perspectives”.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) was born out of need after the First and Second World War, she said, and caters to all aspects of migration affecting nearly 140 member states, nearly 500 field offices around the world and over 2,000 active projects. With over 1 billion people on the move around the world, IOM has evolved from catering to refugees and assisted return, to comprehensive migration management, migration health and transnational organised crime involving movement of people that has arisen due to the fast pace of globalisation.

Placing migration in the current context, Mrs. Dourdin-Fernandez highlighted the large numbers of internal migrants (740 million), as well as the 42 million migrants who have been forcibly uprooted due to disasters and conflict. The numbers are set to increase, including a projected 25 million to 1 billion environmental refugees by 2050 who are victims of climate change, extreme weather patterns, sea-level rise and environmental degradation. Ageing populations in developed countries create a demand for labour from growing populations in developing countries. Aside from the regular and legal channels, there is also irregular migration in the form of human trafficking and smuggling. 

Turning to Asia, Mrs. Dourdin-Fernandez said it is the continent with the least number of signatories to the various conventions on migration, despite Asia being the largest area of origin as well as destination for migrants. There is still a tendency for countries to want to pick and choose when it comes to migrants and accepting re-settlers. Part of IOM Malaysia’s Mission is to change the dialogue patterns and bring about a shift in thinking. Other areas of IOM Malaysia’s work include resettlement programmes, counter-trafficking capacity building and victim repatriation. Such work isn’t easy, she said, but the trick is to keep persevering.

“Get your hands dirty,” Mrs. Dourdin-Fernandez advised, if you want to understand the realities on the ground. She said what drew her into migration work was the televised image of Omayra Sanchez, a 13-year-old stuck for three days in a Colombian mudslide that killed over 20,000 people.

She said fieldwork was what kept her motivated and inspired, and getting to know the local people and being adaptable are essential to doing the job well. 

For more information on IOM and its activities, please visit 


By Mariyam Midhfa Naeem, a first-year Master of Public Policy student at the LKY School.


Follow the journey of a woman from her work in the entertainment industry in France to the Chief of Mission with the International Organization for Migration in Malaysia.
In this time of global recessions and cutbacks, with 1 billion migrants on the move every year worldwide, the
International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency, is growing and governments are seeking its unique experience and knowledge to form partnerships . The organization has seen a 600% increase in global staff and a 336% increase in the number of worldwide offices between 1998 and 2009. Opportunities are varied and include work in the fields of: post-conflict management, counter trafficking and assisted voluntary return and repatriation, border management, travel assistance, migration and development, migration health, and policy and research. Since 2005, IOM Malaysia’s refugee resettlement program has resettled over 27,000 refugees to 11 countries. Today, with South East Asia becoming the top origin and destination country for sex and labour exploitation, the mission’s counter-trafficking project provides capacity-building to government officials and other stakeholders and repatriates victims of trafficking. “In a world in which more people are on the move than at any other time in recorded history”, come learn about IOM’s work to assist migrants and help build dialogue with government and other stakeholders “to ensure orderly and humane responses to the challenges and opportunities presented by human mobility” in the twenty first century.

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Mrs. Valerie Dourdin-Fernandez, Chief of Mission, International Organisation for Migration, Malaysia

Thursday, 10 November 2011
12.15 p.m. - 1.30 p.m.

Seminar Room 3-5
Level 3, Manasseh Meyer
Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
469C Bukit Timah Road
Singapore 259772

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