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Assistance to migrants in vulnerable situations is a core activity of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in line with its mandate, the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals, and the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. Over the past years, IOM has capitalized on its expertise on identification, assistance, and protection of migrants in need through the establishment of Migrant centres. Migrant centres are integrated into IOM Migrant Resource and Response Mechanisms (MRRMs), which are IOM’s model for migrant protection and assistance in key hubs in countries of origin, transit, and destination. MRRMs are intended as flexible cooperation arrangements among key partners, tailor-made to fit each country's migration patterns and needs, thus providing operational support to government authorities to address complex migratory flows, facilitate the identification and registration of migrants, protect and assist migrants, and support data collection to feed into evidence-based policy and programming.

The aim of MRRMs facilities, referred to in this toolkit as "migrant centres" is to ensure that the human rights of migrants are respected and to provide an effective way to refer migrants in need to specialized services. The nature of migrant centres varies in each location and throughout time, but it is characterized by three core elements:

Corona f

All migrant centres seek to formalize co-operation among IOM, government agencies, civil society organizations, and United Nations (UN) agencies providing assistance to migrants in need, including shelter, protection from physical and psychological harm, as well as support services and sustainable solutions.

Corona e

Migrant centres are neutral spaces that provide migrants with protection and assistance services at all stages of the migration process, in countries of origin, transit and destination. Services greatly vary depending on the specificities of each context and may include shelter and basic needs provisions such as food, non-food items (NFIs) and medical and mental health care, as well as administrative and legal support, information about the risks of irregular migration and alternatives to it, referral services, pre-departure and post-arrival integration support as well as assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR).

Corona i

Migrant centres can play a significant role in data gathering, mainly through the registration of migrants during assistance. Information on the reasons for migrating, immediate migrant needs, the experience of hardships and human rights abuses, as well as demographic information is collected in line with IOM Data Protection Principles and it contributes to building a clearer picture of migration trends and migrant vulnerabilities, which can feed into evidence-based advocacy, policy, and programming.

Basic principles for migrant protection and assistance including self-determination and participation, non-discrimination, respect and protection of human rights, informed consent, age, gender and diversity (AGD) mainstreaming and data protection are core elements of migrant centres, as well as accountability to affected populations (AAP) and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA).

The table below presents different types of facilities that may be set up in the frameworks of MRRMs. It is important to note that these typologies are not intended as rigid categories and they may therefore be combined. For more details, please consult this entry.

1. Migration Response Centers (MRCs) also called:

  • Migration Resource and Response Centers (MRRCs), in case of a strong information provision component
  • Support spaces (Espacios de apoyo)


Strategically situated in border areas and along key migration routes in countries of origin, transit or destination, these physical facilities are collaborative spaces where different services are provided in a single place to respond to beneficiaries’ urgent and immediate protection and assistance needs and to offer longer-term support.

The minimum set of services offered usually include registration and ad-hoc screening of vulnerabilities; information and awareness-raising; orientation and basic counselling; first aid and psychological first aid; and referral for specialized assistance to governmental or non-governmental partners. Some facilities also offer accommodation or temporary shelter, food and non-food Items (NFIs), consular services, free calls and internet access, health care assistance, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), restoration of family links/family tracing, child friendly spaces and basic recreational and educational initiatives; domestic/onward transportation; and assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) or other sustainable solutions.

2. Transit and reception centers

The primary scope of transit and reception centers is to offer temporary accommodation to migrants and other people on the move throughout the different stages of IOM assistance. Transit centers usually host beneficiaries prior to departure to their destination (e.g. to their country of origin or country of destination), while reception centers welcome them upon arrival. The length of stay depends on a variety of factors, including the protection needs of each beneficiary and the type of assistance provided (e.g. consular and documentation services).

3. Migrant Resource Centers (MRCs) also called:

  • Information Hubs Migrant
  • Information Centres
  • Migrant Service Centres
  • Migrant Assistance Centres
  • Centres for Migrant Advice
  • Migrant Worker Centres
  • Listening and orientation offices (BEIOs - Bureaux d’écoute et d’orientation in French)
  • Orientation and help centers (COAM Centres d’Orientation et d’aide aux Migrants in French)
  • Information hubs (Ventanillas),
  • Orientation centers for migrants and refugees (COMyR - Centro de Orientacion a migrantes y refugiados)


Migrant Resource Centers (or their equivalents) offer a neutral space for migrants and potential migrants to enable them to make informed choices and to access direct protection and direct assistance services.

MRCs can touch upon a multitude of topics, including sensitisation on the risk of irregular migration, provision of accurate information on regular migration options and procedures. Vocational trainings, language courses, cultural activities to facilitate social integration, employment and remittances related services, legal counselling and referrals to specialised services or assistance may also be offered.

4. Collective centers

Collective Centers are pre-existing buildings and structures used for the collective and communal settlement of the displaced population, usually in the event of conflict or natural disaster. This definition includes buildings of all types, sizes, and forms of occupancy. The key term in this definition is “pre-existing buildings and structures”, as the overwhelming majority of collective centers would have been constructed prior to displacement and adapted to the needs of their guests.

5. Shelters for victims of trafficking and other vulnerable categories

The term shelter is used to refer to facilities providing adequate, safe and secure temporary living environment for victims of trafficking. Shelters aim at facilitating the stabilization of the victim to prevent further harm and enable maximum recovery.

Children should be housed in accommodation appropriate for their age and maturity, and foster families or alternatives to institutional care should be pursued as a priority. Persons with disabilities and older persons with limited mobility or cognition may require specially adapted shelter and accommodation.

6. Hotels, guest houses, and private accommodation The provision of shelter and other protection and assistance services may be provided in hotels, guest houses or private accommodation rather than in dedicated medium or large-scale facilities. These facilities are usually chosen when there is a need for low key and discrete shelter options, when beneficiaries have specific needs that may better addressed in small facilities, when the establishment of a standalone facility is not cost-effective or in case longstanding facilities have reached their maximum capacity.
6. Other types of facilities  A growing trend is to embed MRRMs in pre-existing facilities that provide services (e.g. education or medical services) not only to migrants or potential migrants, but also to the host population, as for instance local youth or particularly vulnerable categories of the local community.