Department of Operations and Emergencies

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Over the past decade, IOM has emerged as one of the world’s largest humanitarian actors, with huge relief operations underway in virtually every major humanitarian setting. We respond to forced migration and large-scale population movements, including protracted internal and cross-border displacement and refugee situations. Within the Organization’s structure, these activities fall under the remit of the Department of Operations and Emergencies (DOE).

In addition, DOE oversees individual specialized projects related to humanitarian principles, protection mainstreaming, prevention of violent extremism and prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation.

IOM’s emergency, post-conflict and recovery activities focus on the needs of individuals and uprooted communities, thereby contributing to their protection. They are addressed in all phases of IOM’s Migration Crisis Operational Framework (MCOF): pre-crisis preparedness, emergency response and post-crisis recovery.

The region covered by IOM’s Vienna Region Office is, mainly, made up of countries which are economically and institutionally able to respond to emergencies. However, the ongoing conflicts and violence within and near the region (Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq) underline the need to provide emergency assistance, as well as durable and sustainable solutions, for conflict-affected populations. There are also several frozen conflicts in the region which have left people displaced for many years. Much of the region is prone to rapid-onset natural disasters such as flash floods, as well as slow-onset disasters related to climate change, such as protracted droughts, harsher winters, desertification and even technical disasters. All these serve to make preparedness, disaster risk-reduction and community stabilization measures essential.

An overview of our activities is available here.

In recent years, humanitarian efforts in the RO Vienna region have chiefly concentrated on assistance to displaced populations in Ukraine, to Syrian refugees hosted in Turkey and, via IOM Turkey, to displaced populations in the Syrian Arab Republic. In Ukraine, IOM reports more than 1.4 million IDPs, with many in need of urgent and basic humanitarian assistance as well as longer-term support with healthcare, jobs and housing. Over 30 per cent of the 3.4 million persons in need are elderly, the highest proportion of any crisis worldwide. Turkey remains host to the world’s largest refugee population . According to the Turkish authorities, almost 4.5 million foreign nationals are officially living in Turkey, of whom 3.64 million are seeking international protection, the vast majority  (3.62 million)1 being Syrians who have been granted temporary protection status. Within the framework of the coordinated plan for response, called the 3RP, IOM provides humanitarian relief in Turkey, for example through cash transfers for basic needs, shelter support, the delivery of non-food items such as hygiene kits and household supplies, food distribution, protection, mental health and psychosocial support, transportation to schools and basic healthcare. This is combined with recovery support for both displaced and host communities that fosters social cohesion. On the western land and sea border, IOM provides emergency assistance to migrants and refugees who were rescued or intercepted while attempting to cross into EU countries. From the South-East of Turkey, IOM also operates a large-scale logistical operation to deliver cross-border aid into the Syrian Arab Republic. 

IOM further supports governments of countries along the Eastern Mediterranean route, that leads through the Western Balkans, to address large flows of migrants transiting through the region – with important humanitarian operations set up flexibly at points where migrants stay for longer periods of time. Large-scale migration during the second half of 2015 and early 2016 from Turkey to Greece, through the Western Balkans region, called for a coordinated migration crisis response. IOM’s efforts included contingency planning, Displacement Tracking and flow Monitoring (DTM), emergency response, protection of vulnerable migrants, and capacity-building for humanitarian border management. Since 2018, the main operation has concentrated on Bosnia and Herzegovina, from where migrants attempt to cross into European Union countries to continue their journey.  

Finally, IOM contributes to governments’ efforts to prepare for and respond to the global crisis that broke out in 2020 – the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking forward, IOM will continue this support with a renewed focus on recovery. The spread of the virus had severe implications for  the most vulnerable, which includes displaced populations and their host communities, but also migrants who became stranded in countries of transit and destination, or those who lost their source of income and returned to countries of origin.  

In the Western Balkans, large numbers arrived at the borders, particularly those of North Macedonia and Serbia in the first quarter of 2020, where they received prompt, effective assistance. Among them were vulnerable migrants, including unaccompanied children and victims of trafficking. Many of them did not qualify for international protection, but nonetheless received assistance. IOM’s efforts, in the framework of the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan for Europe, include contingency planning, ddisplacement tracking and flow mmonitoring (DTM), emergency response, protection of vulnerable migrants, and capacity-building for humanitarian border management. 

All of IOM’s crisis response plans, including its global plan for COVID-19, are published on IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform



IOM transition and recovery programmes bridge the gap between relief and development. In the region, IOM provides support to partners to address displacement-related challenges by helping to build capacities to ensure that displaced and affected populations are protected from and are resilient to causes and factors that uprooted them from their homes, such as violent conflicts, gross violations of human rights, natural hazards and other traumatic events.  

IOM boosts the resilience of communities to assist in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of affected areas as one of the ways to prevent further displacement. Programmes utilize a variety of activities to support the integration and reintegration of the displaced and to assist receiving communities to cope with socio-economic burdens. These include livelihood support for displaced populations and host communities, social cohesion activities, infrastructure development and support for the integration or reintegration of returnees. 

IOM also has expertise in the field of prevention of violent extremism. Programmes address the contextually specific drivers of radicalization, with the aim of reducing recruitment into these groups and strengthening peaceful processes that help prevent and resolve conflict-induced migration. In addition, IOM includes prevention efforts in its comprehensive support to governments to rehabilitate and reintegrate returning foreign terrorist fighters and their families, following due process. 

Other specialized projects are implemented that deal with the legacy of crises and transitional justice. For example, Land, Property and Reparations issues play an ever-increasing role in reconciliation, peace-building and reconstruction efforts and are an important rehabilitation tool for countries in transition. The contribution of such programmes to durable solutions for conflict-affected populations is substantial. IOM’s  Land, Property and Reparations (LPR) Division under the DOE, assists governments to address severe human rights violations in the aftermath of natural disasters and protracted conflict situations. IOM provides extensive technical assistance to ensure access to reparations and to the evolution of jurisprudence for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In this joint-UN programme, IOM works to identify and address gaps in existing care, support and justice systems, and to create an effective, comprehensive and standardized approach to support survivors.  

Portfolio in Brief 

The Emergency and Post-Crisis Recovery division aids long-term displaced populations in the Western Balkans to settle in a place of their preference and integrate into society, provides urgent livelihood support to conflict-displaced populations in Ukraine, and coordinated resilience and recovery activities to migrants and refugees in Turkey, to name but a few. 

The Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) is a system developed by IOM to assess and monitor displacement and population movements. It is designed to collect, process and disseminate information regularly and systematically in order to provide a better understanding of the movements and evolving needs of mobile populations in places of displacement or transit. The DTM has been continuously refined and enhanced through years of operational experience in countries in both conflict and natural disaster settings. It plays an essential role in providing primary data and information on displacement, both in-country and at the global level. It is comprised of four distinct components. 

DTM Europe 

The DTM Europe team operates out of Vienna, Rome, and Geneva to oversee, coordinate and support DTM activities in Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, Bulgaria, and Western Balkans.1 In 2020 the DTM Europe team in cooperation with IOM missions and national authorities gathered, processed, and disseminated statistical data on new arrivals to Europe, the locations and occupancies of accommodation centres, and transit flows from at least 197 entry, exit and transit flow monitoring points.  The system also includes Flow Monitoring Surveys (FMS), which are individual interviews tailored to capture additional and more in-depth data on people on the move, including age, sex, areas of origin, levels of education, key transit-points on their route, motivations and intentions. This information has been compiled by IOM field staff in Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Croatia, Italy, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria since October 2015. Analysis is available on the IOM Mediterranean portal. The latest analytical reports and profiles of interviewed migrants as well as data sets are available at 

DTM Europe, in coordination with IOM Country Offices in the RO Brussels and RO Vienna regions, took part in a global exercise rolled out by IOM, to track, map and gather data on restrictive measures imposed after to the COVID-19 outbreak through a global Points of Entry (PoE) Baseline Assessment. The outbreak of COVID-19 has affected global and regional mobility in the form of various travel disruptions, restrictions, and blockages. To better understand how COVID-19 affects global mobility, IOM has developed a global mobility database to gather, map ad track data on the imposed restrictive measures impacting human mobility, at Global, Regional and Country level. Subsequently, the IOM has initiated the following Mobility Restriction Mapping including the COVID-19 Country Points of Entry (PoE) Status Baseline Assessment. The PoE Baseline Assessment activities collect updates on mobility restrictions imposed at location level (airport, land border points, blue border points, and internal transit points). For each point of entry, data is collected on type of restriction, measures applied, and population category that might be affected from the imposed measures.   

Since March 2020 when the global Baseline Assessment was rolled out till end of 2020, a total of 850 PoEs were assessed in 19 countries/territories/areas in the RO Vienna region, and 803 additional PoEs were assessed in 30 countries/territories/areas in the extended region. IOM Country Offices cross regions contributed regularly with inputs. The data, and the analysies were  made publicly available monthly throughout the year in the COVID-19 Mobility Tracking Impact Point of Entry Analysis. All published COVID-19 related reports and analysis on the global PoE Baseline Assessment are available for download on the IOM Migration Portal – COVID-19 Mobility Impacts.  

Cooperation with other IOM Departments 

The Flow Monitoring System (FMS) includes a module containing indicators to measure human trafficking and the prevalence of exploitative practices. The indicators were developed by the DTM Global team together with IOM’s Assistance to Vulnerable Migrants (AVM) Unit, and they aim to gather information on events experienced by the respondent directly or by one of his/her family members. Through the use of standardized measures, comparisons across countries, time and different populations, the survey allows IOM to gain a better understanding of the overall vulnerability to abuse, human trafficking and exploitation of migrants in transit towards Europe. 

Inter-agency Cooperation  

The DTM team based in Vienna co-chairs the IOM-UNHCR-UNICEF Regional Information Management Working Group for Europe. The group serves as a platform to discuss and support the coordination of ongoing and planned data collection activities in Europe as well as reporting on migrants´ arrivals via Mediterranean routes to Europe. The Working Group includes other international agencies and NGOs working with migrant population in Europe and meets on a monthly basis in Geneva. In 2017, the three UN agencies developed a joint Interagency Factsheet on Migrant and Refugee Children Arriving to Europe to provide an overview of trends in regards to asylum decisions, relocations, resettlement and segregated data on children who arrived in Europe. Factsheets are published on a quarterly basis and can be accessed here.