Leveraging technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship to support young migrants and refugees

IOM Office UN (NY)
4 min readJun 8, 2020
Fuad, a migrant child participating in a computer class at Keçiören Municipality Community Centre, supported by IOM. © Emrah Özesen / IOM

In May 2020, IOM and the UN Major Group for Children and Youth (UN MGCY) hosted a consultative webinar on the topic of Voices of Youth on the Move: from ECOSOC to the HLPF. It brought together over a hundred young people from all over the world to address three topics:

1. Health-risk and opportunities for young people on the move.

2. Leveraging technology, innovation and entrepreneurship to support young migrants and refugees.

3. COVID19 and Young people on the move: Impact and response.

The goal of these consultations was to share information and discuss priorities to ultimately identify some concrete ideas young people can work on and push for.

The second session on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship highlighted how the internet can play a powerful role in empowering young people on the move, whether in the time of global instability due to COVID-19 or in conflict situations like in Venezuela or Libya today. Science, technology, and innovation (STI) provide opportunities for effective response to these challenges, empowering migrants and refugees to improve the quality of life, uphold human rights and protect well-being for all.

Young Senegalese who returned home from Algeria, Mali, and Libya interview one another about their migration experiences. The initiative is part of IOM’s Migrants as Messengers project, which uses peer-to-peer messaging to fill gaps in information and ensure people are better informed about the risks of irregular migration. They record video interviews using the organization’s flagship Community Response App which is available in different languages including French. ©Julie Burpee/IOM

Participants noted how social media and mobile applications are being used for the benefit of young people. These were also identified as key to the 2010 revolution in the Arab world. Egypt became the epicenter of Arab regional social media innovation and these platforms were used by the local youth as a political platform and a tool to mobilize people for change.

However, these opportunities also come with new risks, and it was mentioned that while social media can be an avenue through which communities can share information and advance their narratives, it is also used by human traffickers and for spreading misinformation. The role of social media messaging used for migration purposes, including getting more information on routes and getting in touch with fellow migrants or family members / friends abroad, is poorly understood and an area that requires additional data, analysis and research.

Young Guineans who returned home from Libya and other countries participated IOM’s Migrants as Messengers project in which they were trained in different topics including videography, interviewing, ethics, social media and online community mobilization. The videos they produce are then shared online on social media platforms such as Facebook ©Julie Burpee/IOM 2018

The consultation touched upon possible recoveries from COVID-19, responses to conflict situations and how to build resilient societies for peace and security, and evolved into how to engage youth in decision- making, mainstreaming youth participation and share views and best practices. Participants discussed opportunities to support youth-led initiatives, capacity building and training events and promote the attainment of the SDGs through partnering with local, grassroots civil society organizations.

The primary issues highlighted were the need for universal access to internet and skills training. Achievement gaps between migrants and locals are often exacerbated by access to technology education, and care must be taken to ensure equitable access to education and future decent work opportunities for young people with disabilities and neurodiversity.

The implications of the use of STI in pre-movement, movement and post-movement as a tool for informing migration decisions was highlighted as critical, as well as the importance of mental health support. Cross-regional certification and skills training programs were deemed need to it allow youth to participate in new societies and labor markets.

Additional issues discussed include: the importance of cybersecurity; the need to translate science, technology and innovation training in different languages to overcome language barriers; the development of entrepreneurship at a local level; the creation of employment opportunities to avoid the growth of the informal economy; capacity building exercises on knowledge of human rights; and community-based training of local leaders and teachers.

Several policy recommendations also came out of the discussion:

● Prioritize education from a whole-of-government and regional perspective;

● Adopt and issue cross-regional certifications that allow for youth, refugees and migrants to remain employable and gain access to decent work across geographies;

● Develop technology education to be inclusive of all young people on the move;

● Develop capacity building initiatives to help migrants understand their rights;

● Establish public-private partnerships with equitable oversight between governments, academic institutions and civil society to help promote the shift from informal to formal, regular, orderly and safe migration;

● Increase the amount of funding dedicated to youth entrepreneurship;

● Prioritize mental health access;

● Universal access to internet.

Young people are active in helping fight back and positively impact their communities. This session presented multiple grassroots projects — from a mobile app in India connecting national youth spaces and scale civic engagement to a skills training program in Indonesia which helped youth and migrant youth develop their employment skills — helping young people remain progressive members of society across geographies and even during the current lockdown due to the COVID crisis. The COVID-19 public health threat has also caused countries to impose mobility restrictions, another major challenge to youth and people on the move. Science, technology and innovation don’t have the same mobility restrictions, and can play a connecting role for both those on the move and those stuck inside.

The article was prepared by Amira Nassim, Migration Policy Officer at IOM’s Office to the United Nations, Linda Cottone, Research Officer at IOM’s Libya office, Lina Zdruli, CEO of Dafero, and Peter Loewi UN MGCY Global Focal Point for SDG 8.



IOM Office UN (NY)

International Organization for Migration UN Office | Promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all | IOM Global: IOM - UN Migration