Migration, Forced Displacement and Social Protection

This paper sets out a common framework, language and understanding of social protection to groups of migrants and forcibly displaced people


The purpose of this paper is to set out a common framework, language and understanding of the relevance of social protection to different groups of migrants and forcibly displaced people.

There are an estimated 244 million people currently living in a country other than that of their birth. This group of people includes wealthier migrants, able to access high levels of livelihood security and protection in their place of destination, as well as those moving away from situations of extreme poverty and insecurity, who are often unprotected upon their arrival, and may lack documents to establish resident or work status in the country they currently live in. It also includes 21.3 million refugees who have fled war and persecution, as well as other populations that have been displaced as a result of insecurity, natural disaster or the effects of climate change. In addition to this there are estimated to be 763 million internal migrants. This figure includes internal labour, family and student migration (all often involving movements between rural areas and cities), as well as 38 million internally displaced people (IDPs) who have been forced to leave their homes.

Social protection is fundamentally a policy response to vulnerability. Given the different vulnerabilities that mobile populations face, there will be a range of different social protection responses to these. This paper provides a framework for considering the potential role that social protection interventions – or the lack of social protection interventions – can play in terms of precipitating, directing or halting movement (e.g. from a country of origin without a functioning social protection system). It also considers the different forms of social protection that may be needed by different groups at different stages of their journey and after arrival in a place of destination. Legal or illegal entry or presence in a territory or state is just one factor that influences access to social protection. Other factors, including operational, political and financial factors that affect coverage, adequacy and portability of benefits may restrict the scope of social protection in practice and this is also considered.


Long, K. and Sabates-Wheeler, R. (2017). Migration, Forced Displacement and Social Protection. (GSDRC Rapid Literature Review). Birmingham, UK: University of Birmingham, ii, 22p

Migration, Forced Displacement and Social Protection

Published 1 June 2017