Promoting entails supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees. Among many possible means of doing so, I would stress the importance of ensuring access to all levels of education for children and young people.”

Pope Francis


Empowering Syrian Refugee Youth Through Photography

To View Life Through a Different Lens

Mahmoud was nine when he lost his eye in a bomb explosion in Syria.

He and his family eventually fled to Mafraq, Jordan. Though out of physical danger, he struggled to deal with his experiences. Surgeries were unsuccessful in restoring sight to his eye.

Eventually he stopped caring about anything, even about whether he lived or died. “I felt numb about everything.”

Mahmoud, a 15-year-old Syrian refugee in Jordan
“I became creative. I forgot my pain,” says Mahmoud, a participant in a PhotoVoice project, which allowed youths like him to talk about how displacement had affected them personally.

Then ICMC’s Photovoice project introduced him to a different lens – using digital photography to see and be in the world differently, to express his feelings and tell his story.

When he started to take photos through the Photovoice workshops, he began to come back to life. “I became creative. I forgot my pain.”

In facilitated sessions with his peers, Mahmoud, now 15, could talk about how displacement has affected him personally and what it means to try to rebuild his life in this new context.

Seven years of Syrian war have hit youth like Mahmoud hard. In Jordan, 70% of the population is under 30; over half of Syrian refugees are under 18. They face social isolation, lack places to express themselves, to explore their identities and that of their community.

Girls are especially affected due to gender norms that restrict them from participating in life outside the home.

In the safe space made possible through Photovoice, participants can explore their issues of concern and gain confidence in expressing themselves. Consequently, their voices become more prominent. Exhibitions of the photos and stories have proven key in engaging communities.

“I felt people were listening to us,” says Nuha, a 12-year-old Syrian refugee, upon seeing her photo in the gallery in Mafraq.

For Syrian refugee Hasan the project has opened doors to further learning. “The workshops taught me that there is still time to learn to read and write.” He has since enrolled in ICMC’s literary program.

“I learned from the exhibition that we must not be pessimistic. There is time for life.”

“War forces us to leave our countries and our memories behind. It also further exacerbates gender inequality and imposes more restrictions on women – a cycle that is difficult to break.”
14-year-old girl, Photovoice participant

Taking Photos for Change

ICMC’s Photovoice project empowered young people in Jordan’s Mafraq governorate to find their voice and be agents for change in their communities.

The project involved boys and girls nearly equally, ranging in age from 10 to 21. Most are Syrian refugees, but vulnerable members of the Jordanian host community take part as well.

Child pictured by a 12-year-old Syrian refugee girl in Jordan
“I felt people were listening to us,” says Nuha, a 12-year-old Syrian refugee girl. Photo: Nuha’s brother.

Workshops first equip the young participants with valuable technical skills – then teach them to use digital photography as a platform to tell their stories and advocate for change. Group discussions allow the girls and boys to become aware of and speak about issues in their communities. The project acts not only to transform attitudes but also reduce social isolation.

In 2018, the Photovoice project aimed to increase gender equality in the community.

Discussion and photography assignments looked specifically at how certain social roles shape the  lives of young people. How questions such as child marriage, lack of opportunity for girls and gender-based violence intersect with other areas. What forms gender-based discrimination takes.

Exhibitions in Mafraq and Amman encouraged dialogue in the participants’ communities. They also underlined the young people’s potential as changemakers for gender equality and social justice. Two books with the participants’ photos and stories, “Through A Different Lens” and “Our Visions,” helped reach an international audience as well.

“Young Syrian refugees in Jordan face many challenges, but they still can share their voices. It is their right to be heard and it is our responsibility to listen.”
Amira Kalboneh, Field Protection Manager, ICMC Jordan


Two Syrian refugee teenagers in Jordan
In 2018, the PhotoVoice project aimed at increasing gender equality in the community. Photo: “We used to play together when we were younger,” by Suha, an 18-year-old refugee girl.


Advancing International Cooperation for the Benefit of Migrants

The Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) is an informal, government-led process open to all States, civil society organizations, the private sector and local authorities. Its purpose is to advance cooperation around migration and development as well as to promote frank and open discussions between stakeholders on often-sensitive issues.


In 2018, the GFMD Summit took place in December in Marrakesh, Morocco, immediately before the International Conference at which the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) was to be adopted by UN Member States.

ICMC hosted the coordinating office for the Civil Society Days of the GFMD. At three “Friends of the Forum” meetings designed to shape the GFMD agenda in Marrakesh, ICMC Director of Policy Mr. Stéphane Jaquemet addressed States on behalf of civil society organizations. He emphasized the need to rapidly implement both the GCM and the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).

Three planning webinars, organized by ICMC, allowed almost 300 civil society representatives to interact with government and private sector representatives in preparation for the GFMD “Civil Society Days” slated to precede the International Conference in Marrakesh.

In July, after broad consultation among civil society organizations, ICMC coordinated the publication of 12 Civil Society Recommendations for the future of the GFMD. The document aimed at strengthening the GFMD’s role as a forum for dialogue between States, civil society, migrants and other stakeholders in 2018 and beyond.

Held just ahead of the 10-11 December International Conference to adopt the GCM, the 4-7 December GFMD Summit, including two Civil Society Days, thus represented the culmination of civil society efforts throughout the year. The Civil Society Days were coordinated by ICMC and attended by representatives of some 300 NGOs.

Global Forum on Migration and Development in Morocco
Nearly 300 civil society representatives attended the Global Forum on Migration and Development “Civil Society Days” in Morocco in December.

In a collective message delivered to the Intergovernmental Conference, over 120 civil society actors participating in the Civil Society Days commended governments on adopting the agreement. They urged States to implement the Compact’s priority goals in a robust and principled way that would work for all, reaffirming their commitment to partner with governments to this end.

In a statement addressed to States and stakeholders at the GFMD closing ceremony, the Civil Society Chair outlined a number of concrete commitments to implement the Compact’s goals. The NGOs pledged to build a bridge between the GCM and the GCR to ensure joint implementation of the two international agreements on human mobility.


Implementing Pope Francis’ Vision in the World of Work

ICMC is leading a research project on Jobs, demography, and migration. It relies on a person-centered approach to explore how migrants interact with the world of work. Its goal is to understand the drivers of migration and to recognize the needs and challenges faced by migrant workers.

A construction worker in New Delhi, India
The Jobs, Demography and Migration research project aims at understanding the drivers of migration. Photo: A construction worker in New Delhi, India.

The study is one of six research tracks within the framework of the project “The Future of Work, Labour After Laudato Sì,” carried out in collaboration with the International Labour Organization and the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Through the initiative, Catholic-inspired and other faith-based organizations seek to help promote and implement Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Sì in areas related to work. The initiative brings together international actors to improve global governance and spread best practices of local and international organizations.

Research findings will be published in 2019. The publication will combine primary and secondary data, as well as a photojournalism project.

The primary research data will be gathered in early 2019 by the Center for Migration Studies, which will study migrants involved in both domestic work in South Africa and in the fishing industry on Taiwanese vessels, as well as the role of youth employment in the Filipino agriculture sector. Secondary data is sourced by ICMC partners across the globe, including Catholic-inspired organizations, NGOs and universities.

A photojournalist will document work done by ICMC partners in India, Ivory Coast, Mexico and the United States in early 2019. Interviews with migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers and community leaders will provide a first-hand account of their experiences and help capture their reality.

Through the analysis of collected data and testimonies, researchers will identify recurring trends and global patterns, thus painting a fuller picture of the situations faced by communities and migrant workers. The publication of the findings in 2019 seeks to inspire the change sought by the encyclical Laudato Sì.

Hairdressing course in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
The Future of Work project seeks to help implement Pope Francis’ vision in areas related to work. Photo: A participant in a hairdressing class in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. After completing the course, she has opened her own hairdressing salon.




Promoting Yemeni Refugees in the Horn of Africa

Under the guidance of ICMC Vice President H.E. Bishop Giorgio Bertin, Bishop of Djibouti and Apostolic Administrator of Somalia’s only Diocese, the Church is responding to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen by supporting Yemeni refugees fleeing to the Horn of Africa.

Yemeni refugee women in Somalia
After assessing the need for laboratory technicians in the city of Bosaso, Somalia, Caritas began training Yemeni refugee women for this job.

Since 2015, the war in Yemen has pushed hundreds of thousands of Yemenis to flee their country. The majority of them have sought refuge in the Horn of Africa, where they lack the stability and opportunities to build a dignified future for themselves.

Caritas Somalia is empowering Yemeni refugees to find sustainable sources of income. In 2018, the organization assessed the need for laboratory technicians in the city of Bosaso. It then began training 12 Yemeni women. Their training consists of an intensive lab and basic medical course of 48 credits at Bosaso’s University of Health Sciences. All of the enrollees had completed the first phase of the course at the time of writing.

The organization also helped 12 Yemeni families become self-sufficient by creating a fishing cooperative. This has allowed the fathers of these families – who were fishermen in Yemen – to become self-employed and provide for their families. Caritas Somalia provided boats and fishing equipment and arranged for permits. It also supported the families to create business plans.

Yemeni refugee fishermen in Somalia
In Somalia, Caritas helped Yemeni refugee fishermen create a fishing cooperative, allowing them to provide for their families.

Caritas Djibouti established the YEMEN project, assisting refugees living in the capital by offering them medical services, food aid, and administrative assistance. The project also included a livelihoods aspect by facilitating participation for 23 Yemeni women in one-year-long vocational training. During this period, they gained skills, but also found a space to express themselves and to find some relief from the suffering caused by the war.