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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 01:47 GMT
Migrants 'need more protection'
A Bangladeshi woman and her daughter in Lebanon
Thousands of migrant workers needed evacuating from Lebanon
Migrant workers living overseas are being ignored when conflict breaks out, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has warned.

More than 11,000 migrants were left stranded in Lebanon when Westerners were evacuated during this year's conflict, the IOM said.

Marking International Migrants' Day, the IOM called for an evacuation fund to help migrants in times of crisis.

The UN says 191 million left their home countries to migrate during 2005.

That figure has almost doubled since 1980, when it stood at 99 million.

In some places, such as the Gulf states, migrant workers are a large and economically important sector of society.

Cash earned overseas and sent home by migrant workers to the developing world already outstrips the total aid budget spent by developed countries in the same region.

Safety concern

But the IOM warned that migrants must be offered more protection to complement an increased acceptance of the role they play in the global economy.

Migrants have to be helped in a rapid, safe and well-co-ordinated manner
Brunson McKinley
Direction-General, International Organisation for Migration

"There is no denying that migrants make a significant contribution to the social and economic development of the countries in which they live and work," said the organisation's director-general, Brunson McKinley.

"Given that, equal consideration must be given to their safety and well-being.

"Migrants have to be helped in a rapid, safe and well-co-ordinated manner."

The IOM said it hopes to establish an emergency fund that could allow national governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the IOM itself to offer evacuation, food, medical help, and shelter in times of crisis.

During the conflict in Lebanon, the IOM arranged the evacuation of more than 11,000 people from the country.

They were mainly women from Asia and Africa working as domestic servants whose governments could not arrange evacuation efforts.

The IOM also cited the ongoing conflict in Iraq, which saw migrants working in Iraq before war began in 2003 leave the country for neighbouring Jordan.

Violence in Liberia and Ivory Coast also forced migrant workers to flee in recent years, increasing calls for a standing emergency fund.

"We need to do this quickly so that when the next conflict arises, we and others are ready to help from day one. But the support of the international community as a whole has to be forthcoming," said Mr McKinley.

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