IOM, or as it was first known, the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe (PICMME), was born in 1951 out of the chaos and displacement of Western Europe following the Second World War. Mandated to help European governments to identify resettlement countries for the estimated 11 million people uprooted by the war, it arranged transport for nearly a million migrants during the 1950s.
A succession of name changes from PICMME to the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM) in 1952, to the Intergovernmental Committee for Migration (ICM) in 1980 to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in 1989, reflects the organization’s transition over half a century from logistics agency to migration agency.
While IOM’s history tracks the man-made and natural disasters of the past half century – Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Chile 1973, the Vietnamese Boat People 1975, Kuwait 1990, Kosovo and Timor 1999, and the Asian tsunami and Pakistan earthquake of 2004/2005 – its credo that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society has steadily gained international acceptance.
From its roots as an operational logistics agency, it has broadened its scope to become the leading international agency working with governments and civil society to advance the understanding of migration issues, encourage social and economic development through migration, and uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants.
The broader scope of activities has been matched by rapid expansion from a relatively small agency into one with an annual operating budget of close to $1 billion and some 5,400 staff working in over 100 countries worldwide.
As “The Migration Agency” IOM has become the point of reference in the heated global debate on the social, economic and political implications of migration in the 21st century.