Irregular migration from Myanmar takes various forms, and it includes migration by economic migrants, internally displaced persons, smuggled migrants, trafficked persons, unaccompanied and separated children, stranded migrants, victims of exploitation and abuse, as well as refugees and asylum seekers among others. The root causes of irregular maritime migration in Myanmar are complex and multi-dimensional, and they include issues of poverty, underdevelopment, communal violence, internal displacement and statelessness. Lack of livelihood opportunities at home and a lack of regular channels for labour migration are the primary drivers for irregular migration – creating an environment in which smuggling, and trafficking may flourish. IOM continues to strengthen the capacity of civil society organisations and the Government by providing technical expertise for the development and implementation of the Central Body for Suppression of Trafficking in Persons’s (CBTIP) National Plan of Action to combat trafficking in persons.

Combatting Trafficking in Persons


IOM contributes to the prevention of trafficking in persons through the development and promotion of contextualized information, sensitization messages and awareness raising programmes (e.g. community-based dialogues, peer education, songs, drama, video, SMS, billboards, social media, and religious events) on counter-trafficking and safe migration in coordination with Myanmar’s Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division and civil society organisations. In addition, IOM has conducted numerous consultative workshops to discuss and provide recommendations on addressing trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling. Furthermore, IOM Myanmar is working with the private sector (including employers, brands, and recruiters) to reduce exploitation through the promotion of ethical recruitment and corporate responsibility for eliminating slavery and trafficking.


IOM Myanmar works to provide direct assistance to vulnerable migrants including medical, legal, psychological, shelter and rehabilitation, food and clothing, formal and informal education, vocational training, and life skills training among others. Since 2015, IOM has been providing direct assistance to over 2,000 victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants. IOM is also supporting the government of Myanmar’s efforts in the development of an effective cross border and national referral mechanism that includes national and specialized standard operating procedures (SOPs) to strengthen direct assistance interventions to victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants through various steps – identification, documentation, reporting, data collection and management, family reunification, return and reintegration. In addition, IOM conducts capacity building trainings on enhancing protection and direct assistance to victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants with the Department of Rehabilitation (DoR), Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement (MSWRR), and civil society organisations.


IOM has provided technical and financial support to the Government in its efforts to revise the current Anti-Trafficking in Persons Law (2005). Additionally, IOM has conducted trainings on the protection of victims of trafficking, victim-centered investigations and prosecution in trafficking and smuggling cases. Furthermore, IOM is aiming to support the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Task Force (ATTF) on pre-trial preparations for trafficking survivors, and coached and mentored ATTF units on Myanmar Police Force’s recently developed Standard Operating Procedures for ATTF and cooperation and coordination guidelines on investigations and prosecutions of trafficking in persons between ATTF, station police and prosecutors.

IOM provides technical and financial support to the Government of Myanmar to enhance bilateral and regional collaboration mechanisms to address trafficking and irregular migration and IOM supported the development of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Myanmar and Thailand with a view to strengthen the partnership on the protection of trafficked victims, especially women and children in Thailand. Furthermore, IOM Myanmar is also providing technical and financial support to the Myanmar DoR for the implementation of the bilateral SOPs between Thailand and Myanmar on the return and reintegration of trafficking victims and support to bilateral case management meetings between Thailand and Myanmar. The capacity of Myanmar and Thai government caseworkers to identify special needs cases through needs assessments and case workers visits to Thai shelters continues to be strengthened, ensuring that the protection and reintegration needs of the most vulnerable migrants are adequately addressed.

Other activities that IOM is involved in include studies and needs assessments on migration trends, trafficking and irregular migration including vulnerabilities that Myanmar migrant face abroad during emergencies. And since 2016, IOM Myanmar has also been building partnerships with several civil society organisations in the country, building their capacity to promote awareness of the risks of irregular migration and trafficking, as well as to provide and assistance and protection to victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants.

Main Projects

  • Asia Regional Migration Program (funded by PRM)
  • Strengthening the Protection of Victims of Trafficking and Vulnerable Migrants in IDP Camps in Myanmar (funded by INL)
  • Strengthening the Resilience of Conflict-Affected Communities in Kachin and Northern Shan States through Increased Safe and Rewarding Migration (SAFE) (funded by LIFT)
Immigration and Border Management

With Myanmar having undergone an unprecedented transition supported by key political and socio-economic reforms, increasing mobility, together with Myanmar’s emerging position on an increasing number of international air routes, road links and new border crossings, has created a need for strengthened immigration and border management. To this end, IOM has supported the efforts of the Government of Myanmar by building technical and operational capacities at ports of entry and on an institution-wide basis. This includes the production and implementation of a comprehensive training package for frontline officers from the Department of Immigration, Myanmar Police Force and Department of Social Welfare on how to better address transnational crime. The programme was designed to ensure frontline officials have the necessary knowledge and skills to better respond to the growing trends in migrant smuggling and human trafficking, and included a fully updated package of training materials specifically tailored to the Myanmar context, training of trainers and end-user trainings.

Furthermore, IOM worked closely with the Department of Immigration to better address migrant smuggling through a multifaceted institution-wide approach. IOM promoted the development of counter-smuggling legislation, increased the detection of fraudulent travel documentation, improved the induction training provided to frontline officers, and encouraged cross-border cooperation with neighbouring Thailand.