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Interfaith Chains of Custody : Acts of mercy, compassion and solidarity along the Eastern-Southern Africa Migration Route

Mobilising interfaith communities to create infrastructures of welcome and hospitality to migrants along 10 countries the Southern route

Photo of Jimmy Otieno

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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

‘Migrants arm themselves with prayers, and one of the first thing they look for in their countries of destination is a church’ ~ United Nations Special Rapporteur Jorge Bustamante. The political and media attention migration has received in Europe puts a lot of focus on northern migration routes. There is less data and information on the southern route. This presents a challenge in designing responses. Migrants originating from the East/Horn of Africa use risky routes, rendering them vulnerable to smugglers and traffickers. Women, children and girls are most affected. Corruption and harassment in border points undermines their human dignity. There is little awareness among hosting communities on the human rights and dignity of migrants especially on integration, migrant-friendly reporting and accountability actions that address abuse and exploitation of migrants. The migrants impacted by these challenges are victims of modern slavery in transit countries, migrant workers, victims of trafficking and asylum seekers. The root causes include lack of socio-economic opportunities, poor management of conflict, corruption, terrorism and climate change. Our idea is to create an infrastructure of welcome and hospitality along the East/Horn of Africa to South Africa Migration route through mobilising our interfaith networks and places of worship to build 'Interfaith Chains of Custody' that will sustain a regional response on advocacy and solidarity for migrants.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

The focus will be on the East/Horn Africa – Southern Africa route that starts in Eritrea/Ethiopia/South Sudan/Somalia/Uganda through Kenya where many remain while other proceed to South Africa through Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Migrants on the southern route originating from the East/horn of Africa use precarious routes, rendering them vulnerable to smugglers and traffickers. Women, children and girls are vulnerable to human trafficking, sexual and gender based violence

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Our idea will build a consistent and reliable 'Chain of Custody' for the rights and dignity of migrants along the southern route by mobilising the spiritual, moral and physical assets of faith communities and offering them as points of access to justice for migrants, social cohesion and inclusion among the communities. Building on the faith values of mercy, solidarity and compassion. Through our network of pan-Africa faith and interfaith bodies, we will provide migrants with an alternative voice

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

The need to be, become and belong. To recover and assert ones human agency and be part of a wider community. The need to belong and feel wanted. Having someone stand in the gap and echo your voice provide a platform where it gets a hearing to put you at the forefront and centre of decisions made concerning you. The need to feel welcome and exercise your freedom of movement and mobility without stigma and suspicion. The need to be appreciated for what one can offer and not to be treated as a statistic or commodity or number.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

There will be increased awareness among faith communities in countries of origin, transit and destination on the rights and dignity of migrants. This will include awareness on the rights and obligations of migrants as well as migrant-friendly reporting and accountability actions that address abuse and exploitation of migrants by security, law enforcement officials and communities. The faith communities will in turn be champions solidarity, social cohesion, inclusion and integration of migrants among hosting communities. They will also be advocates for migrants welfare and provide referrals and linkages to other migrant and migrant serving organisations. Finally, they will encourage migrants to tell and retell their stories from their own point of view and perspective by providing alternative congregational and media channels and amplifying the same through youth, women and regional interfaith network platforms.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

I attended a meeting on Churches Working With Migrants in Nairobi where we had a presentation from the African Union and other faith institutions working with migrants rights in Asia which were rich and deep in putting the Africa migration issue in focus (a lot of material in this submission harvests from their insights and presentation). I was disturbed at how little the faith based responses are and this challenge presented an opportunity to create a platform that looks into the whole chain of migration issues thematically and geographically. Having worked with faith institutions at Africa level for more than two years, we have a practical insight on their capacity and ability to work on this. More than 80% of African migration takes place within Africa. The issues migrants face in the Southern route have a national security kind of response which creates strict and harsh conditions for migrants without due respect to their rights (AU Policy Framework on Migration 2018-2030)

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

The specific category of people impacted by these challenges are; Victims of modern slavery in transit countries, migrant workers, victims of trafficking and asylum seekers. The root causes of these problem are an intricate mix of push and pull factors that perpetuate either voluntary or forced migration. Voluntary migration manifests mostly in the form of labor migration which is mostly irregular or cross-border in nature. This results in migrant smuggling, human trafficking, challenges in return, readmission and integration of migrants in the host or home communities. The pull factors at play here are mainly around skilled immigrants moving to seek better socio-economic opportunities as a result of real or perceived notion on existence of the same in countries of destination. Major push factors fuelling forced migration/displacement include poor management of conflict (electoral, cross-border, resource based conflicts), corruption, inequality, terrorism and climate change.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Through our network of pan-Africa faith and interfaith bodies, we will provide an alternative voice and media to deal with the negative narratives against migrants that fuel xenophobia and stigma. We will also mobilise our places of worship and faith based institutions to be points of access to justice, social cohesion and integration for migrants. Finally, encourage migrants tell and retell their stories from their own point of view and perspective through alternative congregational and media channels and amplifying the same through our youth, women and regional interfaith network platforms. We have National Interreligious Councils in all the 10 countries and will work with; AU, migrant and migrant serving organisation to develop relationships with other networks that put the migrants at the forefront while also mobilising congregational members as lookouts and advocates for migrant rights and wellbeing.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

We will work with the African Union, Regional Faith bodies, Migrant and Migrant Serving bodies, East African Community, State and non-state actors including security sectors. Our current partners are the Faith Institutions and National Interfaith Bodies in the 10 countries, African Union, Regional Peace Program Partners, East African Community and Country level state agencies. Future partners include other migrant and migrant serving organisations including Churches Working With Migrants Africa and Global. A lot of the material and information in this submission was harvested from AU Policy Framework on Migration and CWWM presentations and publications. Credits due to them and they will be key partners in working with faith leaders to support migrant serving actions.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Channel: A new way to deliver existing products or services to customers or end users

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

The African Council of Religious Leaders — Religions for Peace (ACRL—RfP)

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

The African Council of Religious Leaders — Religions for Peace (ACRL—RfP) is the largest and most representative multi-religious platform in Africa. ACRL—RfP's Vision is Sustainable peace and Justice in Africa. Our mission is mobilizing religious leaders and their communities to build peaceful, just, hopeful and harmonious societies in Africa. ACRL-RfP's strategic areas include Peace and Justice, Democracy and Governance, Sustainable development and sustaining the earth and institutional strengthening. Faith institutions are mostly the first point of contact for migrants in transit or at the country of destination. Faith is not bound by geography hence for once just needs to find a church/mosque/temple along their migration route and will join in prayers and fellowship

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State


In preparation for expert feedback: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in these categories? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea. (600 characters)

Our three questions are: 1)We are still trying to figure out whether the thrust and investment should be with hosting communities with specific focus on settled migrants or religious leaders as an agency for securing the rights and welfare of migrants. 2) What kind of linkages and safeguards can be made with the governments and security sectors without exposing migrants to hazards and risks? 3) How else can we use the physical assets of faith communities to effectively present platforms and networks with other migrant serving organisations including IT based solutions within this idea?

Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)

We met with the mentor assigned to us and had a lengthy call which helped shape the idea and focus. We received expert feedback based on three questions asked and also did community research by engaging various individuals and stakeholders. Our mentor helped us with insights that shaped the focus on migrant needs including building trust with migrants, linkages with other financial and social services, lobbying with governments to adopt a more rights approach and awareness creation within host community. Community feedback was received from interviews with migrants who have settled and returned back to their countries. They wished that such a system existed especially those who faced the SouthSudan conflict and had to walk for months. An international organisation focused on children also was interested and is already consulting with our team to see how children on the move can be protected. We also met government officials in immigration and security who helped shape the focus on legal and policy issues with a caution of this idea not being taken over by traffickers. Interreligious networks within the countries in the route have also shown commitment particularly the faith communities with existing programs. The key learning is that faith communities have the convening power and ability to mobilise various sectors and institutions to ensure migrants are protected. If we address the issue of information sharing and integrating innovative ICT and financial interventions then it would be easy to build trust with migrants who need this idea to work for them.

In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)

Support for capacity building for faith leaders and institutions on the rights and needs of migrants. Developing messaging and awareness creation among countries of origin, transit and settlement on the availability of this infrastructure of welcome. Providing basic services and linkages for rescue of migrants in distress. Documentation, learning and experience gathering and sharing on the migrant journey. Convening other stakeholders and actors at local and regional levels to review and assess the situation therefore helping create knowledge base and data. Leveraging on the funds to mobilise other resources that will fill other gaps e.g. financial services, resilience building and relocation.

What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)

Convening migrants and migrant serving organisations to interrogate and plan jointly and better. Capacity building and awareness to religious leaders and origin/hosting communities on the rights and needs of migrants. Mapping out institutions and congregations that will be places of solidarity. Documentation and data collection. Coordination across countries of origin, transit, host and final destination. Digitalisation of the information and data collected and creating an online repository and registry using ICT innovations. Review forums and sessions to interrogate progress. Leveraging on other existing interventions with other partners.

What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)

Year one will be mostly setting up the structures and ownership through a mapping and detailed implementation planning process with various partners, communities and networks. Interrogating the theory of change and aspects of the idea that can help us understand better and quicker the dynamics involved. Recruiting migrants, proposed migrant serving communities, awareness creation and training within faith circles and linkages with government and other services. Year two will be strengthening the congregational level outreach, information sharing through various media on the availability of the physical and non-physical assets of faith communities and mobilising support across the region. A component of documentation and learning, linkage with regional policy platforms for advocacy on rights of migrants. Year three will be focused on service provision, documentation, linkages and resource mobilisation with other stakeholders. Sharing success stories and adopting models and feedback.

What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)

By the end of year one, migrants are coming out and taking up the offer of solidarity by faith communities, established trust between hosting communities and migrants, joint action by various stakeholders to identify, expose and report abusers, traffickers especially in the case of children and women. Increased visibility actions and joint activities to welcome and accommodate migrants e.g. community dialogue meetings, joint events and meals, sharing during festivals and religious events. By 2022 we expect to have the Interreligious councils in seven countries along the route offering at least 15 identified churches, mosques and other faith institutions as places of solidarity and referral centres for the rights of migrants. We will measure this by getting solid commitments and MoUs. A total of 105 Centers of solidarity will be enrolled. By 2021, we hope to leverage on this to mobilise three key partnerships and commitments. By end of year oneCreate a database that gives more insights

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)

ACRL-RfP team will implement the idea and will be responsible for overall management and oversight through its program and administration teams. We will partner with relevant government ministries whose role will be to provide services and ensure legal and regulatory aspects are adhered to. National Interreligious Councils in the countries along the route will mobilise, map and identify congregations and support national level training and advocacy. Two global migrant serving and child protection organisations will support follow up, technical aspects of programming for people on the move (we have consulted with Unicef regional office (Child Protection) who are ready to support the children on the move component). We will also recruit settled migrants (from South Sudan, Ethiopia) who have lived this experience and whom we have held discussions with to ensure the project corresponds to the needs of people on the move.

Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)

The learning helped us shape our focus on people on the move and in distress as the primary target. We were encouraged to give more thinking into trust building activities with migrants, linkage with other financial services and income options. We also learnt that there is a risk of traffickers taking advantage of the platform to recruit and exploit migrants so the legal issues needs to be adhered to fully. The community members and stakeholders also encouraged integration of existing ICT solutions to help improve the data capture and sharing of knowledge. Community members who shared their input gave encouraging feedback especially their view of how faith communities can contribute mainly the idea of offering non-physical assets, acts of mercy and compassion and using these as a leverage to intervene for migrants. We also learnt that this is a complex area that requires a lot of consultation, involvement of migrants and tangible targets and measures of success.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Isaac Jumba

Dear Jimmy Otieno ,

Great to see updates of your idea, and the insights that helped refine the idea during improve phase. I like that you highlighted the key activities for the next 3 years as well as where the funding from the challenge would go towards. Could you outline, in an estimate, the budget for each of the items and potentially the total budget for the activities?


Photo of Jimmy Otieno

Hi Isaac Jumba let me work on this and consult and share feedback within 24 hours.


Photo of Jimmy Otieno

Hi Isaac Jumba see the estimates below for the three years:
(1) Detailed implementation planning with faith leaders, stakeholders and migrants including three day meeting in Nairobi for strategy harmonisation, buy-in by top religious leaders, training and skills building ($40,280) and two regional training of trainers in Nairobi and Mozambique for two facilitators from each of the seven key participating countries ($30,100). (2) Message development and awareness creation among migrants, migrant hosting communities in countries of origin, transit and settlement ($16,320). (3) Country level mapping and selection of faith community infrastructure, places of worship and assets along the migration route for enrolment and provision of solidarity services and places ($30,020). (4) Development of web-based sms to web platform for data gathering and information sharing ($5,000). (5) Documentation, learning and experience gathering and sharing between migrants and hosting communities ($14,700). (6) Regular meetings with migrants and other stakeholders, accountability and feedback forums ($18,760). (7) Congregational level messaging and awareness around key thematic days and events ($ 4,060). (8) Project monitoring activities, solidarity events, linkage to asylum services and learning ($29,560). (9) Program delivery and administration costs ($48,150). Total for three years $236,950

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