Evaluation of the Global Assistance for Irregular Migrants Program

Executive summary

Purpose of the Evaluation and Methodology

The evaluation of the Global Assistance for Irregular Migrants (GAIM) program was conducted in fulfillment of Section 42.1 of the Financial Administration Act, and a departmental commitment to complete an evaluation by March 31, 2015. While the program was launched at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in April 2013, the evaluation also covered earlier program phases dating from January 2012, prior to the program's creation at CIC, up to September 2014. The evaluation was undertaken in-house by CIC's Research and Evaluation Branch between June 2014 and February 2015.

The methodology and level of effort for the evaluation were calibrated. As a result, the evaluation relied on three lines of evidence (interviews, document review, and monitoring and claims data) to examine the relevance of the GAIM program and performance relative to the intended program outcomes over the period under review. Some evaluation findings may reflect the fact that the GAIM program had only been activated for one major incident at the time of this report.

Program profile

The GAIM program was established in 2013 as a component of Canada's Migrant Smuggling Prevention Strategy, headed by the Special Advisor on Human Smuggling and Illegal Migration, within the Privy Council Office (PCO). The GAIM program continued an assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) program that was established by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) in January 2012 to respond to a large group of Sri Lankan migrants bound for Canada who were intercepted in Togo. While DFATD is no longer responsible for activities under the GAIM program, they continue to play a key role in capacity-building in order to prevent and respond to migrant smuggling activities and enhance cooperation with source and transit countries.

GAIM program activities are activated when the PCO Special Advisor informs CIC, through a trigger letter, of a planned human smuggling event and requests that CIC's Deputy Minister implement the program.

When activated, the GAIM program provides transfer payments (in the form of contributions), to international organizations to deliver basic services (e.g., food, shelter) and support the return and reintegration of irregular migrants believed to be destined for Canada and stranded in a transit country following the disruption of a human-smuggling venture. The program also provides funds for the implementation of outreach and awareness activities in order to better manage the consequences of an illegal migration. The program is expected to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Migrants' basic needs are met and they are assisted to return to their countries of origin;
  • Migrants are screened, registered, assessed and referred, where necessary, for refugee status determination;
  • Capacity-building, outreach and awareness activities are undertaken;
  • Migrants who are determined not to be refugees reintegrate in their countries of origin; and
  • CIC contributes to the detection, disruption and deterrence of human smuggling and illegal migration activities.

As of June 2014, the GAIM program had been activated through a trigger letter in response to the interception of Sri Lankan migrants in West Africa, continuing the efforts that had been started in January 2012 under the DFATD AVRR response. While an additional trigger letter had been received by CIC, it had not resulted in a significant response at the time of the evaluation. The assessment of program performance is therefore limited to the presentation of results with respect to this one intervention.

Evaluation findings


There is an ongoing need for a global voluntary return and reintegration program in order to support the objectives of Canada's strategy to combat human smuggling, and the GAIM program is well aligned with both Government of Canada and CIC priorities.


With respect to outcomes related to the provision of services directly to intercepted migrants, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) was able to effectively provide assistance to migrants intercepted in West Africa in order to meet their basic needs and assist them to return to Sri Lanka.

Based on the experience in West Africa, early results suggest that knowledge and awareness of what constitutes irregular migration and the risks and dangers that could be expected when undertaking an irregular migration have improved among those who returned to Sri Lanka. Returning migrants also developed positive views about being reunited with family and friends, but were less positive about their financial situation upon return. Furthermore, for many migrants surveyed, a worsening financial situation, or a deterioration of the security situation could increase the likelihood of remigration.

With respect to outcomes related to the building of awareness, while the GAIM program allows for the funding of activities related to outreach and sensitization while managing the consequences of irregular migration, activities funded in fiscal year (FY) 2014/15 in West Africa and Sri Lanka included projects that focused on building basic capabilities, which created potential overlap with DFATD's role of supporting foreign governments to prevent human smuggling.

There is little available information available to fully assess the GAIM program's contribution to the detection, disruption and deterrence of human smuggling due to the security issues regarding this type of information. The detection and disruption of human smuggling operations are intelligence-based activities, requiring a high level of security, and, as such, very limited information on these activities is publicly available.

Economy and efficiency

Actual overall expenditures for the GAIM program have been below budgeted amounts, largely due to the low number of migrants returned to their countries of origin, while the GAIM program budget for capacity-building and awareness-raising activities in West Africa and Sri Lanka increased substantially in FY 2014/15.

In terms of similar programs offered in other countries, amounts budgeted for return and reintegration assistance under the GAIM program are comparable.

Conclusions and recommendations

The GAIM program, delivered by the IOM, has been able to provide for identified migrants' basic needs and assist them to return to their countries of origin. Targeted awareness-raising activities about the risks of irregular migration have taken place in West Africa and Sri Lanka, with early results indicating greater knowledge and consciousness of irregular and safe migration issues among those who were intercepted in West Africa and subsequently returned to Sri Lanka. These individuals held positive views about being reunited with family and friends, but were less positive about their financial situation.

While the GAIM program has been successful in achieving its expected outcomes since its transfer to CIC, the evaluation found that there is a potential for duplication of capacity-building activities under Canada's Migrant Smuggling Prevention Strategy. DFATD has a commitment to address the issue of migrant smuggling and enhance cooperation with source and transit countries, which can conflict with the GAIM program's separate commitments to undertake capacity-building activities within the context of managing the consequences of an irregular migration. The delineation between ongoing capacity-building activities (under DFATD) and capacity-building activities undertaken within the context of managing an irregular migration (under CIC) is not clear. Based on the evaluation evidence and findings presented in this report, the following recommendation is put forward:

Recommendation #1: CIC, in consultation with DFATD, should clarify respective roles and responsibilities with respect to capacity-building activities related to the GAIM program.

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