Migrants’ trust in humanitarian action

Local lessons, global insights


  • Magdalena Arias Cubas Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab
  • Nicole Hoagland Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab
  • Sanushka Mudaliar Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab




Red Cross Red Crescent, ICRC, IFRC, migrants, migration, trust, humanitarian


Humanitarian action is built on trust. Without it, humanitarian organisations cannot reach or respond to the needs of the most vulnerable, including many migrants. Yet, little is known about who migrants trust and why, as well as how this affects migrants' ability and willingness to seek and access humanitarian assistance and protection. This paper explores the findings of a large multi-sited research project conducted by the Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab across 15 countries to gather insights into migrants’ perceptions of, and trust in, humanitarian action. The rationale for the project has been that humanitarian organisations can better build (and, where necessary, repair) trust with migrants by listening and responding to their thoughts, fears, doubts, and concerns about their situations and the assistance and protection they receive. In this paper, we draw attention to three key lessons: first, the importance of increasing knowledge and awareness of humanitarian organisations and the services they provide; second, the importance of upholding the humanitarian principle of independence in migration programming; and third, the critical role that frontline staff and volunteers play in building and maintaining migrants’ trust.


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Author Biographies

  • Magdalena Arias Cubas, Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab

    Magdalena is the Senior Research Officer at the Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab. She holds a PhD in Sociology and Social policy from the University of Sydney and has over a decade of experience in leading research with migrants in the Americas, Africa, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific.

  • Nicole Hoagland, Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab

    Nicole is the Senior Advisor for Policy and Engagement at the Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab. She has worked on migration programming, policy, and advocacy for the past 15 years and holds a Master of Human Rights and Conflict Management from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna and a Master of International Social Development from the University of New South Wales.

  • Sanushka Mudaliar, Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab

    Sanushka is the Director of the Red Cross Red Crescent Global Migration Lab. She holds a master’s degree in international migration from the London School of Economics and has over 20 years of experience in policy advocacy, research, global program management and public policy in Africa, Europe, and the Asia-Pacific.


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How to Cite

“Migrants’ trust in humanitarian action: Local lessons, global insights” (2023) The Humanitarian Leader, 5(1), p. Working paper 037, July, 2023. doi:10.21153/thl2023art1833.