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Updated: 2 hours 32 min ago

Republic of the Marshall Islands Holds First Pacific Island Nation COVID-19 Tabletop Exercise and Simulation

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 10:40

Majuro – The Republic of the Marshall Islands has conducted the first COVID-19 Tabletop Exercise (TTX) and Simulation among Pacific Island nations. Organized from August 12-14, 2020, by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and World Health Organization (WHO) in close collaboration with the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) under the Office of the Chief Secretary (OCS) and the Ministry of Health and Human Resources (MoHHS), the event was attended by 296 participants. The three-day event was opened by President David Kabua with dignitaries and other Nitijela Parliament members in attendance.

The event kicked off with the Tabletop Exercise (12-13 August) which tested the preparedness and response mechanisms in relation to the repatriation of citizens in a COVID-19 context for various health, emergency, disaster response organizations, working groups and national clusters.

The participation of the Kwajalein Emergency Operation Center (KEOC) will hopefully enhance coordination between the two urban centers in the Marshall Islands. According to Chief Secretary Kino S. Kabua, the TTX and Simulation have provided a platform to “strengthen internal protocols, communication, and information dissemination amongst participating offices and organizations.”

The TTX provided participants an opportunity to analyze, plan and coordinate response strategies that their respective agencies would implement in the face of a COVID-19 outbreak during repatriation. The two-day exercise ended with the groups drafting action plans based on gaps identified during the TTX. In coordination with the NDC, IOM will continue to support the participants in monitoring their action plans and continually assess preparedness for COVID-19.

On the last day of the event, a full-scale simulation walked participants through a repatriation scenario – from Points of Entry to quarantine site. The scenario involved two of the passengers on board developing possible signs of the virus which triggered the need for testing through the RMI MoHHS hotline as well as contact tracing at a local business. The six-hour simulation was followed by a two-hour debrief session with simulation evaluators.

Chief Secretary Kabua said at the conclusion of the event, “Overall it was a very useful exercise; the participation turn-out was great and it showed that we are all concerned with COVID-19. What matters next is addressing the gaps and limitations in our capabilities and systems in government that were identified during the exercise. There is still more work to be done to prepare for COVID-19.”

One of the key outcomes of the event was the realization there was a need for continued outreach, inclusion and practices with other key stakeholders such as traditional leadership and the private sector. Also notable was the need to:

1) Improve internal communications and decision-making;

2) hold additional simulations and practices at targeted areas to ensure everyone who may need to be part of a repatriation is fully trained and confident in their relevant policies and procedures;

3) Ensure basic baseline supplies and prepositioned items are fully in place and readily available.

4) Give increased attention to inclusivity and gender-sensitive preparations and response in Standard Operating Procedures and policies.

Summing up the three-day event, IOM Head of Sub Office Angela Saunders, who was a lead facilitator for the TTX and Drill Master for the simulation said, “The Tabletop Exercise and Simulation was a clear illustration that there is a strong desire from all those in the RMI, from Government to our NGO partners who took the time to help evaluate the process, to be as prepared as possible for COVID-19.” Saunders added, “IOM looks forward to continuing to partner with the NDC and NEOC members to strategically and systematically address the recommendations of the evaluators and action plans for clusters/groups.”

The COVID-19 Tabletop Exercise (TTX) and Simulation was funded by USAID.

For more information, please contact Angela Saunders, IOM Micronesia, Tel: +692 625 4707, Email: aksaunders@iom.int.

Language English Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 16:36Image: Region-Country: Marshall IslandsThemes: COVID-19Migration HealthDefault: Multimedia: 

Some of the participants during the simulation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Photo: IOM

Some of the participants during the simulation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Photo: IOM

Press Release Type: Local
Categories: PBN

Burkina Faso Records One Million Internally Displaced, Its Most Ever, as Violence Rages Amid COVID-19

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 06:35

Ouagadougou  – More than a million people have been internally displaced by the upsurge in violence in Burkina Faso, according to the country’s National Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation (CONASUR) findings in an August 2020 report.   

This figure represents a 100 per cent increase compared to early 2020, when Burkina Faso counted some 450,000 internally displaced persons.   

“One in 20 people is now internally displaced in Burkina Faso. This figure is alarming. The majority of displaced persons are women and children, and their needs are enormous, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic which has upended an already complex and multifaceted humanitarian crisis,” said Abibatou Wane, Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Burkina Faso.   

Provinces in the country’s Sahel Region–including Sanmatenga (118,570), Soum (105,116), Bam (42,388), Seno (19,205) and Namentenga (10,601)–remain the main areas of origin of displaced persons.  

“The displaced communities’ situation and needs require a greater commitment from the different partners to assist the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost everything, or almost everything when they fled their homes to save their lives,” IOM’s Wane added.   

Internally displaced persons (IDPs) who have fled their homes under the threat of armed attacks are often destitute as they seek safety. According to the CONASUR, their priority needs include shelter, food, health, cash for immediate needs, and work.   

"Many of us, we women, are raising our children alone. We need support to help us carry out income-generating activities to better care for our children," pleads Fatima, a displaced woman who has been living at the Youba displacement site in the northern region for almost seven months. Her only wish today is to rebuild her life safely and with dignity.   

IOM, with the support of its partners, is working alongside other United Nations agencies to assist these populations in the Sahel, North, Centre-North and East regions. IOM provides displaced communities with emergency shelter and psychosocial support and conducts peacebuilding and social cohesion activities.  

As part of the COVID-19 response, the Organization also supported the 34 health centres in the North and Sahel regions with COVID-19 protective equipment  and hygiene kits, and conducted awareness-raising activities for the benefit of host communities and IDPs.   

In June, IOM appealed for USD 37.8 million to provide life-saving emergency assistance to 460,000 people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger in response to the rising violence and multi-dimensional humanitarian crisis in the Central Sahel region. One third of the appeal was for shelter and non-food aid items for IDPs, while another third was earmarked for the continued implementation of community stabilization activities to strengthen social cohesion between refugees, IDPs and host communities.   

For more information please contact Judicaël Lompo at IOM Burkina Faso, Tel: (226) 57 95 95 62, Email: jlompo@iom.int 

Language English Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 12:59Image: Region-Country: Burkina FasoThemes: COVID-19Internally Displaced PersonsDefault: Multimedia: 

More than a million people have been internally displaced by the upsurge in violence in Burkina Faso. Photo: IOM/Judicael Lompo 

Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

IOM Launches Japan-Funded Emergency Response for Displaced Persons in Niger

Tue, 08/25/2020 - 05:15

Niamey – This week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in coordination with the Ministries of Humanitarian Action and Disaster Management (MAH/GC) and of Public Health in Niger, is launching a six-month emergency response project aimed at serving displaced persons.  

Funded by the Government of Japan to the amount of USD 200,000, the project will target 14,000 displaced persons and host community members in the Diffa and Tillabery regions in Niger, where conflict-affected communities lack basic healthcare. 

Niger, located in the Sahel region, is one of the least developed countries in the world and thus faces critical humanitarian needs. This crisis is aggravated by a deteriorating security situation, particularly in those parts of the Diffa region bordering Nigeria and Chad, and those of Tillabery bordering Mali, Burkina Faso and Benin. 

This volatile security context adds to an already fraught situation where limited access to basic services–such as education, healthcare and running water–leave large segments of the population vulnerable to disease outbreak and other risks. The country is particularly vulnerable to meningitis, measles, cholera, Rift Valley fever, polio and malaria –each of these exacerbated by the recent global COVID-19 pandemic.  

Additionally, access to basic health services is often more limited for internally displaced persons (IDPs), refugees, returnees and remote border communities. 

Aligned with the Central Sahel Appeal and the Humanitarian Response Plan, the project being implemented this month will extend to January 2021, with the aim of alleviating some of the most urgent health-related needs these communities face and improve access to basic health services. 

In order to identify the most pressing medical needs in at-risk communities, the project will first carry out needs assessments in the communes of Abala and Diffa, in cooperation with its long-standing partner, the local NGO “DEDI” (for Développement Endogène Durable et Innovation). Following these assessments, health-related core relief items will be distributed to those communities deemed most at risk of disease outbreaks. 

“This project comes at a much-needed time, seeing as the security situation has significantly isolated these communities who were already lacking basic services,” said Mahamadou Tankari Aboubacar, Health Coordinator with NGO DEDI since 2018. “We are proud to be able to bring our contribution to these remote communities and to see them thrive again.”  

The problem of access for health workers has worsened due to growing violence, which has led to regional authorities imposing a ban on the use of motorcycles. Motorcycles are the most common mode of transport by non-state armed groups, as well as by healthcare workers trying to reach remote areas.  

“Due to the growing insecurity in the regions of Tillabery and Diffa, healthcare workers do not always have access to remote areas where vulnerable populations need medical support,” explained Barbara Rijks, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Niger. “It’s imperative to address the most pressing health needs of these conflict-affected communities and to improve their access to healthcare.” 

IOM will support healthcare workers by providing transport to targeted areas, as well as transport for patients to health facilities on an ad hoc basis. Healthcare workers will focus mostly on providing support with pre- and post-natal care and vaccination campaigns and also will provide for other medical care as needed. 

For more information, please contact Monica Chiriac at IOM Niger, Tel: +227 8931 8764, Email: mchiriac@iom.int.  

Language English Posted: Tuesday, August 25, 2020 - 13:00Image: Region-Country: NigerThemes: IOMInternally Displaced PersonsDefault: Multimedia: 

The project will address the health needs of 14,000 beneficiaries in two conflict-affected regions in Niger. Photo: IOM/Monica Chiriac 

Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

Three Years Later, Rohingya Refugee Resiliency Anchors Humanitarian Response and Accountability

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 15:09

Cox’s Bazar - August 25 marks three years since hundreds of thousands of Rohingya men, women, boys and girls sought safety in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, after they were forcibly displaced from Rakhine, Myanmar, due to violence and fear of persecution. 

Since then, the Rohingya refugees have been at the centre of the response, working with host communities, government officials, donors, and humanitarian and development partners to ensure their protection and the well-being of host communities, until sustainable solutions for safe, dignified, and voluntary return and reintegration in Myanmar can be achieved. 

The Rohingya refugees have demonstrated their fortitude and capacity to cope by participating in camp activities such as consultations, infrastructure works, disaster preparedness and response, and discussions that engage and solicit feedback from specific groups or persons with specific needs – religious leaders, women, the elderly, and persons with disabilities to name a few. Their participation anchors the humanitarian response’s accountability to the crisis-affected populations.   

The Government of Bangladesh leads the humanitarian response, enabling a diverse range of humanitarian and development partners to strengthen protection and solutions for the Rohingya refugees that deliver food, water and sanitation, health and other forms of multi-sectoral assistance.  

Fostering safe and healthy camp conditions and delivering quality, life-saving multi-sectoral assistance to refugee and host community populations in need require continued collaboration by various stakeholders, human and material resources, and funding from the international community.  

Yet, daunting challenges persist. There has been a lack of progress in Myanmar for the safe, voluntary, dignified, and sustainable return of the Rohingya refugees. The stymied quality of life and aid-dependency in the camp settlements present daily barriers that the refugees must overcome to survive. The global health crisis caused by COVID-19 is also impacting the delivery of humanitarian services, which have been modified to encourage physical distance and other hygienic practices.   

Throughout the last three years, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other stakeholders have reflected on lessons learned and improved humanitarian operations to better meet the life-saving needs of the Rohingya and the host community populations in the district.  

For more information, please contact Itayi Viriri at the IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok, Tel: +63 916 237 0574, Email: iviriri@iom.int

Language English Posted: Monday, August 24, 2020 - 21:01Image: Region-Country: BangladeshThemes: Humanitarian EmergenciesRohingya CrisisDefault: Multimedia: 

Rohingya mother and child fleeing Myanmar in Oct. 2017. Photo: Muse Mohammed / IOM.

Press Release Type: GlobalTopic: Responding to Humanitarian Needs
Categories: PBN

IOM, Lao Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare Bus Campaign to Promote COVID19 and Safe Migration Messaging

Mon, 08/24/2020 - 05:58

Vientiane – This week (20-08) the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare (MoLSW) officially launched a bus campaign to strengthen COVID-19 and safe migration messaging efforts on public transport in Vientiane Capital.

Public bus is a common mode of transport used by migrants to travel to and from border, and to return home after completion of quarantine. The campaign aims to provide mobile populations access to timely and correct information on COVID-19, while encouraging the general public to follow basic prevention measures.

The seven posters that have been developed and installed on five identified bus routes with high usage by migrants, cover the following topics: COVID-19 precautionary measures and symptoms; definition of quarantine; safe migration channels; official COVID-19 information sources and no discrimination. A total of 120 copies were printed for installation.

At the launch event, the Director General of the Skills Development and Employment Department (SDED), Anousone Khamsingsavath, and Head of Office a.i. of IOM Zena Van Bemmel-Faulkner joined a short tour on the bus to review the display. Ms Khamsingsavath thanked IOM for the continued support, the team also discussed the possibility of expanding the campaign to cover more routes in provinces with high human mobility in the near future.

Running for three months until mid-November, the campaign will cover five routes within Vientiane Capital where an estimated 1,970 passengers use the buses every day, according to the statistics from the Vientiane Capital State Bus Enterprise.

This activity is part of IOM’s project Enhancing COVID-19 Pandemic Preparedness to Migrants and Mobility Affected Communities in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, supported by the People of Japan.

For more information please contact Karen HO at IOM Vientiane. Tel. + 856 (0)21 267 734. Email: kho@iom.int

Language English Posted: Monday, August 24, 2020 - 11:52Image: Region-Country: Lao People’s Democratic RepublicThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia: 

Representatives from IOM and MoLSW attended the ceremony held at the Central Bus Station in Vientiane Capital. ©IOM 2020/Karen HO

The team joined a short tour on the bus to review the display. ©IOM 2020/Karen HO

120 posters in seven designs have been installed on the popular bus routes. ©IOM 2020/Karen HO

Press Release Type: Local
Categories: PBN

The Government of Japan and IOM to Promote Social Cohesion in Communities Affected by Insecurity in Cabo Delgado

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 08:36

Maputo, Mozambique – The Government of Japan and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have initiated a partnership, implemented in coordination with Government of Mozambique, to support social cohesion in communities affected by insecurity in Cabo Delgado.

Japan will support Mozambique through a grant (in total $93,481 USD) to IOM. This funding will strengthen peacebuilding coordination mechanisms and provide deployment of expert resources in support of IOM’s multi-donor Community Resilience and Peacebuilding (CRP) portfolio, which impacts approximately 10,500 people directly and 27,000 people indirectly.

The Government of Japan, through the Supplementary Budget, is providing catalytic funding to the CRP portfolio during the critical inception phase. The funding will provide resources for conflict-sensitivity experts to increase the impact of the programme and strengthen the programmatic pillars including community dialogue, income generation and strengthened community-police relationships. The funding will also provide support for coordination forums aimed at ensuring a united, impactful response in social cohesion and community resilience amongst various stakeholders.

“We are concerned about the increasing insecurity in Cabo Delgado, which is affecting greater numbers of people,” said the Japanese Ambassador KIMURA Hajime. “Through the partnership with IOM, the Government of Japan aims to encourage community resilience and foster peace in Cabo Delgado by supporting community dialogue and strengthening coordination mechanisms, because we strongly believe that identifying sources of conflict in communities and positive resolution mechanisms is important. Based on this intention, Japan will support Mozambique through the grant  to IOM. Japan has historically been one of the key contributors toward the development of Mozambique, and we will continue to support this country while collaborating with the international community in a positive manner.”

With record numbers of people on the move and the looming threat of COVID-19, community life in the province has been disrupted.

“This partnership comes at a critical moment for the people of Cabo Delgado, as thousands of families have been forced to flee their homes due to insecurity,” said IOM Mozambique Chief of Mission, Laura Tomm-Bonde. “Host communities in Cabo Delgado, particularly in urban areas, are seeing an influx of displaced people, which places strain on the social fabric, coping mechanisms and resources of communities. This situation is compounded by the effects of COVID-19”.

In this context, action is critical now to support communities in their effort to adapt to the changing environment and build cohesion as a means to mitigate insecurity. In light of this, IOM has established the CRP portfolio with a number of interventions aimed at strengthening communities’ abilities to prevent and manage the negative effects of violence and support processes that address the root causes of conflict.

“Host families in our area are sheltering thousands of displaced people. There are problems to provide for the most basic needs for all: water, food, health care. Conditions for schooling and availability of employment are insufficient,” said Assane Alua, from Natite community in Pemba. “On top of this is the pandemic. In crowded homes there are concerns for sanitation and hygiene, but people do not have means to improve the situation. People need to stay at home due to Corona virus, which further affects the economy.”

For more information, please contact:
Tomomi Ouchi - Embassy of Japan in Mozambique, Tel:+258-21-499-219/20 Email: tomomi.ouchi@mofa.go.jp or Sandra Black in IOM Mozambique, Tel: +258 852 162 278, Email: sblack@iom.int

Language English Posted: Saturday, August 15, 2020 - 13:51Image: Region-Country: MozambiqueThemes: IOMDefault: Press Release Type: Local
Categories: PBN

In Brazil “Pana” Initiative Supports Over 300 Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants Amid COVID-19

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 06:46

Brasília – Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, some 355 Venezuelans refugees and migrants –as well as other migrants from elsewhere – have been supported by the new phase of “Pana,” an initiative by Caritas Brazil, launched jointly with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In different Brazilian localities, IOM and Caritas are providing food, safe housing, hygiene and personnel items. The partners also are offering assistance with socio-economic integration.  

For the last two years, Pana Brazil has supported the relocation of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in different Brazilian cities. However, due to the pandemic, some aspects of the initiative have been adapted to maintain the assistance to the most vulnerable.  

In recent months, refugees and migrants stranded due to the entry restrictions implemented to tackle the spread of the Coronavirus—also have been provided with food and accommodation in Acre, a Brazilian state on the border with Peru.  

Additionally, vulnerable families affected by the economic consequences of the global health emergency are also reached by Pana in the states of São Paulo, Rondônia, Santa Catarina, and the Federal District, where they are provided with temporary accommodations and cash assistance to purchase food. Depending on their incomes and the number of family members to be provided for, grants of between USD 130 and USD 215 per month for three months also are given.   

“This assistance is essential for hundreds of people in each city where Pana is being implemented. Caritas Brazil and IOM Brazil had to adjust the project after the pandemic to provide support to those families directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19,” explained Guilherme Otero, project coordinator at IOM Brazil.  

“With Pana’s project,” he added, “we also support the socio-economic integration of many vulnerable families.”  

The name of the programme is inspired in the Venezuelan word “pana”, which means “friend”, and reflects the spirit of partnership that IOM and Caritas seek to promote among refugees and migrants and their host communities.  

With the support of Pana, Venezuelan Rosa H. received housing and financial assistance early in the pandemic. Rosa, who currently lives in Brasilia with her husband and two children, produces handicrafts to sell. But with social distancing measures, sales of the couple’s wares have dropped.  

“The benefit came at an opportune time when the pandemic started, and we were unable to work,” explained Rosa. “The accommodation was a good place to live and there was harmony among all the beneficiaries.” Rosa now manages to rent her home on her own.  

The Pana project also provides support via a multidisciplinary team working in the psychosocial and legal fields. The team members help Venezuelans, for example, regularize their migratory documents in Brazil.  

Other support mechanisms include job placement and guidance on writing resumes. With the support of the programme, 19 refugees and migrants managed to return to the labour market. A three-week sewing course also was offered to women in São Paulo as a way to strengthen potential skills to help job seekers gain employment.  

The “Houses of Rights” – welcoming spaces in the cities where Pana is presently maintained – provide remote assistance during the pandemic.    

Wemmia Santos, a Pana social worker in Brasilia, believes “the project, in addition to the support, guidance, and guarantees of assistance, provides a dimension of dignity to these people. Because, once we guarantee rights, we have taken many steps towards the effective integration of migrants in our society.”  

In addition to Temporary Accommodation and the Houses of Rights, Pana was also able to support 119 migrants of different nationalities, including Venezuelans, in Acre. They were in transit to Peru but were unable to continue their journeys due to the closure of borders caused by the health crisis.  

Caritas Brazil, through its network in the state, started offering food to migrants at the border in July, especially in the city of Assis.   

“Pana’s actions were a great help to migrants who were unable to enter Peru due to the border closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the resources made available, we were able to offer three meals a day for migrants who were in three different cities,” said Aurinete Brasil, an advisor to Caritas in the Rio Branco Diocese.   

This initiative is possible thanks to the financial support of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of the Department of State of the United States.   

For more information please contact Juliana Hack at IOM Brazil, Tel: +55 61 3771 3772, Email: jhack@iom.int

Language English Posted: Friday, August 21, 2020 - 12:58Image: Region-Country: BrazilThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia: 

Migrants stranded in Brazil receive IOM support. Photo: Cáritas 

Rosa and her family were helped by Pana at the beginning of the pandemic. Photo: Personal collection

Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

IOM Survey Illuminates COVID-19's Impact on Migrant Population in Central America, Mexico

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 06:45

San José – Almost 60 per cent of those intending to migrate decided to postpone or cancel their plans due to the pandemic. Over 20 per cent of those already living as migrants are considering returning to their country of origin as soon as their economic conditions or the health measures adopted by their countries allow them to. About half of all migrants in Central America and Mexico lost jobs due to the pandemic. 

These are some of the findings brought to light this week in a survey conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). More than 1,600 people participated in this survey organized by IOM, which was launched in June to measure and understand the impact of the pandemic on migration plans.  

The survey also probed the socio-economic situation, physical and mental health and risk factors facing migrants from the region. 

While over half (51 per cent) of all migrants participating in the survey actually lost jobs due to the pandemic, only about 20 per cent of migrants are currently working – suggesting about a third of all migrants in the region fail to gain any employment at all during their sojourns.  

At the same time, four out of 10 migrants with jobs saw their working hours cut or saw their wages reduced. Almost half (48 per cent) of the participants indicated that their salaries and incomes were reduced due to COVID-19. 

Concerning access to health, virtually all migrants declared that they comply with preventive health measures for COVID-19. Less than 10 per cent suspected they may have contracted the disease at some point, yet only about a third of the latter resorted to health services. This finding reinforces the importance of guaranteeing migrants access to health services.  

The mental health of migrants also has been affected, the survey revealed, as more than half of participants said they have faced situations such as widespread fear of contagion, isolation, uncertainty, socio-economic consequences and concerns derived from the pandemic. One aspect of that concern had to do with being deceived or exploited when looking for job opportunities. Even so, most participants said they would risk taking a job abroad even without proper information. That demonstrates their continued high risk of becoming victims of trafficking. 

The survey collected 1,660 responses during June 2020 through an online questionnaire. Among those who participated, 45 per cent were men, 54 per cent were women – with the remainder identifying themselves as “non-binary.” Most respondents were between 26 and 45 years old. 

This activity was developed within the framework of the Mesoamerican-Caribbean Regional Program on Migration, with funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) of the United States Department of State. (PRM) of the United States Department of State. 

Click here to read the full report. 

 Click here to see a Facebook Live briefing (in Spanish) on the survey’s release  

For more information, please contact Tatiana Chacón at the IOM Regional Office for Central America, North America and the Caribbean, Tel: +506 8632 8527, Email: tchacon@iom.int 

Language English Posted: Friday, August 21, 2020 - 12:59Image: Region-Country: MexicoThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:  Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

First IOM Libya Voluntary Return Charter in Five Months Assists Over 100 Ghanaian Migrants

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 04:33

Tripoli – One hundred and eighteen Ghanaian migrants stranded in Libya due to COVID-19 restrictions boarded a flight home yesterday, IOM’s first Voluntary Humanitarian Return Programme movement since a temporary hold began five months ago.  

Among those aboard Thursday’s charter to Accra were seven women, three children and two infants.  

All were medically screened by IOM prior to departure and received personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and hand sanitizers, and psychosocial assistance. The Organization will continue to provide support during a 14-day quarantine period in Ghana and later, reintegration assistance. 

“To pay the tuition fees for my children back home in Ghana, I came to Libya and worked to raise enough money,” said Rogerson Babatagre, 47, a construction worker who was seriously injured in a traffic accident.  

“As I can no longer work like before, I decided to return to my country regardless of the fact that I did not earn enough money for my children’s tuition fees. But that is life. Now I'm very happy that I will see my family after seven years. It was very hard to stay far from them under this situation.”  

COVID-19 has added a whole new layer of complexity to the VHR, a critical lifeline for migrants wishing to return home since flighs began in 2015 says programme manager Ashraf Hassan.   

In the face of sweeping COVID-19 mobility restrictions and intensified conflict in Libya, IOM has received many new requests for VHR assistance. More than 2,300 migrants have registered for voluntary return to their countries of origin since March.  

“We continue to operate a hotline for migrants and to work very closely with embassies, the Libyan authorities, and governmental entities in countries of origin to help people return home and rebuild their lives," said Hassan. “IOM Libya will strive to sustain its protection-based VHR and reintegration assistance as a viable option for all stranded migrants.”  

In the first quarter of 2020, IOM’s VHR programme helped 1,466 stranded migrants return home from Libya. Nearly 9,800 migrants returned to 34 countries of origin across Africa and Asia last year through the same programme.  

“I am pleased with the professionalism and commitment of the IOM staff involved in this operation from the registration of our nationals to the last border checkpoint,” said HE Dr S. Adotey Anum, Ambassador of Ghana to Libya, overseeing the boarding of migrants at the Mitiga Airport.  

“It’s taken us over four months of communications and follow ups including medical screenings. The support from IOM medical team was quite exceptional. I trust we will continue this cooperation.” 

Conflict and COVID-19 have severely impacted the livelihoods of migrants in Libya. According to an assessment conducted through IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, migrants in 93 per cent of assessed locations reported they were negatively affected by movement restrictions, chiefly in the loss of employment and more than one-third are estimated to be food insecure.  

The charter flight was made possible thanks to the European Union funding through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, the first comprehensive programme of its kind to save lives, protect and assist migrants along key migration routes in Africa.   

The programme was launched in May 2017 with funding from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF). 

For more information please contact Safa Msehli, IOM Geneva, Tel.: +41794035526  Email: smsehli@iom.int

Language English Posted: Friday, August 21, 2020 - 13:00Image: Region-Country: LibyaThemes: IOMDefault: Multimedia: 

Migrants at the Tripoli Airport preparing to board the flight home. (IOM) 

Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

IOM, UNHCR Call for Urgent Action after 45 Die in Largest Recorded Shipwreck off Libya Coast in 2020

Wed, 08/19/2020 - 19:43

Geneva– The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, are deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of at least 45 migrants and refugees on 17 August, in the largest recorded shipwreck off the Libyan coast this year.   

Some 37 survivors, mainly from Senegal, Mali, Chad and Ghana, were rescued by local fishermen and later detained upon disembarkation. They reported to IOM staff that 45 others including five children lost their lives when the vessel’s engine exploded off the coast of Zwara. 

The two organisations are calling for a review of States’ approach to the situation after this latest incident in the Mediterranean. There is an urgent need to strengthen the current search and rescue capacity there to respond to distress calls.  

There remains a continued absence of any dedicated, EU-led search and rescue programme. We fear that without an urgent increase in search and rescue capacity, there is a risk of another disaster similar to incidents that saw large loss of life on the Central Mediterranean prior to the launch of Mare Nostrum. 

NGO vessels have played a crucial role in saving lives at sea amid a sharp reduction in European state-led efforts. The humanitarian imperative of saving lives should not be impeded and legal and logistical restrictions on their work must quickly be lifted.   

IOM and UNHCR are deeply concerned by recent delays in rescue and disembarkation. We urge states to swiftly respond to these incidents and systematically provide a predictable port of safety to people rescued at sea. Delays recorded in recent months, and failure to assist, are unacceptable and put lives at avoidable risk.   

Where commercial vessels are the nearest boat capable of carrying out a rescue, they should be promptly provided with a safe port for disembarking the rescued passengers. They should not be instructed to return people to Libya, where they are at risk of the ongoing conflict, severe human rights violations, and arbitrary detention post-disembarkation. 

Responsibility for carrying out rescues is increasingly being taken by the Libyan State vessels, which has led to more than 7,000 people being returned to Libya so far in 2020. Any assistance and responsibilities assigned to Libyan search and rescue entities should be made conditional on no one being arbitrarily detained, ill-treated or subjected to human rights violations post-disembarkation. Without such guarantees, support should be reconsidered, and search and rescue responsibilities redefined.  

At least 302 migrants and refugees perished on this route so far this year. According to IOM’s Missing Migrants Project and UNHCR, the current estimated number of fatalities is likely much higher.  

IOM and UNHCR recognize the continued challenges presented by sea arrivals and welcome the efforts of Mediterranean coastal States to continue receiving rescued refugees and migrants. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, two-thirds of European countries have found ways to manage their borders effectively while allowing access to their territories for people seeking asylum. Medical screenings at borders, health certification or temporary quarantine upon arrival are some of the measures put in place by a number of European and other countries. The pandemic should not be used as an excuse to deny people access to all forms of international protection.  

Over 17,000 people have arrived in Italy and Malta this year by boat from Libya and Tunisia, a threefold increase compared to 2019. However, the number has drastically decreased compared to years prior to 2019 and is manageable with political will and EU solidarity with European coastal States. We reiterate the urgent need to move beyond ad hoc arrangements to a swifter, more predictable disembarkation mechanism.  

The instability and lack of security in Libya enables smugglers, traffickers, and criminals in general to act with impunity as they prey on vulnerable migrants and refugees.  

IOM and UNHCR call on Libyan authorities to take firm steps against smugglers and traffickers. This should include disrupting and ending smuggling rings led by criminal groups to prevent further exploitation and abuse. The international community should assist these efforts and provide more support to the authorities in their fight against human trafficking networks.   

 

 

For more information please contact:

IOM  

In Geneva, Safa Msehli,+41 79 403 5526, smsehli@iom.int    

In Brussels, Ryan Schroeder, + 32 492 25 02 34, rschroeder@iom.int    

In Rome, Flavio Di Giacomo,+39.347.089.89.96, fdigiacomo@iom.int 

UNHCR  

In Geneva, Charlie Yaxley, yaxley@unhcr.org, +41 795 808 702,  

In Tunis, Tarik Argaz, argaz@unhcr.org, +216 299 612 95  
In Brussels, Maeve Patterson: patterso@unhcr.org, +32 470 99 54 35
In Rome, Carlotta SAMI, sami@unhcr.org, +39 335 679 47 46

Language English Posted: Wednesday, August 19, 2020 - 19:42Image: Region-Country: GlobalThemes: OthersDefault: Multimedia:  Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

Over 60 Nigerians Return from Lebanon as Migrant Worker Conditions Worsen

Tue, 08/18/2020 - 04:16

Abuja – On Sunday (16 August), 68 Nigerian women stranded in Lebanon returned home safely on a charter flight organized by the Federal Government of Nigeria arriving at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja.

This week the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is providing accommodation and meals to the returnees—ranging between the ages of 18 and 35—during their stay in Abuja. This period will allow the necessary profiling to assess their needs and vulnerabilities.

Since May, 165 stranded Nigerian migrants returned from Lebanon – 13 of whom traveled through IOM’s assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) programme. IOM provided assistance to all those who returned with case management support as well as access to food, accommodation, hygiene kits and legal counsel prior to their departure from Lebanon.

“We are all in Nigeria now and appreciate your kindness and your efforts for helping us get home,” said one of the migrants who returned to Nigeria at the end of July. “ I’m so grateful you stood by me.”

Upon arrival in Nigeria, support from IOM includes a 14-day quarantine period, referral for legal assistance, pre-departure testing for COVID-19, provision of protective personal equipment, shelter, as well as medical psychosocial support. IOM will provide additional reintegration support to the new arrivals following their needs assessment.

“Since the start of the pandemic, voluntary return operations for stranded Nigerians have been delayed,” explained Abrham Tamrat, IOM Nigeria Programme Manager.

“With the current situation in Lebanon, we are stepping up our coordination efforts with the Nigerian government to ensure that Nigerian migrants can return safely while keeping communities of origin healthy.”

“We must continue to ensure vulnerable migrants are properly screened and assisted in partnership with governments of origin and destination as well as civil society organizations and community leaders who have been very active in assisting migrants in Lebanon,” said Dima Hadad, IOM Lebanon Programme Officer for the Levant Regional Project.

Migrants are stranded for various reasons including, but not only, restrictions on travel and the related drop in international flights. Loss of jobs and income, lack of employment, loss of residence permits and lack of resources to return home have all impacted mobility.

Worldwide, extraordinary measures—including travel and mobility restrictions—are having an impact on all people. But some are exacerbating the precarious situations and vulnerabilities of migrant populations and in particular, leading to a large number of migrants being stranded.

A total of 219 countries, territories and areas had imposed 60,711 restrictions by early May, which was unprecedented historically.  As visas and permits expire migrants are also facing deportation. This increases the possibility of more limited (or no) access to health care and social support, stigmatization and xenophobia, and the risk of detention in already overcrowded detention facilities, and homelessness. Those stranded may also be more vulnerable to exploitation, including trafficking in persons and -- out of desperation -- take up employment in conditions with increased exposure to COVID-19.

Last week, IOM reported that approximately eight per cent of the estimated 300,000 people affected by the explosions at the Port of Beirut are migrant workers, many living in economically disadvantaged areas in Greater Beirut. At least 150 migrant workers have been injured. Fifteen are known to have died in the explosion.

According to the Lebanese Embassy in Abuja, there are an estimated 5,000 Nigerians living in Lebanon. Many of these migrants, often working as domestic workers, report mistreatment from employers and have been exposed to further vulnerabilities following this tragic incident.

IOM continues to promote discussions between the Nigerian government and governments in transit and destination countries to establish humanitarian corridors that will allow those who request voluntary return to do so. Following the closure of the Nigerian airspace to international commercial travel, humanitarian corridors are a much-needed alternative to enable stranded Nigerians to come home.

On 28 July, with the support of the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Union Regional Direct Assistance Fund, 109 Nigerian migrants returned safely from Mali on the first charter flight to the country since the COVID-19 related airspace closure. On 29 July, a group of 158 Nigerians—including 32 children—were assisted in their return from Niger.

IOM’s assistance to returnees during the pandemic is aligned with measures such as testing, and quarantining recommended by the World Health Organization and local health authorities.

IOM continues to assist Nigerian returnees amid COVID-19 movement restrictions. From June to July alone, 1,500 returnees received reintegration assistance, counseling, and capital to start their own business according to their needs.

Recently (14 August) IOM launched an appeal to raise funds for its emergency response following the explosions in Beirut. Since late last year, Lebanon has plunged into an economic recession that has been accentuated by the COVID-19 crisis, directly impacting the lives of migrant workers and their families.  

The accommodation and food assistance provided to the newly arrived returnees is supported by the Global Assistance Fund.

For more information please contact Jorge Galindo at IOM Nigeria, Tel: +234 906 273 9168, Email: jgalindo@iom.int, and Florence Kim at the IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Email: fkim@iom.int, Tel: +221 78 620 6213

Language English Posted: Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - 13:00Image: Region-Country: LebanonNigeriaThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia: 

Since May, IOM has assisted the return of nearly 300 Nigerian stranded migrants from Lebanon, Nigeria and Mali (pictured). Photo: IOM

Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

Germany Funds Second Phase of Niger Community Cohesion Initiative for EUR 18 Million

Tue, 08/18/2020 - 04:12

Niamey – Niger is one of Africa’s largest nations, and one of its poorest. An important migration transit country – as well as both a sender of migrants and a destination – Niger is impacted by increased levels of insecurity and instability linked to violent extremist organizations. 

Like neighboring Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, Niger faces other obstacles such as lack of employment, scarcity of food and inter-ethnic tensions. 

This week, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Niger launched the second phase of its Niger Community Cohesion Initiative (NCCI) in partnership with the German Federal Foreign Office supporting the initiative with EUR 18 million. The initiative is set to run until December 2021.  

The 18-month programme is designed to build the capacity of the Government of Niger to deliver essential services and support to at-risk communities, especially at village and commune level, while increasing state institutions’ resilience to conflict and instability, including to threats of violent extremism. 

“At this critical juncture, it is more important than ever for the international community to support the Government and people of Niger to ensure that communities remain stable and resilient,” said Dr. Hermann Nicolai, Ambassador to Germany in Niger. “We are confident that through this partnership with IOM, we can successfully contribute to the response and resilience of local authorities and leaders to conflict, insecurity and violent extremist threats in Niger.”   

The first phase of the NCCI was implemented between 2014 and 2020 in the regions of Agadez, Tillabéri and Diffa, with support from the United States Agency for International Development/Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID/OTI). 

During that first phase, the programme sought to strengthen youth resilience to violent extremist organizations (VEOs), increase local leaders’ effectiveness in addressing these threats and prepare communities in Diffa for the reintegration of ex-combatants. 

For its second phase, the focus will be on those regions – Diffa, Tillabéri and Tahoua – that are Niger’s most impacted by insecurity, population displacement, and lack of opportunities for youth. These are the areas that are particularly vulnerable to recruitment by VEOs and other forms of conflict and insecurity. 

Peace committees, another initiative of the programme, serve as early warning mechanisms for possible security threats. IOM will continue to support existing peace committees and peace networks in target communities and empower local authorities to establish and train new village-level peace committees. 

Women and women’s associations will be involved in all the stages of the decision-making process, recognizing the critical role they have in the identification, prevention and resolution of tensions and conflict.  Youth also are to be targeted as agents for change in building strong, stable and peaceful local communities.  

Through its quick impact mechanism, NCCI will support activities, identified by local communities, that address threats to their stability. These activities can include infrastructure works or livelihood support, such as vocational trainings and cash-for-work opportunities. 

The programme will raise awareness on security-related topics and civic engagement through a variety of activities ranging from caravans, sports tournaments, participatory theatre, sporting events and traditional festivals. A street dance festival in 2019 organized by NCCI drew youth members from across Niger. 

“We are grateful to the Government of Germany for their support that enables us to continue the valuable work we started in 2014 and which has had an incredible impact on communities and authorities,” explained Barbara Rijks, IOM‘s Chief of Mission in Niger. “If communities and local leaders have the right tools to jointly address conflict and insecurity, there is hope that stability and social cohesion in conflict-affected communities can become a reality.”   

For more information, please contact Monica Chiriac at IOM Niger, Tel: +227 8931 8764, Email: mchiriac@iom.int.

Language English Posted: Tuesday, August 18, 2020 - 12:59Image: Region-Country: NigerThemes: IOMDefault: Multimedia: 

Youth members from across Niger during a street dance festival organized by NCCI last year. Photo: IOM/Daniel Kisito Kouawo

Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

IOM and UN Partners Respond to Mauritius Oil Spill

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 11:05

Mauritius - The International Organization for Migration (IOM), as part of the United Nations (UN) family, is supporting the Government of Mauritius in its response to the ecological crisis caused by the spilling over 1,000 tons of oil from a stricken Japanese-owned vessel that ran aground 1.6km offshore on July 25. 

The latest satellite data reveals the oil slick from the MV Wakashio now stretches across 27 square kilometres along the east coast of Mauritius, from Blue Bay Marine Park to the tourist island of Ile aux Cerfs. 

The government of the small island nation of roughly 1.2 million declared a state of emergency on 7 August the day after the vessel began leaking oil, leading to an appeal for international aid. Mauritius depends heavily on the marine-based ‘Blue Economy’ and tourism, two pillar sectors of the economy directly threatened by this unfolding ecological disaster. 

The immediate priority is stopping the oil leakages and cleaning the affected areas.   

The Ministry of Environment reports approximately 13 villages in the vicinity affected by the spill are in need of immediate and longer-term assistance.  

IOM, as part of the Socio-Economic and Environmental Impact Evaluation Team led by the UN Resident Coordinator, are mobilizing resources to deliver technical support and expertise to help the government  mitigate the risks and impacts of the evolving ecological crisis on the people’s livelihoods and address displacement challenges. 

“Though we must focus our efforts on the immediate response, long-term impacts on these vulnerable communities and livelihoods should also be critically assessed,” said Céline Lemmel, Head of Office for IOM Mauritius and Seychelles. 

The UN, the international community, local authorities, the private sector, civil society organizations and local community volunteers are working collectively to help contain this crisis and rebuild stronger together, she said. 

For more information, please contact Céline Lemmel, Head of IOM Office in Mauritius - clemmel@iom.int

Language English Posted: Friday, August 14, 2020 - 13:00Image: Region-Country: MauritiusThemes: IOMDefault: Multimedia: 

IOM staff and Experts assessing the oil spill impact at Bois des Amourettes, Grand Port. IOM/ 2020”

Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

IOM Appeals to International Community to Fund Relief Efforts for Migrant Workers in Lebanon

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 07:33

Geneva – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is launching an appeal today (14/08) to raise urgent funds for its response to the emergency in Lebanon – triggered by the explosion last week at the Port of Beirut and further exacerbated by the ongoing economic and COVID-19 crises. 

The port explosion has had devastating effects on many poor areas in Beirut and Mount Lebanon which host large numbers of migrant workers and Syrian refugees.  

IOM estimates that roughly eight per cent of the 300,000 people affected in Greater Beirut are migrant workers, primarily from Ethiopia, Bangladesh and the Philippines. At least 150 migrant workers have been injured and 15 died in the explosion. 

“As the international community galvanizes efforts to respond to the needs of hundreds of thousands of people affected by this tragedy, we must not forget the migrant and refugee populations who are at risk of being overlooked,” said IOM’s Director General António Vitorino. 

The USD 10.3 million appeal targets more than 43,000 people including 25,000 vulnerable migrants, 16,500 members of the Lebanese host community and 2,000 Syrian refugees. 

Funding will allow IOM to respond to their most immediate needs for the remainder of 2020. These include health care, food distribution in affected neighborhoods, short-term employment opportunities, shelter, mental health and psychosocial support, assistance and protection for migrants at risk of exploitation, among other services. 

“We call on member states from around the world to support our efforts to reach some of Lebanon’s most marginalized populations,” added Vitorino. 

Many of the migrants living in the damage radius of the explosion – particularly in Geitawi, Bourj Hammoud and Ras El Nabaa neighbourhoods – have lost their homes or seen them significantly damaged.   

This situation is further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic as Lebanon continues to see a daily rise in cases, as well as the economic crisis which had already driven many migrant workers into unemployment and homelessness prior to the blast. 

An IOM assessment conducted from May to July concluded 40 per cent of migrant workers surveyed were classified as food insecure and 74 per cent reported having no source of income. 

IOM will operationalize its Displacement Tracking Matrix to support ongoing initiatives to assess the needs of the displaced and join other agencies to lay the groundwork for long-term recovery and reconstruction interventions. 

The Organization will also, in coordination with UNHCR, continue to resettle refugees from Lebanon, which has the largest refugee per capita population, in the world. This is in addition to scaling up efforts for voluntary return.  

IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2020 and beyond. The Platform is regularly updated as crises evolve and new situations emerge.    

For more information, please contact: Angela Wells, IOM Public Information Officer in Geneva, Email: awells@iom.int, Phone: +41 79 403 50365 or Alisar Bey of IOM Lebanon, Phone: +96170993304 or +96171784818, Email: balisar@iom.int

Language English Posted: Friday, August 14, 2020 - 12:59Image: Region-Country: LebanonThemes: IOMDefault: Multimedia: 

The port explosion in Beirut has had devastating effects on many poor areas in Beirut and Mount Lebanon which host large numbers of migrant workers and Syrian refugees. Photo: IOM

Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 36,221 in 2020; Deaths Reach 444

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 05:57

Geneva – IOM reports that 36,221 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through 12 August, with almost half of that volume coming via the Central Mediterranean route connecting North Africa to Italy and Malta. The 36,221 total compares with 41,501 arrivals through this date last year, a 13 per cent decrease across the entire region. Nonetheless, just during 2020’s months of May, June, July and nearly half of August, just under 12,000 men, women and children arrived from Africa via Italian waters – or more than all irregular arrivals to Italy in 2019, throughout that entire year.  

During 2020, typical migration patterns that emerged during six years of a Mediterranean migration emergency have been altered considerably. Arrivals to Greece and Spain – the so-called Eastern and Western Mediterranean routes – are both down, respectively, almost 59 per cent and 26 per cent from this period last year (see chart below). 

Deaths on the Central Mediterranean route remain the highest in the region, as they have each year since 2013. Through 12 August, IOM’s Missing Migrant Project reports 303 deaths on the Central Mediterranean corridor, plus another 71 deaths on routes to Greece and Cyprus and 70 to Spain for a total of 444 for the entire region.  At this point last year, IOM recorded 926 sea deaths across the region, suggesting that 2019 would mark the sixth straight year Mediterranean migrant deaths would exceed 1,000 – a total that was reached just a few weeks later.  

In addition to deaths in Spanish waters of migrants seeking to reach Europe via the Mediterranean, this year IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has reported a surge in sea deaths in the Atlantic, as migrants risk their lives trying to reach Spain’s Canarias archipelago west of Africa. So far in 2020, IOM has recorded 201 deaths on the route to the Canarias between the months of January and July, including at least 63 migrants who disappeared en route to the islands on 18 July. 

Mediterranean Developments

For more information, please contact: 

Joel Millman at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 103 8720, Email: jmillman@iom.int

Language English Posted: Friday, August 14, 2020 - 12:55Image: Region-Country: SwitzerlandThemes: IOMDefault: Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

1,200 Missing Migrants Recorded Thus Far in 2020 May Well Undercount Totals Since Covid-19 Outbreak

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 05:10

Berlin – Despite the mobility restrictions put in place in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, over 1,200 migrants lost their lives during migration in the first half of 2020, according to data from IOM’s IOM’s Missing Migrants Project.  

Responses to COVID-19, including border closures and other measures, have increased the risks of migratory journeys by pushing people into more perilous and deadly situations where humanitarian support and rescue is increasingly unavailable. Many migrants have been stranded due to border closures and are unable to reach safety. They lack access to health services. The difficulty of social distancing for migrants in transit and destination countries may also mean that people trying to migrate irregularly during this time are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.  

Yet data collection on deaths and disappearances during migration are increasingly difficult amid the pandemic. Therefore, the 1,200 figure above does not include what IOM estimates are many more deaths linked to COVID-19 cases among migrant workers due to mobility restrictions and lockdowns. 

“The lack of focus on migration-related issues means that the true number of migrant deaths is likely much higher,” said Frank Laczko, director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC). “The fact that these numbers do not include deaths of foreign workers due to COVID-19 – which few countries currently publish – makes it difficult to know the true impact of the pandemic on migrants.” 

Only with comprehensive, state-produced data on deaths and other COVID-19-related statistics can IOM and other humanitarian actors effectively address these challenges, Laczko said. 

On 5 July, an unidentified woman was found unresponsive by the United States Border Patrol near La Grulla, Texas, a town next to the border with Mexico. She was taken to a nearby hospital where she tested positive for COVID-19 before dying a few hours later. The woman is the only death recorded during migration due to a confirmed COVID-19 case in IOM’s data. As many authorities do not investigate migrant deaths in irregular contexts, IOM considers it likely that similar cases exist. 

Another hindrance to data collection is the “invisible shipwrecks” – vessels reported missing en route to Europe for which no hard evidence can be found – that have become increasingly frequent since the search and rescue presence of European and non-governmental actors in mid-2017. In the Mediterranean Sea – where IOM has documented more than 20,000 deaths since tracking began in 2014 – a lack of state-led search and rescue means that migrants are increasingly lost at sea without a trace. 

During 2020, more than 800 people are believed to have been lost at sea in such invisible shipwrecks. One was the 9 February ship that disappeared off the coast of Libya and may have claimed the lives of over 90 migrants. More recently, a boat carrying at least 63 migrants disappeared en route to the Spanish Canary Islands on 18 July.  

The bodies of at least 26 people were found on the Libyan coast in June, not all of which are linked to a known shipwreck. In July and August, the remains of several people were spotted at sea by Sea-Watch and Mediterranea, non-governmental organizations who are among the few still operating in the Central Mediterranean.  

Concerningly, COVID-19 restrictions in Asia have left hundreds of Rohingya migrants stranded at sea as states fearing contagion refuse to allow them to disembark. While it is difficult to know the true death toll on these boats, one such stranding left an estimated 70 dead in April after the boat was refused entry for months. During the 2015 Bay of Bengal crisis, which saw Rohingya boats similarly stranded, IOM documented over 500 deaths at sea.  

Beyond deaths occurring during migration, migrants have died due to COVID-19 and related restrictions. Few countries publish data on COVID-19 infections or deaths disaggregated by migratory status, yet available data indicate migrants are disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 

Moreover, IOM has documented cases of COVID-19-related violence against migrants. On 26 April, a South Sudanese man in a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya was reportedly beaten to death by a police officer for violating curfew.  A day later, a 17-year-old Syrian boy was shot by police for similar reasons in Adana province in Turkey. In May, police in India beat to death an internal migrant named Satya Swain after he attempted to register for a train ticket as part of India’s Shramik Special programme designed to respond to migrant demand for train passage home due to the lockdowns. 

During the lockdown internal migrants in India have faced difficulties. Media indicate that over 300 people have died within India attempting to reach their homes, including at least 81 who lost their lives on Shramik Special trains. 

Media reports in North America indicate over 1,400 migrants have died of COVID-19 in the United States, mainly those from countries in Central America. At least three migrants have died from COVID-19 in US immigration detention centres, with another 1,175 detainees with active infections as of 13 July.  At least 45 federal employees in these detention centres have confirmed COVID-19 cases, with another 930 cases reported among the private contractors who run US detention centres. 

For the latest data on migrant deaths and disappearances, visit IOM’s Missing Migrants Project website here. All data can be downloaded from missingmigrants.iom.int/downloads.  

For more information, contact Julia Black at IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre,  Email: jblack@iom.int, Tel: +49 30 278 778 27

Language English Posted: Friday, August 14, 2020 - 12:56Image: Region-Country: GreeceThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:  Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

Stranded Sierra Leoneans Return Amid COVID-19 Pandemic, Part of 2,800 Returns Along Humanitarian Corridors in West, Central Africa

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 04:56

Freetown —This week (13 August), 59 Sierra Leoneans stranded in Senegal since the outbreak of COVID-19 returned home safely via air charter flight, bringing to 2,800 the number of people assisted with voluntary return in the region by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with financial support from the European Union.  

The returnees were among 87 men and women stranded in Senegal after crackdowns on trafficking and smuggling in persons by Senegalese Security Officials. Two smugglers were arrested, with the migrants testifying they each had paid between USD 600 and USD 700 to reach employment opportunities in the Middle East. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and mobility restrictions such as border closures put in place to limit the spread of the pandemic left thousands of migrants stranded at borders and in third countries in the region.  

“An increased number of migrants and governments have approached IOM for support in the organization of return operations to countries of origin,” explained Michele Bombassei, IOM Regional Senior Programme Coordinator for West and Central Africa. 

As per Sierra Leone health regulations, all returnees were tested for COVID-19 before they left Senegal. Upon their return, they underwent a rapid diagnosis test before reuniting with their families and their communities. In addition, all returnees received food and economic assistance to cover their immediate needs such as onward transportation to their various communities. Those in need of psychosocial support will be contacted by a mental health specialist in the coming days. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and the establishment of mobility restrictions, IOM has been working with regional governments to ensure that migrants, including the most vulnerable, are protected, and where requested, supported with voluntary return home through humanitarian corridors. 

“Governments are approving exceptions to the closure of borders for IOM to operate and to support the safe and dignified return of stranded migrants,” Bombassei added. 

IOM has been supporting stranded migrants along their migratory journey or working in the informal sector in regions with a volatile economic environment, and who suddenly found themselves without any job, and sometimes no food, water, and no way to go back home.   

Most of the returns took place from Niger, where thousands of migrants were awaiting departure before the measures were taken. IOM has successfully negotiated with the Nigerien government and governments of origin the opening of humanitarian corridors to allow for their voluntary return to Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon, so far.  

Return operations continue throughout the region. While some borders are beginning to reopen, IOM will keep supporting governments implementing health prevention measures before and after departure. On 6 August, 147 Nigeriens returned home from Côte d’Ivoire. Over 500 others will receive the same assistance in the following weeks.  

These returns were made possible with support from the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrants Protection and Reintegration.  

For more information on returns to Sierra Leone, please contact Dr James Bagonza, Email: jbagonza@iom.int.  

For more information on IOM’s COVID-19 regional response, please contact Aïssatou Sy at IOM’s Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Email: aisy@iom.int

Language English Posted: Friday, August 14, 2020 - 12:57Image: Region-Country: Sierra LeoneThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia: 

IOM providing post-arrival assistance to returnees at the Freetown International Airport. Photo: IOM Sierra Leone

Approximatively 2,800 migrants have been assisted with voluntary return to countries in West and Central Africa during the pandemic.

Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

IOM, UNHCR: Interception at Sea is not the Solution to English Channel Crossings

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 17:02

Geneva/Brussels -  The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, are troubled by the proposal to intercept boats and return those attempting to cross the English Channel irregularly. The foreseen deployment of large naval vessels to deter such crossings and block small, flimsy dinghies may result in harmful and fatal incidents.

Although increasing numbers of people have been crossing the Channel by boat this summer, the numbers remain low and manageable. People forced by wars and persecution to flee their homes and people on the move frequently embark on risky journeys in many parts of the world. Saving lives should be the first priority – both on land and at sea. UNHCR and IOM reiterate their call to governments in Europe and elsewhere to increase search and rescue efforts and combat human smuggling and trafficking rings.

“Irregular movements in the Channel represent a challenge for all states concerned as do similar situations in other regions of Europe. These multi-faceted challenges require practical solutions and cooperation,” said Pascale Moreau, UNHCR Director for Europe.

“Our collective response should be comprehensive and complementary - from saving lives to combating smuggling rings, expanding legal options, and ensuring that all those who are in need of protection can effectively access it.”  

Solutions can be achieved for those in need of protection through the asylum system and complementary mechanisms for those in need of other forms of protection such as victims of trafficking and unaccompanied children. At the same time, impediments to return to countries of origin for those who wish to return and/or found not to be in need of international protection have to be consistently addressed, including through cooperation with these countries supported by the EU.

Effectively ensuring that asylum seekers and migrants are aware of their legal options and adequately supported in pursuing them needs to be a priority. Efforts should also be increased to identify and protect the most vulnerable, especially unaccompanied children.
 
This should go hand in hand with cooperation to ensure that people who have grounds for regular entry, including to reunify with their families, can do so quickly and effectively without having to resort to such a dangerous journey. UNHCR research shows that delays and administrative barriers to family reunion increase the likelihood of people turning to smugglers as an alternative. Less restrictive and burdensome family reunion rules are therefore needed.
 
“The immediate concern is the dangers the crossings present particularly to the most vulnerable, including many children,” said Ola Henrikson, Director of IOM’s Regional Office in Brussels. “Border cooperation is very important but should be balanced, proportionate and part of a larger, comprehensive response.”

 In the wake of the UK’s departure from the European Union, viable mechanisms need to continue to ensure that people -- first and foremost unaccompanied children -- in various EU countries who have family or other important links to the UK can continue to travel or transfer safely.

For more information, please contact:  
IOM  
In Geneva, Safa Msehli, +41 79 403 5526, smsehli@iom.int    
In Brussels, Ryan Schroeder, + 32 492 25 02 34, rschroeder@iom.int    

UNHCR
In Geneva, Shabia Mantoo, +41 79 337 7650 mantoo@unhcr.org  
In the UK, Laura Padoan, +44777 5566127 padoan@unhcr.org
In France, Rachel Jenkins, +33 (0)6 03 66 10 29 jenkinsr@unhcr.org

Language English Posted: Thursday, August 13, 2020 - 22:56Image: Region-Country: GlobalThemes: Migrants in Vulnerable SituationsDefault: Multimedia:  Press Release Type: Global
Categories: PBN

IOM and Norwegian Refugee Council Give Assistance to Thousands of COVID-19 Returnee Migrants in Ethiopia

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 15:26

Addis Ababa – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, and NRC, the Norwegian Refugee Council, are delivering essential aid to over 23,500 migrants in Ethiopia who have recently returned to the country due to COVID-19. 
 
More than 17,000 of the returnees came home via land crossings, mainly from Djibouti, Somalia, and Sudan. For some returnees these are destination countries where they go to seek employment, yet for many others these are transit countries on the perilous journey east to the Arab Peninsula, or north to Europe via North Africa.  

All recent returnees are being accommodated at quarantine facilities in regional towns. 
 
The migrants, who have returned from countries stretching from as far away as the United States and India, are living in more than 30 COVID-19 quarantine centres, most converted from schools and university campuses spread across the country by Ethiopia's federal government.  

The IOM-NRC partnership is designed to bring resources and expertise together to respond to the urgent needs of vulnerable migrants, including minors, pregnant women, and mothers.  
 
IOM Ethiopia is specialising in coordinating the national response and supporting the management of quarantine sites while the NRC brings expertise related to resource mobilization. 

The partnership has so far generated the supply and delivery of 62,000 hygiene items, 10,000 blankets and 5,000 sleeping mats, 5,000 washing basins and other basic but essential items to thousands of vulnerable migrants who have returned to Ethiopia since the COVID-19 outbreak.
 
Many of the migrants have been arriving in Ethiopia with only the clothes on their backs, with few or no other possessions. More than 50,000 cooking utensils have been provided to equip quarantine facilities. 

“Together with our partners at IOM, we have been able to respond to the needs of returning migrants,” said Eyob Yisfawossen, NRC’s Area Manager in Jigjiga. "The situation at the regional quarantine centres is dire, to say the least and the need for essential items such as clothes, sanitary items, and bedding, is immediate." 

The assistance is being provided in Shire, Metema, Dire Dawa, Jigjiga, and Semera, the five regional towns, where many of the migrants enter the country on foot and by bus.  

“We had several challenges with provision of services in the quarantine centre at the start of the pandemic,” explained Addis Alem, the Dire Dawa University quarantine centre manager. “With the supplies we’re receiving from NRC, IOM and others, the quarantine centre is now fully operational and able to meet the needs of vulnerable groups.” 
 
Said Maureen Achieng, IOM Ethiopia Chief of Mission: “COVID-19 has tested the capacity of existing quarantine facilities. The upswing in the number of cases has necessitated the designation of additional institutions for quarantining purposes, all of which require support. It is, therefore, critical that we forge partnerships that will ensure prompt action in support of vulnerable groups, including returning migrants.” 

To ensure returning migrants get the support they need, IOM is playing a pivotal role in coordinating the COVID-19 response activities of up to 15 UN agencies and 25 international and donor organizations, working together with the Government of Ethiopia.  

From distributing essential items such as medications, Personal Protective Equipment, and sanitary products donated by IOM and partners, to supporting disease surveillance, WASH, and child protection, IOM continues to work with multiple partners to deliver support to returning migrants.   

For more information please contact Haimanot Abebe, IOM Ethiopia, Tel: +251-11 557 1707, Email: haabebe@iom.int 

Language English Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2020 - 21:11Image: Region-Country: EthiopiaThemes: COVID-19Migrant AssistanceMigration HealthDefault: Multimedia: 

IOM and Norwegian Refugee Council hand over non-food Items to Ethiopian authorities in Shire, Tigray Region © IOM 2020 Daniel Niguse

Press Release Type: GlobalTopic: Responding to Humanitarian Needs
Categories: PBN

IOM Facilitates Return of 185 Mongolians Stranded in Czechia

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 12:36

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – The International Organization for Migration (IOM), in coordination with the Governments of Mongolia and Czechia, has assisted 185 Mongolians to return home this week (11-08). The group were part of 250 Mongolians stranded in Czechia and some eastern European countries after borders were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the Government of Mongolia’s request to help Mongolians abroad in situations of vulnerability due to COVID-19-related border closures, IOM missions in Mongolia and Czechia facilitated the movement.

The Mongolian nationals returned home through IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) program and this latest movement brings the total number of Mongolians assisted to return home by IOM, to 6,300 since 2011.

All returnees had been stranded in Europe since January 2020 when the Government of Mongolia took strict measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including imposing international travel restrictions. Given the high demand for return from Mongolian nationals stranded in Czechia, IOM worked with its government partners in Czechia and Mongolia paying close attention to individual vulnerability circumstances, including 10 children and more than 50 elderly persons.

Through the support of and close coordination with the government authorities, partners and IOM teams, MIAT Mongolian airlines operated the flight from Ulaanbaatar to Prague and Prague to Ulaanbaatar and as is the norm currently with repatriation flights, brought to Prague those passengers who requested to leave Mongolia in compliance with COVID-19 preventive and protection measures.

“Although it was a very complex exercise that involved coordination with multiple partners in Czechia and Mongolia, we are very happy that Mongolian citizens are going back home to see their loved ones again after such a long and uncertain absence,” said Petr Karban, IOM Chief of Mission in Czechia. “But it is not only that. As soon as the returnees are able to leave mandatory quarantine and self-isolation, we will start working with our colleagues in Ulaanbaatar to support their reintegration.”

All the returnees will be tested for COVID-19 upon their arrival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. According to the regulations set by the Government of Mongolia, they will stay in mandatory quarantine for three weeks and self-isolation for two weeks, which will also be paid for through AVRR program.

The movement was funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Interior of Czechia. 

For more information, please contact Petr Karban at pkarban@iom.int and + +420-775965573 and Erkhem Munkhbayar at emunkhbayar@iom.int and +976-88101117.

Language English Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2020 - 18:11Image: Region-Country: MongoliaThemes: COVID-19Default: Multimedia:  Press Release Type: Local
Categories: PBN

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