Without a doubt, migration is a defining issue of this century. One billion people, one-seventh of the world’s population, are migrants. Some 258 million people are international migrants, 40 million are internally displaced and 24 million are refugees or asylum seekers. In 2018, there is no longer a single state that can claim to be untouched by human mobility.
About 423 million people are living in the Economic Community of West African States, a 15-member grouping whose aim is to promote economic integration in a region where the unemployment rate is sometimes 20%—inevitably leading to migration.
The protection of migrants is a core value of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN migration agency. Globally, but especially in the Sahel region, abuses against migrants have grown more frequent along the migration routes. Human trafficking and smuggling exacerbate the vulnerability of migrants, especially those without access to documentation.
The IOM’s Regional Office for West and Central Africa maintains the conviction that anchored IOM’s founding 65 years ago: that all men and women are equal members of the same human family in which freedom, protection and dignity are not luxuries to be reserved for the lucky few but fundamental rights for all humankind.
people in need of humanitarian assistance and 690,000 are internally displaced
Migration across the Sahel region is a complex issue, and managing it involves major challenges, including insufficient migration data, weak border management and controls, the recurrent need for humanitarian assistance, irregular migration and human trafficking.
Without effective bilateral or regional mobility agreements, thousands of workers will migrate.
Migration is often associated with poverty, but other factors also drive the phenomenon, including youth unemployment, climate change and urbanization.
Employment-seeking migration accounts for the biggest share of intraregional mobility as youth migrate from one country to another looking for better job opportunities.
Widespread population displacement is also linked to violent conflicts and unstable environmental conditions. Conflict in the Central African Republic, for example, has left an estimated 2.5 million people relying on humanitarian assistance and 690,000 internally displaced.
Migrants fleeing violence have spilled across the borders of neighboring countries, particularly Cameroon, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad and the Republic of Congo. The current situation represents a challenge not only for the affected countries but also for the region.
In view of this growing crisis, a well-managed, orderly migration framework that incorporates practical, humane and rights-based operational solutions is needed. Strengthening mobility schemes in the region will foster regular and circular migration, allowing people to work abroad legally, return home safely and participate in the development of their communities of origin.
This strategy must also ensure the mobility of cross-border communities, but such mobility raises border management challenges in the absence of effective identity management systems and given limited capacities to ensure surveillance and control over the extensive and porous borders throughout the region. Stakeholders will have to take coordinated action to address issues such as threats to public health, despoiling of natural resources, the loss of critical years of education and job training.
An increasing number of migrants are reconsidering migration—especially irregular migration—and want to make it at home before taking undue risks by going abroad. Legal channels and regional mobility schemes could help this group.
To ensure the safety of vulnerable populations along migratory routes who lack legal options to migrate or return home, IOM, together with African Member States and the European Union, launched in December 2016 the EU-IOM Joint Initiative on Migrant Protection and Reintegration to provide immediate assistance to stranded migrants along the routes. Almost 40,000 people have received assistance since the launch.
West and Central Africa face some of the world’s greatest challenges—climate change and desertification, displacement due to conflict, galloping population growth and a youth bulge. But thanks to the resilience of the population of almost half a billion, these are also regions of enormous potential.
Sound migration policies and close cooperation among countries within the regions and on the continent with other countries of destination will help realize that potential, as will commitment by all concerned states to implement the new Global Compact for Migration.
Richard Danziger is IOM’s Regional Director for West and Central Africa
From Africa Renewal
Another boat tragedy off North Africa’s Atlantic Coast stark reminder of perilous sea journeys
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, say the deaths of 47 people who were onboard a boat heading to the Canary Islands from North Africa’s Atlantic coast highlight the urgent need for more support to prevent further tragedies at sea.
The boat left on 3 August carrying 54 people, including three children. After two days at sea, engine failure left passengers stranded without food or water for nearly a fortnight. When located by the Mauritanian coast guard on 16 August, only seven people were alive on board.
Survivors were taken to Mauritania’s northern city of Nouadhibou for medical treatment. Four people in critical condition were transferred to hospital. UNHCR is working to provide assistance and to determine whether any survivors have international protection needs.
The latest tragedy comes just 10 days after another 40 people lost their lives along the same route. It adds to the spiraling number of deaths, as more vessels depart for the Canary Islands. As of January this year, more than 350 people have died, while over 8,000 refugees and migrants have reached Spain using this sea route.
Meanwhile, since October 2020, more than 1,200 people have been rescued off the Mauritanian coast and received medical assistance as part of a first aid programme set up by IOM.
IOM and UNHCR are appealing for more support, to be able to continue their lifesaving interventions, including through screening, medical and psychosocial aid.
“Our top priority is to provide safe and viable alternatives to the dangerous journeys undertaken by refugees and migrants in the Mediterranean, as per the objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees,” said Maria Stavropoulou, UNHCR’s Representative in Mauritania. “UNHCR is working to increase the identification of those with international protection needs travelling along these routes and provide assistance in the countries that host them.”
IOM’s Chief of Mission in Mauritania, Boubacar Seybou, said the organization was concerned that many rescued at sea end up in administrative detention.
“In accordance with the recommendations included in the Global Compact for Migration, alternatives must also be available to survivors, who have already suffered heavy medical and psychosocial trauma,” Seybou said. “We are working closely with authorities “to accelerate the implementation of new assistance and protection measures, and to strengthen the fight against traffickers and smuggler networks.”
IOM and UNHCR are urging the international community to support efforts to identify and assist those with international protection and other specific needs, to create safe and legal pathways, establish alternatives to detention, and strengthen search and rescue capacity off the coast of Mauritania.
Response capacities stretched with hasty return of 40,000 Ethiopian migrants
Ethiopia – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is urgently appealing for funds to respond to the needs of 40,000 Ethiopian migrants returning from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Over 30,000 have arrived in Ethiopia over the last two weeks, at the rate of over 2,600 people a day. More than 20,400 (68 per cent) are from parts of Tigray and Amhara regions which are in the midst of conflict in Northern Ethiopia that has displaced nearly two million people.
The returns of Ethiopian migrants follow a bilateral agreement between the governments of Ethiopia and KSA.
According to IOM, USD 740,000 is needed to provide assistance for every 10,000 migrants returning. This is for essentials such as medical treatment, supplies for babies and infants such as diapers, clothing, help with finding and tracing family members, and reunifying them or providing alternative care arrangements as appropriate, as well as to respond to protection concerns.
“This sudden upsurge in returns poses a major challenge to our ability to assist the returnees – many of whom require medical and psychosocial assistance, support reuniting with their families, and livelihood options that would help to diminish the appeal of irregular re-migration to KSA and other countries of destination,” says Maureen Achieng, IOM Chief of Mission in Ethiopia.
“Our response is seriously underfunded and barely reaching the needs of returnees in the provision of essential basic and specialized assistance, including for unaccompanied migrant children, pregnant and lactating mothers, and victims of trafficking.”
Many of the migrants will require help to return and reintegrate back into their communities. Reintegration assistance is therefore vital to supporting the returnees psychologically, and to find work and stability, to help them avoid irregular migration, and exploitation by trafficking and smuggling rings.
The returning migrants are among the target population included in the Regional Migrant Response Plan 2021-2024 (MRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen, a USD 99 million appeal launched by IOM and 39 partners in March 2021 to address the protection needs, risks and vulnerabilities of migrants along this route. The MRP is underfunded and urgently requires additional resources to carry out its response, including for this target population.
While recognizing the sovereign right of States to determine their national migration policy and their prerogative to govern migration within their jurisdiction, in conformity with international law, IOM, as part of the United Nations Network on Migration, reaffirms its commitment to keeping everyone safe. It means that all Member States need to ensure that collective expulsions of migrants and asylum-seekers must be halted; that protection needs, including international protection, must be individually assessed; and that the rule of law and due process must be observed. It also means prioritizing protection, including every child’s best interest, under the obligations in international law.
IOM provides over 1,300 migrants with emergency shelter and assistance on the Canary Islands
Madrid – As more migrants arrive in the Canary Islands, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has provided shelter, protection services, medical, legal and other types of assistance to 1,361 migrants on Tenerife.
The arrival of more than 23,000 people in the Canary Islands by sea in 2020, particularly in the last three months of the year, strained the reception capacity and COVID-19 has further complicated the response. In November 2020, the Government of Spain announced “Plan Canarias” to renovate and expand the archipelago’s reception facilities to accommodate and assist 7,000 migrants.
Since 26 February this year, IOM has been operating at the Las Canteras Emergency Reception Facility (ERF) on Tenerife to support the Spanish government in managing the site. The EU-funded facility is an open centre which can accommodate as many as 1,100 people.
“Our priority is to support Spain with site management to provide safe and dignified living conditions and tailored services for migrants who have arrived via extremely treacherous journeys to the Canary Islands,” said Maria Jesús Herrera, Head of IOM’s Office in Spain.
Today, some 300 migrants are staying at the facility from Morocco, Senegal, Mali, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Sudan, The Gambia, Mauritania and Côte d’Ivoire.
At Las Canteras, IOM provides meals, core relief items, water and sanitation, maintenance, and Multipurpose Cash Assistance. The Organization also offers protection assistance, which includes vulnerability assessments, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS), primary health care, legal information and counselling for family reunification or international protection, and assistance with transfers of eligible vulnerable migrants to the mainland.
IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) is also available to migrants who wish to return to their country of origin.
Marouane, a 27-year-old from Morocco, had arrived at the facility on 6 March. One year ago, he risked a harrowing sea journey towards the islands.
“For three days, you hang out with death, you see it. But if you don’t die, then you get there,” he told IOM in May.
To date, IOM has provided legal counselling to more than 780 people seeking asylum, in cooperation with UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency. IOM also ensured – through close collaboration with the Spanish authorities – the referral and transfer of some 682 migrants to other specialized centres on the islands and the mainland.
The Organization also works closely with the municipality of La Laguna to engage with neighbourhood associations, the Tenerife council, civil society, citizens and local actors in the interest of transparency, mutual exchange, and social cohesion.
“We consider the people hosted in Las Canteras centre as citizens of La Laguna municipality. We therefore try to collaborate as much as possible so that they also benefit from the activities organized by the City Council,” said José Luis Hernandez, Environment Councillor from the La Laguna City Hall.
Arrivals to the Canary Islands on the Western Africa-Atlantic Route this year have reached 7,309 – more than double the number of arrivals at the same time last year. Some 23,848 migrants have reached Spain irregularly via all land and sea routes so far this year.
The project at Las Canteras,“Supporting the Spanish Authorities in managing an Emergency Reception Facility on the Canary Islands”, is funded by the EU (European Commission, DG Home). The overall management of the ERF is under the coordination of the Site Manager of the Spanish Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration.
Risking it all crossing the Darien Gap, a treacherous trek no one should tackle
Stitching hope: Empowering women in South Sudan towards self-reliance
Observatory on smuggling of migrants
News9 months ago
Gavi, IOM join forces to improve immunization coverage for migrants
News1 year ago
Lead review of anti-human trafficking strategies in Nigeria- JIFORM tells NAPTIP
News1 year ago
Covid 19: UN in West and Central Africa worry about migrants as traffickers abandon victims in desert
Opinions1 year ago
IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre releases report on ‘Migration from and within West and North Africa’
News1 year ago
Six-month certificate programme on Global Compact for Safe Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) kicks off
Investigation1 year ago
Real reasons Nigerians are barred from jobs in Dubai
News1 year ago
Five children, 40 other migrants die in largest recorded shipwreck off Libya Coast
News9 months ago
Journalist Marvin Hokstam speaks about migration, opportunities during COVID, racism and media