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Challenging return as the preferred solution to internal displacement

International Organisation of Migration (

Increased attention to the plight of returnees is highly necessary to promote renewed insights and challenge the dominant discourse on return as the ‘preferred durable solution’.

Bangui – Forced displacement is undoubtedly a life-changing event. While the often-traumatic experience of displacement cannot be undone, the possibility to return to locations of origin in a safe, dignified and sustainable manner can bring hope and alleviate suffering after displacement.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), along with governments and other international organizations, supports three traditional durable solutions for internally displaced persons – which comprise voluntary return and reintegration, local integration and resettlement or settlement elsewhere.

Voluntary return to locations of origin is widely portrayed by the humanitarian community and governments alike as the ‘preferred’ durable solution to forced displacement.

However, the reality often illustrates the great complexity of the return process. Return movements go hand in hand with a wide variety of psychosocial and economic challenges that can have important implications for post-conflict reconciliation and community recovery.

Numerous returnees struggle to achieve any durable solution and even after return, the vulnerabilities they faced while living in displacement continue to persist. The return process does not end in the act of arriving back home, but ultimately implies yet another complicated and lengthy adaptation and reintegration process.

A comprehensive approach and new understandings of displacement are needed to replace overly narrow interpretations of return as a durable solution to forced displacement. National governments, the humanitarian community and development actors play a crucial role in developing new ways of understanding return as a solution to forced displacement. Therefore, it is essential to allow the highly complex dynamics of the return process enter ongoing debates and to agree on collective outcomes based on context-specific approaches and creative alternatives to traditional concepts.

READ  UNHCR releases supplementary COVID-19 appeal to meet exceptional refugee needs in 2021

A more holistic and inclusive approach to return and reintegration could be one such alternative. The return of displaced populations cannot be understood as assisting returnees in areas ‘where they belong’.

What it means to return ‘home’ – and ensuring people’s rights to do so – remains largely under-examined, and tend to be far more complex than the traditional definition of durable solutions implies. The return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) or refugees to locations of origin is not a natural or logical outcome in most post-conflict situations, nor does it have to mark a moment in time where mobility ends.

The assistance and protection of returnees is rather approached as a concept that is not reducible to categories of populations or geographical locations. The humanitarian fixation to transform the returnee population into residents is falsely assuming that uprooted individuals need to be restored in their soil of origin for the return movement to be successful. This idea precludes potential coping strategies and solutions that diverge from the standard durable solutions framework such as pendular movements between locations of origin and locations of displacement, or labour migration.

READ  IOM, UNHCR: Latest Mediterranean tragedy underscores need for search and rescue

The use of established definitions to identify groups of displacement-affected individuals is undoubtedly useful to track populations and quantify movements.

However, in terms of durable solutions, the adoption of such instrumental language often consolidates identities and camouflages the blurred distinctions and common vulnerabilities between the individuals behind those labels. Returnees, members of host communities and resident populations often share similar needs. In order to enhance social cohesion, solutions are found in comprehensive development policies and inclusive community-centered approaches.

Rather than the connection with territorial space, the notion of home is marked by the social dynamic between an individual and their environment. This environment may be defined by security, participation, meaningful lives, livelihoods and sense of belonging. It is an on-going process, nurtured by identity that combines understandings of the past, experiences of the present and prospects of the future.

In order to establish conditions to restore the notion of home and efficiently protect and assist the returnee population, measuring the indicators defining the concept of home at the community level is of crucial importance.

Therefore, in different contexts such as Iraq, South Sudan, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic, IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) is increasingly shifting its attention to the plight of returnees and is redefining its assessment tools in order to respond effectively to the humanitarian and development needs in areas of high return. This will allow IOM and partners to assess the quality of return movements, plan resources and operations, and design coherent interventions linking humanitarian, recovery and stabilization activities.

READ  IOM Somalia relocates nearly 7,000 Internally Displaced Persons facing eviction

Moving forward, interventions and policies should be increasingly cautious of overly narrow interpretations of return as a durable solution and allow variations and modifications based on a combination of context-specific indicators. This can be achieved by a conversation on return movements that ensures active participation of both displaced populations and host communities and is based on the understanding that the status quo ante is rarely, if never, recreated.

This article was written by Kristof Orlans of IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix

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Dominican Republic, IOM clear hurdles for 100,000 Venezuelan migrants

The Migration Normalization Plan will allow Venezuelans living irregularly in the Dominican Republic to work, move without risk of deportation, open bank accounts and join the country’s social security system.  Photo: IOM / Francesco Spotorno

 

 

Santo Domingo – The first group of almost 100,000 Venezuelan migrants without legal status in the Dominican Republic have received visas allowing them to work, open bank accounts and join the social security system under the country’s Migration Normalization Plan.

Created by the Dominican government and launched with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the plan aims to regularize the Venezuelan population in three stages: application for extension of stay, visa, and residency. Since April, when the first phase began, 43,000  Venezuelans have registered to extend their stay and, on 1 July, the first group of 21 Venezuelans received their work visa.

“Now that I have my visa, I feel that for others like me a lot of opportunities are opening. We will be able to establish more safely and formally to offer a better future to our children,” says Gabriela Rivero, who arrived in the country with her husband and daughter in 2018.  “Once we settled, we did not imagine how difficult it would be to get a job because the lack of documentation closed all doors.”

READ  IOM refutes allegations Eritreans held, processed for forced return

Since 2019 Gabriela has led a support organization for Venezuelan migrants in Santiago de los Caballeros called FEV (Fundación Emigrantes de Venezuela), which offers free orientation and helps hundreds of migrants daily to complete their normalization plan applications.

With IOM support, eight Venezuelan migrant organizations have created orientation hubs to assist the Venezuelan population who are applying to the plan. Of the 43,000  registered through the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) web page, around 9,000 have visited the hubs for help on the procedure. The promoters and coordinators of each hub – mostly Venezuelan migrants – have learned the process with the support and guidance of the DGM team and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX). Besides being trained for orientation, they became the pilot group of the plan to receive their extensions and visas.

“The idea of this process is that we are the ones at the front of the hubs, a migrant helping a migrant, a Venezuelan helping a Venezuelan,” says Iván Carrera, a lawyer from Caracas and legal adviser of FUNCOVERD (Fundación Colonia de Venezolanos en RD). Carrera works as a promoter at the orientation hub in El Sambil Santo Domingo, one of the locations with the most people requesting support for their application.

READ  IOM, African Union Commission, launch the first Africa Migration Report

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

READ  IOM, Greece assist 134 Iraqi  migrants with voluntary return

Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

READ  IOM, Greece assist 134 Iraqi  migrants with voluntary return

“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

READ  Forced displacement passes 80 million by mid-2020 as COVID-19 tests refugee protection globally

 

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