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Controversy trails Nigeria’s move to evacuate citizens from UK

NIGERIA RETURNEES FROM EUROPE

* Citizens lament pressure to do Covid 19 test for  £350 in private facilities

*We can’t answer if test’s  fee is a rip off- Mobihealth

Controversy is trailing Federal Government’s  plan to  evacuate  NIgerians resident in the United Kingdom back to the country.

This is as the embattled citizens have alleged that they were being compelled  to undergo the Covid 19 test in  private health centers even when the UK government said the test is free for citizens and non citizens resident in the country.

Covid -19 test in private centres in the UK according to findings cost £350.

“Mobihealth asked us to pay £350 and the result will be ready in five days. The Nigerian officials  told us that it is imperative for us to do the test at Mobilhealth because the UK health system may not be available to do the test for us because it is very tight at the moment for them. If we pay that sum, we would still have to pay for the ticket. That is too much for us at this point,”one of the citizens who did.not want her name in print said.”

Another  expressed disappointment at the development describing it as a rip off. “If you are not having symptoms, the UK government will not test you. Why then are our people requesting that we must all do the test? They can keep us in an isolated area when we get to Nigeria and take anyone with symptoms out for treatment. One of the  lady at Mobilhealth says she was pulling out when she saw the dimension the matter was assuming.

“They are making it look as if the test is voluntary but in actual fact, they have told us that without it, they would not allow us to board. Did the Chinese doctors they brought NIgeria present any Covid -19 test result before being allowed into the country.

 

Nigeria may have by this decision, discouraged a  large number of the stranded citizens in the United Kingdom willing to be brought  back home.

READ  UAE pays for 180 tickets as 252 stranded NIgerians return 

Many of the citizens who had earlier indicated interest to come back  said the costs of the test and ticket  are enormous for them and that they may decide to stay back.

The  Nigeria in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) on Monday was reported to have   put forward fresh conditions that the embattled citizens must meet before they could  be considered for the trip back home.

The commission in a  statement, signed by one Inyang E. Inyang, said: “We have received your application for evacuation from the UK during the COVID-19 period. A major condition for your return will be to have done the COVID-19 test in the UK. You will not be allowed to board without having taken the test. The test is for patients (people)16 years and older. We look forward to bringing you back home.”

NIDCOM explained that while it understands that it may be difficult for some intending returnees to have the test done through the UK NHS as some may not meet the NHS conditions, it however advised that Nigerians in the UK interested in having a private COVID-19 laboratory test within the United Kingdom may consider using private laboratories approved for such test by the UK government.

Abike Dabiri Erewa

The commission according to reports had advised that one of such facilities can be reached via COVID19@mobihealthinternational.com or contact Dr Funmi Adewara on +447753656688.

“This is a Public Health England-approved COVID-19 testing centre. Laboratory results are said to be within 3-5 working days. So, you are free to make your options and decisions,”

The request for valid proof of Covid-19 test result demanded by the commission excludes   the initial condition that intending returnees will have to be responsible for the cost of their flight back home.

 

We can’t answer if £350 Covid -19 test is a rip-off-Mobilhealth 

Mobilhealth International,  in a response to our email said they only a few Nigerians have registered for the controversial test, adding that they can’t answer if the cost of the test amounts to a rip-off.

READ  A breakdown of Europe’s €1.5bn migration spending in Nigeria

Below is the interview (unedited)

How many Nigerians have so far registered to do the test?
There are quite a few
Why are you asking them to pay when the UK govt said it is free?
The NHS offers COVID testing and treatment for free to everyone regardless of immigration status as long as they meet the criteria. The UK Govt has a website with all the information they need, they do not have to come to us to get a COVID19 test done. Those who do not meet the set criteria but require COVID19 test are free to get it done through private laboratories- and they charge a fee. The fee varies by providers and so does the quality and type of test.
 
I am a private citizen running my own business.Mobihealth does not own a laboratory in the UK that carries out COVID 19 tests, We are only facilitating this for those who prefer to do it privately with a registered UK laboratory. There are other private laboratories that people can go to or the NHS. It is not compulsory to come to me for the COVI19 test. The Government has not made it compulsory to use a specific organization as long as the test is valid, it will be accepted.
  Is Nigerian government aware of your activities as it concerns the planned  evacuation I am not involved with evacuation. I am not an employee of the FGN/NHC or NiDCOM. I was only asked to help those who may want to do the COVID19 test from a private laboratory who do not meet the NHS testing criteria and willing to do their test with a private laboratory. The private test comes at a fee like any other business. The cost of the test from private laboratories varies and readily available online, anyone who wants to have a test can use any accredited centre.
 Some citizens in the UK said the fee is a rip off, is it?  I cannot answer that. We do not own any laboratory here in the UK and cannot make any comment on the prices set by various laboratories. However, the laboratory we partnered with charges a reasonable fee of £295 for COVID 19 test, this information is readily available online. The extra £55 covers service charge for organizing these tests for the group. Those who have symptoms must use courier service which is included in the price for specimen collection and delivery within the London area. Those who live outside London will have to pay the courier charges directly for that. Those without symptoms may use royal mail return postage which is significantly cheaper. The price also covers pre and post test doctor’s consultation. Testing does not have to be conducted through Mobihealth, there are many options out there including the other private laboratories and the free NHS testing which does not discriminate against immigration status-  They have options. 
 
We are living in an unprecedented time in human history and we are all under pressure. We empathise with everyone and understand the desperation to reunite with their families.
As a private citizen we are doing our best to continue to support as much as we can. Mobihealth has provided free online screening and teleconsultation to relieve this pressure.We all must unite to fight our common enemy- COVID19 and pray that the situation turns around for our good soon.

READ  Air France, Lufthansa, others evacuate 1, 739 foreigners from Lagos Airport

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Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move

COMPASS will provide vulnerable migrants including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children access to a broad range of protection and assistance services.

 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands launched the Cooperation on Migration and Partnerships for Sustainable Solutions initiative (COMPASS) at the beginning of 2021. COMPASS is a global initiative, in partnership with 12 countries, designed to protect people on the move, combat human trafficking and smuggling, and support dignified return while promoting sustainable reintegration.

The initiative is centred on a whole-of-society approach which, in addition to assisting individuals, will work across all levels – households, communities, and the wider communities – and encompasses the following partner countries: Afghanistan, Chad, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.

“We want to mobilize families, peers and communities to encourage informed and safe migration decisions, protect migrants, and help those returning home reintegrate successfully,” said Monica Goracci, Director of the Department of Migration Management at IOM.

READ  IOM, UNHCR call to improve safeguards for migrants and the displaced on the frontlines of climate emergency

“One key component is also undermining the trafficking and smuggling business models through the promotion of safe alternatives and information sharing to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse by these criminal networks.” Vulnerable migrants, including victims of trafficking and unaccompanied or separated children, will have access to a broad range of protection and assistance services such as mental health and psychosocial support, while migrants in transit who wish to return home will be supported with dignified return and reintegration.

Community level interventions will focus on improving community-led efforts to address trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, and support sustainable reintegration of returning migrants. COMPASS will work with national and local governments to enable a conducive environment for migrant protection, migration management and international cooperation on these issues.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to launch the COMPASS programme in cooperation with IOM, an important and longstanding partner on migration cooperation,” said Marriët Schuurman, Director for Stability and Humanitarian Aid of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands.

READ  Migrants among most vulnerable, as IOM ramps up coronavirus response worldwide

“The programme is a part of the Dutch comprehensive approach to migration with activities that contribute to protection and decreasing irregular migration. Research and data gathering are also important components, and we hope that the insights that will be gained under COMPASS will contribute to broader knowledge sharing on migration and better-informed migration policies.”, added Schuurman. The initiative has a strong learning component, designed to increase knowledge and the uptake of lessons learned, both within the programme and beyond its parameters. COMPASS will actively contribute to global knowledge that supports countries in managing migration flows and protecting vulnerable migrants such as victims of trafficking. The implementation of COMPASS is set to start soon.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, as the donor to the COMPASS initiative, pledges its active support to partner countries to improve migration cooperation mechanisms within its long-term vision. 

IOM, the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration, contributes its expertise as the technical implementation partner to the initiative. IOM works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners in its dedication to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. 

READ  How the coronavirus outbreak could hit refugees and migrants

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A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia

Photo: Mediterranean Sea

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are deeply saddened by reports of a shipwreck off the coast of Sidi Mansour, in southeast Tunisia, yesterday evening. The bodies of 41 people, including at least one child, have so far been retrieved.

According to reports from local UNHCR and IOM teams, three survivors were rescued by the Tunisian National Coast Guard. The search effort was still underway on Friday. Based on initial information, all those who perished were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

This tragic loss of life underscores once again the need to enhance and expand State-led search and rescue operations across the Central Mediterranean, where some 290 people have lost their lives so far this year. Solidarity across the region and support to national authorities in their efforts to prevent loss of life and prosecute smugglers and traffickers should be a priority.

Prior to yesterday’s incident, 39 refugees and migrants had perished off the coast near the Tunisian city of Sfax in early March. So far this year, sea departures from Tunisia to Europe have more than tripled compared to the same period in 2020.

READ  Covid-19: IOM Chief, others show concern for migrants, vulnerable groups

UNHCR and IOM continue to monitor developments closely. They continue to stand ready to work with the national authorities to assist and support the survivors, and the family members of those lost.

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Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking

Yemen: Stranded Ethiopian migrants prepare to board an IOM-facilitated flight from Aden, Yemen, to fly home to Addis Ababa. Photo: IOM/Majed Mohammed 2021

One hundred and sixty Ethiopian migrants have returned home safely from Yemen today with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), just one day after a perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden claimed the lives of dozens of people, including at least 16 children.

More than 32,000 migrants, predominantly from Ethiopia, remain stranded across Yemen in dire, often deadly, circumstances.

“The conditions of migrants stranded in Yemen has become so tragic that many feel they have no option but to rely on smugglers to return home,” said Jeffrey Labovitz, IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies.

At least 42 people returning from Yemen are believed to have died on Monday when their vessel sank off the coast of Djibouti. Last month, at least 20 people had also drowned on the same route according to survivors. IOM believes that, since May 2020, over 11,000 migrants have returned to the Horn of Africa on dangerous boat journeys, aided by unscrupulous smugglers.

READ  A breakdown of Europe’s €1.5bn migration spending in Nigeria

“Our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme provides a lifeline for those stranded in a country now experiencing its seventh year of conflict and crisis. We call on all governments along the route to come together and support our efforts to allow migrants safe and dignified opportunities to travel home,” added Labovitz.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on global migration. The route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf countries has been particularly affected. Tens of thousands of migrants, hoping to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), now find themselves unable to complete their journeys, stranded across Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen.

While the pandemic has also caused the number of migrants arriving to Yemen to decrease from 138,000 in 2019 to just over 37,500 in 2020, the risks they face continue to rise. Many of these migrants are stranded in precarious situations, sleeping rough without shelter or access to services. Many others are in detention or being held by smugglers.

READ  Nigerian Mission in Ghana suffers twin attacks

“We cannot find jobs or food here; Yemen is a problem for us,” said Gamal, a 22-year-old migrant returning on the VHR flight. “I used to sleep in the street on cardboard. I could only eat because of the charity people would give me and sometimes we were given leftovers from restaurants. I never had much to eat.”

Since October 2020, in Aden alone, IOM has registered over 6,000 migrants who need support to safely return home. Today’s flight to Addis Ababa was the second transporting an initial group of 1,100 Ethiopians who have been approved for VHR to Ethiopia. Thousands of other undocumented migrants are waiting for their nationality to be verified and travel documents to be provided.

Prior to departure on the VHR flight, IOM carried out medical and protection screenings to ensure that returnees are fit to travel and are voluntarily consenting to return. Those with special needs are identified and receive specialized counselling and support.

In Ethiopia, IOM supports government-run COVID-19 quarantine facilities to accommodate the returnees on arrival and provides cash assistance, essential items and onward transportation to their homes. The Organization also supports family tracing for unaccompanied migrant children.

READ  Returnees escalate Coronavirus cases in Nigerian state

Across the Horn of Africa and Yemen, IOM provides life-saving support to migrants through health care, food, water and other vital assistance.

Today’s flight was funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). Post-arrival assistance in Addis Ababa is supported by EU Humanitarian Aid and PRM.

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