Stranded Nigeriansin different countries overseas are groaning as the Federal Government continues to foot-drag and double speak on its plans to evacuate the citizens who are willing to return to the country from different parts of the world.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema had last the week, April 8, 2020, to be precise announced that the government was set to bring back the stranded citizens.
Within a space of three weeks that Onyema gave the assurance, the government is yet to make good its plans leaving the citizens at the risk of being infected by the virus.
The United States, United Kingdom, Israel, France, Germany among others showed the extent they value their citizens’ lives when they swiftly evacuate their citizens from Nigeria and other parts of the world, even though they have worse cases of the pandemic.
Tweeting after the Nigeria Covid-19 Presidential Task Force (PTF) programme held on April 8, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyema while responding to questions about the citizens who are stranded abroad, said the government had been working on evacuating the citizens, dismissing claims that the government’s action was a response to letters written by the stranded citizens.
“The #PTFCOVID19 under the chairmanship of the SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha has actually been engaging with this since the closure of the international airports. So, the response was not as a result of letters coming in from Nigerians abroad as has been mentioned in some media houses.
“At the time of request, we did not have all our isolation centres and all the other logistical arrangements in place. So for that reason, we kept it in abeyance while we were putting all those things in place and now, we have sufficient beds and so forth and protocol is now well established, and we now feel much stronger and in a better position to undertake this herculean task of trying to see how we can bring Nigerians outside the country back into the country.
“In that context, we’ve now started to get great numbers of Nigerians especially in the United States where almost 200 have now indicated and are willing to return. We are engaging with our Embassies in #China and the High Commission in #London and also in #France to work out all the logistics. Things are now falling in place, and we are getting a sense of what needs to be done.
“It is important that the willing Nigerians engage ONLY with the Embassies and High Commission where they are.It is the Embassies and High Commission that are collating names and making necessary arrangements.
“We have 67 Nigerians, including children, men and women, that were in Cote d I’voire and we needed to engage the Government of Togo, the Government of Benin for them to be able to go through.
“They are now at the Nigerian border and we got the authorisation of the Government of Benin for them to come into the country. They will be in isolation for the mandatory 14 days once they have come in. #COVID19.”
The minister’s assurance that the country was ready to commence the onerous task of bringing back the stranded citizens started fizzling out when spoke at the Covid 19 Task Force meeting. His tweeted on that day, April 16, read: “We‘ve received all the numbers from our various embassies around the world. We‘ve selected 2 airlines that‘ll be responsible for fetching them. Nos (numbers) are high, & we don’t have isolation spaces for everyone at same time. So we‘ll have to stagger the repatriation.”
“Nigeria has selected two airlines that will bring back Nigerians stranded in various countries around the world. Because of the high numbers, and limited mandatory-isolation spaces in Nigeria, the evacuations will be done in batches.”
The government it appears enjoys doing more talking and taking less action, as it daily inundates with needless stories of obstacles to evacuating the citizens.
When many were expecting to hear that the country was bringing the first batch of the citizens, the Foreign Affairs Minister on Tuesday, April 21, said: “We have to choose which countries we want to start the evacuation process and are looking at 200 evacuees that we can accommodate both in Lagos and Abuja since they will be in isolation for 14 days.
“The most important part at this stage is to secure transportation to bring them back which we have done.
Just yesterday, April 22, the minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, while responding to questions about the possibility of
Nigeria government increasing the numbers of evacuees from 200 to 500 Nigerians stranded abroad to make the evacuation faster and ease their financial challenges, said:
“In terms of the timeline of evacuations, we had hoped to have started evacuations already, but we have huge numbers all around the world and as such a delicate exercise.
“We took medical advice and asked what was possible and the figure we were given was 200 for Lagos and 200 for Abuja, of course this is much less than the numbers that are waiting to come back but we are constrained by the facilities that are available.
“We have the internal challenges because the figures are going up as well, so we have a great responsibility to ensure these facilities are available to deal with the immediate challenges we are facing back home.
“But if opportunity presents itself and we find that more facilities become available, then of course we would look at the possibility of expanding and increasing the number of people that we can bring back home.
Stranded citizens groan
Some stranded citizens have expressed frustration about the government’s planned evacuation that is daily greeted with hopeless stories. Some of them lamented that they have resorted to begging after exhausting their resources.
Tweeting at the minister, Akim Abubakar
(@akimabubakar) said: “The more you leave us stranded abroad the more we are exposed to the virus and http://abuse.How do we survive this 200 batches strategy for 2,000 people? God this is just like a dream to me. please review the strategy, we appeal.
“Sir please it will take about 7 months to evacuate in batches of 200s inclusive of 14 days isolation. Why not convert hotels near airports in Lagos, Abuja and also hotels in Ogun and Nassarawa due to proximity and at the expense of evacuees, am in Berlin and frustrated.”
AijayGold @aijay_gold, said: “Sir, please save us from South Africa. We have done the tests requested already and it is getting old. We have a number of pregnant women and nursing mothers desperate to go home before their winter becomes strong. Please help. No word of our fate from anyone.
“I only came for a medical treatment. Was to stay just 12 days but alas the shutdown. I have spent so much money trying to pay for accommodation since 26th March. My guest house are pressuring me to get my govt to evacuate me. I hope I don’t get thrown out in the street. Pls help.”
Dee @Darlingtonf13 said: “…diaspora at risk while waiting for 2 weeks+ before it gets to their turn. A lot of us came here for holiday and business and really need to be with our family at this trying times. Most Nigerians are already beggars in the street here because the ‘strandedness’ is at its peak.@NigeriaGov should review this strategy because at this moment, the world is at war and the best place to be is HOME.
Akindele Abiola @AbiolaOyeboade: “Going by 200 evacuees every 14 days means it will take over five months to evacuate the 2000+ stranded Nigerians that have signified interest in returning home. This makes the whole process defeat its aim of truly helping Nigerian stranded in abroad in the midst of this pandemic.”
Atorohoma Nelson @Nelzmeister: “Hello sir. I think the problem of Isolation can be solved if the Government partner with Hotels around the Airport, get their facilities at cheaper rates and I’m sure some of the returnees will be more than willing to pay for their accommodation and feeding for the 14 day period.
In God We Trust (@twittlarge): “… you should call all ambassador/high commissioner to order in this time of pandemic so that their various countries can treat Nigerians with respect before they start using Nigeria’s as lab rats
Adadioramma @IgwiloMadonna:”Please the one’s in China needs urgent attention, they sleep in the streets chinese people chased them out of house and hotels. So please sir those guys needs government more than any other Nigeria in diaspora. God bless you sir. Chineke gozie gi ri nne.”
Dee (@Darlingtonf13): “Sir this strategy is dangerous. Why not convert most hotels around airport to quarantine centers and make it optional for those that can afford it, Also there are a lot of warehouses you can convert to quarantine centers. 200 in batches is like putting the life of others in…
debby25 @debby2518: “Please sir what about we stuck in South Africa?”
Peacemaker @aduralere06: “Thanks for the steps so far but sir, 200 out of millions of Nigerians willing to come home is something else sir. Which means others would have to wait for another 14days in the hell Nigerian citizens are facing here. My suggestion is using other cities in order to save our lives
Toyin Oyewole @ToyinOyewole: The number of returnees needing to be accommodated can be significantly reduced and the entire evacuation operation expedited, if they are all tested on arrival, and those that test negative are allowed to go home
Tindel Travels @TindelT:: “You’re on point, if Emirates airlines can test passengers at the airport before flights and gets results in 10 minutes why can’t the government get such kits, test and release those that are negative to go home and probably still self isolate if need be.
Netherlands, IOM launch Global Migration Initiative to protect people on the move
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.
“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.
“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.
A child, 40 others drown in shipwreck off Tunisia
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.
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.
Ethiopian migrants return home from Yemen with IOM support in wake of tragic boat sinking
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.
“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.
“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.
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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