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 Controversy as evacuees, Nigerian Ambassador argue over payment for COVID :19 test

Eritrean migrants face torture in Libya

Controversy is trailing claims by Nigerian evacuees that they were made to pay for COVID-19 tests and hotel accommodation by the Nigerian authorities.

But the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, in a tweet said the Ambassador to Cotonou denied knowledge of the evacuees making payments for the COVID-19 test.

The evacuees from Berlin, and Rome were as at the time of filing this report on isolation in Cotonou, the Benin Republic capital.

The Nigerian government, through the Foreign Affairs Minister,  Geoffrey Onyema, had earlier said the  Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Nigeria National Petroleum Commission (NNPC) would bear the cost of quarantine, accommodation and feeding for the citizens returning to the country from abroad.  The Minister said this during the presidential task force on COVID-19 briefing. He said the two government agencies were approached for funds for the accommodation and feeding of the Nigerian evacuees during their two-week isolation.

One of the evacuees, Akim Abubakar (@akimabubakar) tweeting at the Foreign Affairs Minister,  said: “Sir ,we paid €153 each for the covid test & passports seized. Paid another 40,000 CFA each for hotel. Thanks to the Ambassador in Cotonou who sent us food and promised to facilitate our departure /refunds for test. Also thanks to the embassy at Berlin for cash assistance.”

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Also tweeting at the Foreign Affairs Minister, an evacuee from Rome, Akindele Abiola @AbiolaOyeboade, said: “I also came in to Cotonou from Rome through Paris, and I was made to compulsorily pay €153 from my personal pocket. Thereafter, my passport was collected with that of other Nigerians from Berlin.

“We had to pay 40,000cfa for accommodation for two nights and still we haven’t gotten our passport. I must acknowledge that the Nigerian embassy here in Benin has been actively in touch with us since yesterday, they even brought us food yesterday night.”

Showing concern for the evacuees, God’s favourite daughter @Eboonee said:

“My belief is that the Nigeria Ambassador to Cotonou and its officials should have been on ground to receive the returnee’s,so they don’t have to go through the stress of payment and their passport being seized by the Cotonou immigration officials.”

Commenting on the plight of the evacuees, Foreign Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama said:“In regards to the situation of Nigerians who arrived Cotonou, Benin Republic, and taken to a hotel for quarantine and asked to pay for test:

“I was in touch with our Ambassador in Cotonou and he has informed me that there are 8 Nigerians who arrived from Berlin and he has contacted the Benin Government and the evacuees. He is making arrangements to transport them to Nigeria. He is not aware of any payment for tests.

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“I have been in touch with the Comptroller General of @nigimmigration

, Muhammad Babandede, and he has assured me that he has given directives to the border officials to make the appropriate arrangements for the evacuees.”

 

Giving update on evacuees in quarantine, the minister said: “We are coming to the end of the 14-day quarantine for the first and second batches of Nigerian evacuees. Some of them need to travel across state lines to get home.

 

“I spoke to the Inspector General of  @PoliceNG, Mohammed A. Adamu, and he has directed Commissioners of Police in Abuja and Lagos to give the evacuees personalised passes for travel.

We have evacuated 4 batches so far, the first batch from the UAE, second batch from the UK, third batch is from the US and the fourth batch from Saudi Arabia.

“There are many Nigerians all over the world who still want to come home and we are doing everything we can to bring them. There are Nigerians in India, China, South Africa, Sudan, UK, US, France and so on. I urge you all to continue to bear with us, be patient, because the reality is that we can only process a certain number at any given time.

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“All the different facilities that are required to be in place, human resources as well are limited. It really pains us to know and see that there are Nigerians out there who are really desperate and going through difficult times needing and wanting to come home.

So we will continue to do everything possible to bring them back home as quickly as possible.

 

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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.

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“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.

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“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  80 migrants risk their lives to cross English Channel during coronavirus lockdown

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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“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  COVID 19: Thousands of migrants stranded as 220 countries impose travel restrictions

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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