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Hope dims for 319 Nigerians seeking evacuation as Canada turns down local carrier

 

The hope of  319 Nigerians stranded in Canada  returning  home soonest dimmed yesterday as Canada  finally conveyed its  refusal to allow Air Peace Airline, a local carrier  to evacuate the stranded Nigerians in that country back home.

 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), through the Nigerian High Commission, Ottawa, disclosed this yesterday, Friday, May 222, 2020. The MFA  said that the Canadian government had conveyed to it its final refusal to grant Air Peace, the right to evacuate Nigerian citizens in that country.

 

A letter dated May 20, 2020 with reference number NHS/OTT/ADM.56/I emanating from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs titled: Update on the Flight postponement read: “ The best and overall well-being of Nigerians stranded in Canada were the overriding considerations of the Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa seeking a solution to their predicament. The aim was to come up with the most convenient and cost effective arrangement possible bearing in mind that the many were stranded here through no fault of their own and some had become cash strapped.

 

“The mission therefore engaged a number of airlines and eventually came up with an arrangement and pricing structure with Air Peace which no other airline was able to match. You will recall that in our public notice of 12thMay, 2020, the High Commission announced that the Canadian government had expressed reservations concerning the granting of necessary clearance/landing permit for Air Peace to fly into Canada, due to safety concerns.

READ  EU-IOM joint initiative celebrates its fourth anniversary: A lifeline to vulnerable and stranded migrants amid COVID-19

 

“Kindly be informed that after protracted engagement, the Canadian government has unfortunately reverted with what appears to be a final refusal. As a result the Air Peace arrangement is cancelled. During the negotiation with Air Peace the issue of refunds was addressed in the event that the flight did not hold due to unforeseen circumstances and as such, everyone will get refunds for their tickets from Air peace as agreed.

“In the meantime, the Nigerian High Commission is working assiduously to secure an alternative arrangement to get you home as soon as possible, safely and at the least cost possible. Further updates will be communicated in due course. Also recall that there had been reports that Canadian High Commission in Nigeria had hatched a plan to defer Air Peace flight right and position Ethiopia Airlines to operate the evacuation of Nigerians from the North American country at a higher fare.

The Federal Government had earlier  defied the Canada High Commission in Nigeria by insisting that the Nigerian carrier, Air Peace it had earlier designated must evacuate the over 319 Nigerians stranded from the North American country.

READ  IOM sets up pineapple processing factory in Nigeria

Beyond the claim of safety concern reportedly given by Canada for refusing Air Peace to evacuate the stranded citizens, reports revealed that t he Canada High Commission kicked against the Nigerian airline because of its preference for  Ethiopian Airline to bring the Nigerians back to the country at a higher cost and spending longer time as it would first take the evacuees to Addis Ababa before bringing them to Nigeria.

Air Peace was scheduled to airlift Canadian citizens from Nigeria and take them to Canada and then evacuate Nigerians from that country from Toronto and another stop in Cagliari and bring them back to Nigeria.

A Nigerian newspaper, The Nation,  had reported that a  document sourced from the Canada High Commission asked the 319 prospective   passengers to pay $2, 500 each to the foreign airline $1,366 more than the $1,134 charged by Air Peace.

Some of the Nigerians who have already paid for the Air Peace are complaining about the insistence of the Canada High Commission that they should come home with the foreign airline.

READ  Police rescue nine children from suspected child traffickers in Enugu

 

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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  Trafficking: Lebanon suspends working visas for Nigerians seeking domestic work

“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  COVID 19: Stranded Nigerians return from Cairo, 276 expected from India

“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  Nigerian media challenged on migration reporting

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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  Dutch govt knew about Vietnamese children disappearing from asylum centers for years- Report

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  Greece freezes asylum applications from illegally entering migrants

“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  Asylum-seekers reaching U.S. border are being flown to Guatemala

“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  NIgeria's human trafficking fact sheet by Pathfinders

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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