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Covid 19: UN in West and Central Africa worry about migrants as traffickers abandon victims in desert 

UN refugee agency halts work at Libya facility
Over 30,000 migrants are currently stranded at borders and more than 2,000 waiting to be assisted in overcrowded transit centers where they are at heightened risk of COVID-19 infection in the West and Central Africa region .

Since the outbreak in the region, thousands were abandoned in the desert by smugglers and traffickers along migratory routes. Some were deported, putting their lives and health at risk and others are being targeted with discrimination, hate speech, and xenophobia.

 The Regional United Nations Network on Migration together with the Regional UN-SDG COVID-19 Executive Committee in West and Central Africa are concerned with the wellbeing of millions of migrants across the region amid the COVID-19 crisis. While they face the same health threats from COVID-19 as any other human being, migrants may be exposed to a higher level of vulnerability linked to discrimination and exclusion in their living and working conditions or in their access to basic services including healthcare. Under these difficult circumstances, migrants may be at risk of abuse and other human rights violations.
As governments in West and Central Africa are taking preventive measures such as border closures to protect their countries from the spread of COVID-19, migrants, including those in irregular situations, may find themselves disproportionately impacted, unable to access healthcare, social services or protect themselves. In addition, border closures further limit regular migration options including return, while forcing migrants to take more dangerous migratory routes and putting them at risk to be exploited, extorted, or abused.

Building on the principled commitments and actions outlined in the Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration (GCM), the Regional Network calls on governments to make every effort to address and reduce migrants’ vulnerabilities by incorporating their health and other vital needs in national and local responses and recovery, taking into consideration the special needs of women and children; by upholding human rights at international borders ; by confronting discrimination, xenophobia and anti-migrant narratives, and by operationalizing relevant recommendations on the human rights protection of migrants in vulnerable situations.

READ  Dilemma of Nigerian migrants: Stranded citizens cry to return home as  returnees plan traveling back

Member States should ensure that all migrants – regardless of their migration status – are able to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19 and can avail themselves of COVID-19 testing and treatment without fear of detention, deportation or penalty. To that end, the Regional Network calls on Member States across the region to urgently expand the availability and flexibility of safe, regular pathways for migrants in vulnerable situations (GCM Objective 5), including pathways for entry and stay based on human rights, compassionate or humanitarian grounds; to cooperate in facilitating safe and dignified voluntary return of migrants on the basis of their free, prior and informed consent; to suspend all deportations during COVID-19, and to ensure that no one faces the risk of refoulement by being returned to places where their life, safety or human rights are threatened, including to uphold the prohibitions of collective expulsions and arbitrary pushbacks at borders (GCM objective 21).

Moreover, the Regional Network stresses the need for Member States to prioritize the protection of migrants’ rights, dignity and wellbeing, and to provide safe access to basic services, including COVID-19 treatment and integrated prevention services to all migrants, including those with pre-existing health conditions, and who may already have limited access to healthcare, including those in an irregular situation. All migrants, regardless of status, should be included in national COVID-19 preparedness, response, recovery and containment plans that guarantee non-discriminatory and equitable access to treatment, care, information, and social protection (GCM Objective 15).

READ  JIFORM seeks urgent help for 30 Nigerian ladies trafficked to Lebanon

Particularly for children moving unaccompanied or separated, prolonged family separation due to border closures, coupled with limited access to psychosocial support and protection services, increases their mental distress and their exposure to violence and exploitation. The Regional Network calls upon Member States to uphold the best interests of the child at all times, as a primary consideration in situations where children are concerned (GCM Objective 7).

The Regional Network reaffirms Members States’ commitment to eliminate all forms of discrimination, hate speech, xenophobia and intolerance against migrants and their families (GCM Objective 17). COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate, and neither should we. To this end, the Regional Network stands ready to support Member States establish mechanisms to prevent, detect and respond to systematic instances of xenophobia and discrimination against migrants, and to raise awareness of COVID-19 to inform public perceptions of migrants and to reshape the narrative on migration.

Rwandan refugees

Finally, the Regional Network underlines that mobility and other restrictions will need to meet the requirements of legality, necessity and proportionality, and be non-discriminatory (GCM Objective 11). The COVID-19 response does not have to be an obstacle to mobility in the region, and mobility is not an obstacle to mitigate the impact of this pandemic.

The United Nations Network on Migration was established to ensure effective, timely and coordinated system-wide support to Member States in their implementation, follow-up and review of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

In releasing this statement, the Regional Network reminds States of their commitment in the GCM to address and reduce vulnerabilities in migration and to provide access to basic services for migrants. The COVID-19 pandemic has created momentum to promote an integrated and safe approach to border management as a viable and sustainable solution to mitigate public health challenges while ensuring the health and economic security for all.

The United Nations Network on Migration is committed to supporting all partners in pursuit of the implementation of the GCM, recognizing that this cooperative framework provides an invaluable tool for ensuring all in society can contribute to a collective response to COVID-19 and are protected equally against its impact.

READ  Coronavirus likely puts a halt to deportations from Germany

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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  JIFORM seeks urgent help for 30 Nigerian ladies trafficked to Lebanon

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  38 people including children feared dead as vessel carrying fleeing civilians sinks 

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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  Always ensure factual narrative, IOM admonishes African journalists

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  Economic shocks of COVID-19 disproportionately affects displaced Venezuelans in Peru, new research finds

“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  Hondurans, Salvadorans relive abusive experiences at US border

 

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