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Internal displacement exceeds 100,000 in 2020

  • A father stands with his children outside their tent in a displacement site outside Marib city, the family was displaced in March to Marib from another displacement site which became dangerous as the conflict got closer to them. Photo: Olivia Headon

    From 30 March to 18 July, the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) recorded over 10,000 people moving due to COVID-19, most typically related to fears of contracting the virus and the impact of the outbreak on services and the worsening economic crisis.

    “The situation in Yemen is so dire, particularly in locations like Aden where hospitals are turning away suspected cases and news reports have tragically shown large numbers of graves being dug, that families are now leaving virus hotspots,” said IOM Yemen’s Chief of Mission, Christa Rottensteiner.

    “Displaced communities in Yemen have been the ones worst affected by the conflict. Now we are seeing that the COVID-19 outbreak is having a huge negative impact on them,” she added.

    The outbreak as well as massive funding shortages pose major challenges for the humanitarian community working to assist internally displaced people living in overcrowded informal sites with little access to essential services.

    The official number of COVID-19 cases in Yemen remains low. However, given limited testing capacity and concerns among the local population about seeking treatment, the humanitarian community is working under the assumption that the actual numbers are much higher.

    Reports of increasing illness and death from communities across the country are confirming this assumption. Displaced people have now begun to list the outbreak as the reason for their displacement.

    The majority of people are moving from Aden, as well as to a lesser extent from Lahj and other governorates, to other areas in Lahj less affected by the outbreak while others are going to districts in Al Dhale and Abyan, despite active fighting ongoing in other parts of that governorate.

    Due to access constraints, IOM DTM currently only collects data on displacement in part of the country— districts in 12 governorates out of 22. Therefore, the number of displacements in 2020 is likely to be much higher than what has been recorded.

    “Corona has made our situation worse — everyone is tired,” said Salam, a displaced woman originally from Al Hudaydah and currently sheltering in a displacement site in Aden.

    “Some people have had to sell their mattresses, blankets and children’s clothes. We used to work as maids but now when we go knocking on doors to offer our services, they demand that we leave because they are afraid that we will infect them. Since they won’t give me work in their homes, I have to beg on the street,” added Salam.

    Many of those displaced as a result of the outbreak were already living in displacement and are moving for the second, third or fourth time.

    “People are living in constant fear of developing coronavirus symptoms, and they don’t have anything to protect themselves,” said Rawdah, who was displaced from one district to another in Taizz and is now living in a displacement site.

    The water and sanitation situation in many of the displacement sites in Yemen is extremely worrying, and displaced Yemenis are finding it difficult to access health care. This is particularly the case in Marib where the majority of people have been displaced to this year—more than 66,000 people.

    Due to the sheer number of displaced people sheltering in and around Marib city, informal displacement sites are overcrowded and lack access to essential services.

    Across Yemen, restrictions on entry to displacement sites due to infection prevention and control measures for both humanitarians and displaced residents themselves are hampering IOM’s response. Limited access to medical facilities and employment opportunities are key concerns for displaced communities.

    In addition to collecting information on the movement and needs of internally displaced people in Yemen, IOM provides them with humanitarian assistance and protection. The Organization ensures that displaced communities across Yemen have access to health care, clean water, safe sanitation, shelter materials and household items. In 2019, IOM reached over five million people, a vast majority of whom were displaced.

    “Displaced people need more support than ever, but funding is falling short this year. Without urgent funds, IOM will not reach over 2.5 million displaced people and migrants this year,” concluded Rottensteiner.

READ  Concern over worrisome trend of trafficking Nigerian ladies for domestic work, sexual pleasure 

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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  650 Nigerians evacuated from Saudi Arabia in two days

“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  International standards of refugee protection severely tested in 2020-UNHCR’s Gillian Triggs

“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 governor resettles over 1,000 IDPs after attack on his convoy

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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  650 Nigerians evacuated from Saudi Arabia in two days

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  Only 189 migrants returned to Turkey despite EU refugee pact

“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  The child refugees risking the Channel by boat – one year on

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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