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48 Ethiopians return home after Beirut blast

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is continuing to assist stranded migrants in Lebanon to return to their countries of origin this week as 48 Ethiopian migrants boarded two flights Thursday (17 September) and early Friday (18 September) bound for Addis Ababa.

Last month’s twin explosions in the Port of Beirut struck the Lebanese capital amid a worsening economic crisis further compounded by the effects of COVID-19. Before the blast, Lebanon’s currency had plummeted to record lows, depreciating in value by more than 80 per cent since October 2019.

The multi-layered crisis has directly affected marginalized communities, including migrant workers, who were already in distress before the explosion. Many migrant workers in Lebanon now find themselves in an increasingly dire situation with fewer options for safe and dignified work, leaving them unable to afford their rent, food or health care.

As a result, an increasing number wish to return to their home countries. In a recent assessment with migrant workers in Lebanon, IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) found that roughly 70 per cent of those surveyed were making plans to return home in the next three months. An estimated 10,000 migrants had made requests to return to their countries of origin before the blast.

“IOM remains committed to assisting migrants stuck in dire situations throughout Lebanon. In order to meet the rising demand for voluntary return assistance, we require greater solidarity from international donors,” said Fawzi Al-Zioud, IOM Lebanon Head of Office.

“We also commend the efforts of civil society organizations who have mobilized to help these communities in this difficult time,” he added.

IOM conducted protection screening and voluntary return counselling sessions with all migrants assisted to return. They were also provided with legal counselling by the NGO Legal Action Worldwide at a shelter provided by the Ethiopian Consulate in Beirut.

“I’m very happy to be going back to Ethiopia and to finally get the chance to see my mother and siblings,” said one woman before boarding her flight on Thursday morning.

Those who expressed a desire to return were accommodated at a hotel where they underwent pre-embarkation health checks. Those involved PCR tests as part of COVID-19 infection prevention measures. The returnees also participated in travel orientation sessions.

IOM covered all transportation costs to their final destinations in Ethiopia.

IOM’s medical team also conducted a two-day health awareness raising session on COVID-19 and other diseases and provided them with personal protective equipment. Medical escorts accompanied the returning migrants who were all transferred to a quarantine site upon arrival in Addis Ababa.

IOM’s assistance continued at quarantine sites in Addis Ababa, where all returnees received basic non-food items and underwent further screening for immediate medical and psychosocial support needs. IOM Ethiopia has been working closely with the Government of Ethiopia and partners to support the country’s response to the pandemic.

This voluntary return operation was conducted in partnership with the Government of Lebanon’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Lebanese General Security as well as the Ethiopian Consulate in Lebanon and the IOM mission in Ethiopia.

The initiative was made possible with financial contribution of the Government of Germany to IOM’s Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan Coronavirus Disease 2019. Assistance in Ethiopia was provided through the support of the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) from the United States Department of State and the Government of Norway.

IOM continues to seek funding for its appeal for Lebanon to continue to provide essential services to migrants and other populations gravely affected by the Port of Beirut explosions.

READ  Total number of Nigerians returned from Saudi Arabia hits 1,071

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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  Total number of Nigerians returned from Saudi Arabia hits 1,071

“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  Early morning fire disaster kills 14, destroys 250 shelters in IDP camp

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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  Early morning fire disaster kills 14, destroys 250 shelters in IDP camp

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.

READ  IOM opens new facility to promote well-being and protection of conflict-affected women and girls in North-East Nigeria

“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  Full Support for Democracy, Peace, Rule of Law in Myanmar: IOM Statement

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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