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IOM laments increasing deaths on West Africa route to Canary Islands

International Organisation of Migration (

The Internatiknal Organization for Migration (IOM) is extremely concerned about the increase in deaths recorded on the West Africa route to the Canary Islands.

So far this year, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has recorded more than 500 deaths, most of them during the months of October and November–—amid increased departures from the coasts of West African countries, including Senegal. The loss of life this year is already more than double compared to 2019, when IOM recorded 210 deaths.

The recorded data, however, represent a minimum estimate. The Organization fears the actual total of lives lost is higher.

“IOM faces numerous challenges in collecting data on the West Africa route, especially when we receive reports about boats disappearing without a trace,” says Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC).

The latest shipwreck was recorded this week (15/11), off the coast of Cabo Verde, where 66 migrants, including three children, arrived on a damaged boat. According to government sources and survivors, more than 130 people initially boarded the vessel before its engine exploded. Some 60 people are reported to have perished during this tragedy. Those onboard were, except for two migrants from The Gambia, all Senegalese.

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IOM works closely with local partners in the communities and verifies reports and data about such tragedies with survivors, family members and community members. IOM, as an Intergovernmental Organization, also coordinates its efforts and responses with Governments, and confirmed the account of the shipwreck involving about 200 people shared in its press release dated 29 October. Such data are pivotal in contributing to an informed migration-related policy and enable a more human-centred and needs-based approach to migration management.

To date in 2020, over 18,000 migrants have arrived in the Canary Islands after long and dangerous journeys across the Atlantic. At least 12,000 of them arrived in the months of October and November. Most migrants are arriving from West African countries. COVID-19 impacts, including food insecurity, are among the factors believed to be driving these departures.

While these figures depict a seven-fold increase compared to the 1,550 arrivals during the same period of 2019 (January-November), IOM believes that the situation remains manageable through solidarity and a human rights-centred policy and approach.

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IOM is saddened by the continuous loss of life at sea and expresses its condolences to the bereaved families of the those who perished during perilous migration journeys. Prosecuting smuggling groups and traffickers who prey on desperate people and put them on dangerous crossings in unseaworthy vessels, must be a priority together with awareness raising among communities of the risks of irregular migration.

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IOM provides food vouchers to vulnerable refugees and migrants affected by COVID-19 in Brazil

 Nearly 4,000 vulnerable refugees and migrants in Brazil affected by mobility restrictions and the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are receiving vouchers from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to purchase food and other basic items.  The vouchers are one-time offers, valued at about USD 100.

IOM is closely coordinating the activity with local governments and 31 humanitarian partners, prioritizing families with children and elderly persons who face food insecurity due to lack of a regular income.

The distribution of the vouchers is taking place in more than half of Brazil’s states, states which were selected based on those locations where the most vulnerable refugees and migrants are living. In particular, Venezuelans relocated by the Federal Government are a top priority. They reside in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Pará, and the federal district, Brasilia.

Other states have been selected based on the requests by the local governments and civil society organizations, such as the state of Acre. Many are located at the triple border area shared by Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, where migrants and refugees have been stranded due to COVID-19’s border restrictions.

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In September, IOM reported on the hindered mobility that has been one of the most common impacts of COVID-19 on different categories of refugees and migrants across Latin America, especially Venezuelans.

Many migrants are unable to continue their journey and remain stranded in transit countries; many others cannot not leave their countries to embark on the first legs of their journeys. Migrants stranded at airports, land border crossing areas or at sea were featured in multiple reports, as were migrants camping in front of Embassies asking for support from their Governments (for example, hundreds of migrants from the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela have been camping outside their respective embassies in Chile requesting support to return home).

That is the situation IOM is responding to in Brazil.

To Miriangela, a Venezuelan who arrived in Rio de Janeiro two years ago, this support is essential. “I live alone with my 7-year-old son and I’m not working at the moment. With the voucher I can buy food and cleaning products,” she explained.

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In Brasilia, IOM’s activity also benefits some 60 Warao Venezuelans, members of indigenous tribes. “We are very grateful for the help. This is the first time that we have received a food voucher, being able to choose what we will buy,” said Nilda, who had been living in the city for two months with eight other family members.

Vinícius Duque, a coordinator of Policies for Migrants and Promotion of Decent Work from the city of São Paulo, explained: “Networking is essential in this moment of public emergency. More than ever, these partnerships need to be strengthened. This action is the result of a joint effort between IOM and the government, contributing uniquely to expand the different actions and policies that have been developed on different fronts, benefiting immigrant families in situations of extreme vulnerability in the city of São Paulo.”

This initiative is part of the IOM Global Response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has a national partnership with Sodexo Pass do Brasil and the Stop Hunger Institute for the issuance of vouchers.  Financial support is granted by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) of the United States Department of State.

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IOM’s Chief of Mission in Brazil, Stéphane Rostiaux, said: “At this time, when many families have suffered not only from the health effects of the pandemic but also from the socioeconomic impact, this support which allows food provision respecting people’s autonomy is essential.”

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Over 100 stranded Ugandan women provided with return assistance from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

 

On Tuesday (01/12) the International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted 105 stranded Ugandan women, including victims of trafficking, to return home from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). They were stranded due to COVID-19.

Thousands of Ugandan migrant workers are working in KSA and other parts of the Middle East, mainly as domestic workers and security guards. When COVID-19 started, many lost their jobs. They also faced stigma and xenophobia. Prior to the pandemic, most of the 105 women who returned home safely had been sending money back home to support their families.

The women arrived in Uganda on a return flight funded by German Humanitarian Assistance, in co-ordination with authorities in Saudi Arabia and Uganda. Upon arrival, many looked relieved to be home, despite evident signs of stress.

“At least, I thank God I have returned alive,” one woman said to another as they walked towards the buses taking them to their overnight accommodation.

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“The plight of many migrant workers in the COVID-19 era highlights both the devastation of the pandemic as well as the importance of organized international labour migration,” said IOM Uganda Chief of Mission Sanusi Tejan Savage.

The economic impact of COVID-19 on these women, and on migrant workers in general, has been devastating. Ugandans working abroad contributed approximately 4.5 percent to Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product, placing it above the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 2.8 percent.  IOM is working with the Ugandan and Gulf nations as well as other partners to enhance labour rights and protection for migrant workers.

“The economic impact of COVID-19 is affecting the employment prospects of many, and IOM is offering assistance during this difficult period. We commend the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which contributed to ‘leaving no one behind’ and helping the most vulnerable to return home voluntarily,” explained Carmela Godeau, IOM Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa.

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The return of these 105 women is the second intervention of IOM Uganda to support the return of stranded migrants since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, IOM in Uganda and Bahrain helped 113 Ugandan women return from Saudi Arabia, following an appeal for help by the Ugandan authorities.

“The information from the Uganda Government indicating in May that more than 2,400 mostly vulnerable Ugandan migrant workers were stranded abroad was distressing enough and, as IOM, we are doing all we can to improve the safety, welfare and dignity of migrant workers from the region,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa.

Many migrant workers from Uganda and Africa remain stranded and without work. They are facing tremendous difficulties abroad, and may face even greater challenges when they return.

These returns are part of IOM Uganda’s support in respect of COVID-19. IOM has also supported the Government with COVID-19 surveillance at the Entebbe International Airport and other points of entry.

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

 

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120 Central African, Sudanese refugees resettled to France

Over the past week (starting 27/11), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) facilitated the resettlement of 120 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) to France. The refugees, including 65 women and 55 men left N’Djamena (Chad) on a chartered flight last Friday morning. Many had spent more than ten years in Chad, awaiting a chance to be resettled and restart their lives.

All COVID-19 sanitary protocols were adhered to during the resettlement operation (including PCR-testing to COVID-19 prior departure). In addition to COVID-19 screening, the refugees were screened for medical conditions and received in-depth pre-departure orientation to ensure their integration in their new society goes as smoothly as possible.

Upon arrival in France, the refugees were welcomed by French NGOs who will provide administrative and social support for a one-year period.

“Resettlement offers refugees a unique opportunity to rebuild their lives in dignity. It is thus an important part of finding durable solutions to refugee situations, of which we are proud to participate,” said Anne Schaefer, IOM Chad Chief of Mission.

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With more than 480,000 refugees living in 14 camps and various urban centres, Chad is one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in West and Central Africa. IOM works closely with Government, non-governmental and UN partners, to ensure that the most vulnerable among them have access to durable and lifesaving solutions such as resettlement to a third country.

This includes eligibility assessment and referral, accommodation in a transit centre (once refugee status has been determined and the resettlement process has been initiated), pre-departure medical screening, vulnerability assessment, flight and support for durable integration in the destination country.

In 2020, IOM in Chad resettled 312 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic to France, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Norway.

Djamal’s Story

I arrived in Chad from the Central African Republic with my mother and my seven siblings in 2014. I was 16 years old. We fled because of the violence in our country. When we arrived, we had nothing. We had no money, and we knew no one. We first went to Moundou [Southern Chad]. From there, international organizations helped us contact family members. Afterwards, we went to the Doholo refugee camp [near the border with CAR] to be registered as refugees. It was not easy. In the camp, my mother learnt about nutritional health and started working as an assistant in the health centre. The little that she earned helped us make ends meet. It was this work that helped us survive while we lived in the camp. We are happy to be going to France. I have made some friends here. Some of them work as drivers, others want to go back to school. My dream is to become a pilot. I have always been fascinated by planes, and I hope that in France, I will be able to realize my dream.‎

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Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.

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