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Returnees, health workers join hands to improve psychosocial well-being in Nigeria

NIGERIA RETURNEES FROM EUROPE

COVID-19continues to put a strain on public health systems, as well as on the livelihoods and purchasing power of people around the world. But as the pandemic shows no signs of abating, the impact on the mental health of the most vulnerable –including migrants returned to their communities– becomes more visible. As part of the response to address this challenge, from 16 to 19 November, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) hosted in Benin City, Edo State, a series of modules to train 20 returnees in a community-based approach to psychosocial reintegration.

Under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, IOM conducted in May a COVID-19 assessment to measure the impact of the pandemic on returnees in various countries in West and Central Africa. Among 518 people surveyed, 63 per cent reported that their emotional wellbeing had deteriorated since the outbreak of COVID-19, including 90 per cent of respondents from Edo and Delta States.

The impact of the pandemic adds a layer of vulnerability to returnees, some of whom had already started rebuilding their lives, and who were experiencing high levels of psychosocial distress or severe disorders, both pre-existing or due to potentially traumatic life events along their journey.
Yet, many areas with high numbers of returnees may lack specialized mental health care and psychosocial services and have a limited number of professional staff such as psychiatrists and psychologists.

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The training conducted in Benin City aims to build a mentorship network and create supportive relationships between two peers with similar experiences, such as a newly arrived returnee and a mentor from the same location or a group of peers within a community.

Returnees with experience in community engagement, or those with specific backgrounds such as social workers or teachers, have been selected as mentors. They can help new arrivals navigate the difficulties of the return and reduce the social barriers to reintegration by providing emotional support, helping solve practical problems and sharing information about services that provide mental health and psychosocial support in the country.

“This training will help me use my own story to be able to support Nigerians who have just returned because they need someone to confide in. As a mentor, I should be able to listen to them and advise them, and tell them that they should not give up on life,” said Kenan Osagie, a returnee and one of the female participants.

READ  IOM refutes allegations Eritreans held, processed for forced return

The initiative followed a four-day training (10-13/11) for primary healthcare professionals on the management and treatment of mental disorders. The training was conducted in coordination with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health.

This instruction was based on the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (MHGAP), a protocol developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as on additional IOM tools and international guidelines to identify and respond to mental disorders, which were adapted to the Nigerian context. The training sessions delved into migration and mental health with a focus on the return journey, as well as an overview of MHGAP’s principles of care, depression, suicide and self-harm, psychoses, epilepsy, alcohol, and substance abuse.

The event gathered 20  participants from primary healthcare centers from the localities in Edo State, the main place of origin of Nigerian returnees.

“This marks a key step in strengthening the national mental health care system in Nigeria,” said the lead trainer, Dr. Funke Ogunderu, IOM Nigeria MHPSS Senior Project Assistant. “As a pilot project, this training will help reduce the gap for migrants and their communities gaining access to mental healthcare and psychosocial support,” she added.

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) is a fundamental part of sustainable reintegration. It aims at protecting and enhancing migrants’ psychosocial wellbeing, as well as at supporting people with pre-existing and emerging mental disorders.

READ  COVID 19: Nigeria puts evacuation of citizens on hold

Strengthening the mental healthcare system and enhancing the skills of returnees to provide community-based psychosocial support signal IOM’s holistic approach to MHPSS in Nigeria. The mentoring project and training for primary healthcare workers are funded by the European Union under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.

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UNHCR and IOM shocked and dismayed by deaths near Belarus-Poland border

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and are deeply saddened by the deaths of four individuals near the border between Poland and Belarus. The organizations express their condolences to the families of the deceased and are calling for an immediate investigation into this tragedy. The nationalities of the all the victims have yet to be confirmed but two Iraqi nationals reportedly died of hypothermia.

In recent months, groups of asylum-seekers and migrants have been transiting through Belarus, to seek asylum in neighbouring EU Member States – Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

The two agencies have been following with growing concern, reports of pushbacks of people at these borders. Groups of people have become stranded for weeks, unable to access any form of assistance, asylum or basic services. Many were left in dire situations, exposed to the elements, suffering from hypothermia. Some were rescued from swamps.

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Recognizing the significant challenges posed by irregular movements, the agencies have called for the situation to be managed in accordance with international legal obligations, and for States to work collaboratively to resolve the situation, prioritising human rights.

UNHCR and IOM call for immediate access to those affected, in order to provide lifesaving medical help, food, water and shelter, especially in light of the approaching winter.

While States have the sovereign right to manage their borders, this is not incompatible with the respect for human rights including the right to seek asylum. Pushbacks endanger lives and are illegal under international law.

UNHCR and IOM have been engaging with relevant authorities to explore various options for the people who continue to be stranded at borders; from access to asylum, family reunification procedures, and voluntary return for those found not to be in need of international protection.

IOM and UNHCR reiterate that asylum-seekers and migrants should never be used by States to achieve political ends. The fundamental responsibility to protect vulnerable people should be shared among States in a spirit of solidarity. Political disagreement on responsibilities must never result in the loss of life, forfeiting States international obligations and commitments.

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UNHCR calls on Libya to urgently develop plan for asylum seekers and refugees, welcomes authorization to restart evacuation

Libya. UNHCR provides assistance to asylum-seekers caught in crackdown

A refugee feeds her baby while waiting to receive assistance at an emergency distribution by UNHCR and partners in Tripoli, Libya.  © UNHCR/Mohamed Alalem

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today urged the Libyan government to immediately address the dire situation of asylumseekers and refugees in a humane and rights-based manner. Raids and arbitrary arrests by the authorities this month targeted areas largely  populated by refugees and asylumseekers that resulted in several deaths, thousands detained, and many homeless and destitute.

“Since the start of the security raids and arrests by the Libyan authorities in October, we have witnessed a sharp deterioration in the situation facing vulnerable asylumseekers and refugees in Tripoli,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Western and Central Mediterranean Situation. “The Libyan authorities must come up with a proper plan that respects their rights and identifies durable solutions.”

Some 3,000 people are currently sheltering outside the Community Day Centre (CDC) in Tripoli, where UNHCR and its partners have been providing medical assistance and other services. Their situation is very precarious. Many were affected by the raids, demolition of their homes, and have escaped from detention in terrible conditions. Others have joined the group hoping to be evacuated.

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“Many have been left homeless and lost all their belongings as a result of the security operation and are now sleeping in the cold and in a very unsafe environment. This is utterly unacceptable,” said Cochetel.

UNHCR and partners had to suspend operations at the Community Day Centre for security and safety reasons, but remain engaged in an active dialogue with representatives of the protesters outside the CDC to explain the limited assistance it can offer, including cash and food assistance.

Together with other UN agencies, UNHCR stands ready to support an urgent plan of action that could help alleviate the terrible suffering of asylumseekers and refugees in Libya. 

UNHCR continues to call on the authorities to respect the human rights and dignity of asylumseekers and refugees, stop their arbitrary arrest and release them from detention. 

The UN Refugee Agency has welcomed authorization to restart humanitarian evacuation flights, but warns that it is not enough. 

“This is a positive development for some of the most vulnerable refugees, who have been waiting anxiously for many months to depart. Our teams are already working to ensure humanitarian flights can restart as soon as possible,” said Cochetel “But we also need to be realistic: resettlement or evacuation flights will only benefit a limited number of people.”    

More than 1,000 vulnerable refugees and asylumseekers are currently prioritised for humanitarian flights and awaiting their resumption. UNHCR continues to urge the international community to offer more legal pathways to safety outside Libya.

READ  JIFORM calls for multi-dimensional approaches to tackling human trafficking

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Free movement of people a top priority, say West African nations

Aligned migration policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons, says the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Photo: Fredrick Ejiga/IOM

Abuja – Free movement of people and goods, and fighting human trafficking should be top policy priorities, members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed at talks convened with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Network for Migration and the African Union.

Three days of consultations in Abuja this week offered the first chance for ECOWAS members to collectively assess progress in implementing the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) objectives and to decide key recommendations to be put to next year’s International Migration Review Forum.

Integrated migration governance should be a key goal and Ambrose Dery, Minister of Interior for Ghana, the Chair of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Governments, said it was essential African nations addressed trafficking in persons and its devastating consequences on migrants.

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“Vile stories on international media concerning migrant slavery, as well as mistreatment of young African domestic helps in some Gulf States, call for a reflection on appropriate actions to be taken with a view to finding a lasting solution to this persistent problem that leads to the loss of young Africans, without whom the continent cannot build a prosperous and peaceful future,” Dery said. “In Ghana, the contribution of migrants has played a great role in shaping our national development.”

Governments must address the root causes of trafficking and ensure the free movement of people in a safe, orderly and dignified manner. ECOWAS representatives emphasized the need to join forces and align approaches to prevent and counter smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons to promote rights-based management of migration.

The meeting, which ended Thursday, also heard that policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons.

Aissata Kane, IOM’s Senior Regional Adviser for Sub Saharan Africa, said the Global Compact for Migration was a landmark, multilateral document. “It aims to catalyze and boost combined support and assistance for addressing legal and humanitarian challenges of migration and foster its positive social, cultural and economic dividends within and outside the ECOWAS region.”

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IOM has been working with all stakeholders at intergovernmental and national levels, as well as within the UN Network for Migration, to promote safe, orderly and dignified free movement of people and economic exchange among ECOWAS Member States.

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