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EU, IOM, UNHCR to support peaceful integration of refugees and migrants across Latin American, Caribbean communities affected by Covid-19

The European Union (EU), UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are joining forces to promote integration and peaceful coexistence among refugees, migrants and vulnerable host communities in a new initiative being launched in 11 countries throughout Central, South America and the Caribbean.

The joint initiative will assist communities most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing greater access to social protection services and support to lessen the pandemic’s socioeconomic impact and enhance efforts for long-term recovery.

The interventions also aim to strengthen the national health response by improving the access and inclusion of refugees and migrants in national health responses, while enhancing social cohesion with host communities through positive interaction and improved sensitization on COVID-19.

“This joint initiative will benefit vulnerable populations, governments and civil society organizations across the regions by enhancing direct health services and capacity development, social cohesion and coordination,” said Alejandro Guidi, IOM’s Senior Regional Advisor for the Americas. “The projects will be closely coordinated with local and national governments to capitalize on synergies with other initiatives led by government and international organizations.”

“COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable refugees and migrants across the region, and its host communities,” said Jose Samaniego, UNHCR Regional Director for the Americas. “This partnership arrives at a moment when strong and coordinated efforts are crucial to ensure that refugees and migrants are given the chance to support societies to heal and become stronger.”

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Latin America and the Caribbean have been hard hit by COVID-19 and the region faces a severe economic downturn. While each country faces distinct challenges, there is an overall need to support governments in their COVID-19 responses in order to ensure these populations are not left behind. Risk of severe economic instability and insecurity is high because of the pandemic’s wide-ranging effects on a region characterized by poverty, violence and limited institutional capacity.

The situation is particularly difficult in large cities and remote, inaccessible areas, often along the borders where health facilities are scarce. Often, these areas welcome a higher concentration of refugees, migrants, and indigenous populations, who were already facing vulnerabilities prior to the pandemic.

COVID-19 has also tested the economic resilience of the region. Remittances are projected to decline sharply, significantly impacting countries dependent on them. While countries in the region have significant informal labor markets, confinement measures have made it difficult for the most vulnerable to earn an income, leading to increased poverty and the risk of widespread hunger, evictions, and rising social tensions and conflicts due to increased competition for livelihoods and public services.

According to governments and data gathered by the Inter-Agency Coordination Platform (R4V), there are approximately 4.6 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants across the region. In addition, over 900,000 people from Central America have been forced to leave their homes fleeing joblessness, poverty, threats and extorsion; over 400,000 of them remain in the subregion.

READ  Gambian returnee migrants tackle COVID-19 head-on

These initiatives, funded by the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), will cover an integrated and multi-sector response to various vulnerable groups, including refugees, migrants, indigenous populations, and receiving communities, in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Venezuela, as well as regional-level activities and coordination efforts.

UNHCR and IOM will ensure synergies are built under these actions funded by IcSP with other EU partners targeting vulnerable populations in the region, such as the Directorate-General for the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO).

About the European Union

The European Union is taking comprehensive and decisive action to tackle the coronavirus pandemic not only on the domestic front, but also on the global scale, working jointly with its partner countries worldwide to manage the impact of the crisis. As a global actor and major contributor to the international aid system, the European Union also provides crucial aid to partner countries in the Americas to address the impact of the pandemic on livelihoods, stability and security. Through the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP), the support of the European Union is intended to prevent that COVID-19 fuels further sources of conflict, promoting peaceful coexistence and integration of refugees, migrants in their host communities in a coordinated approach with host countries, UN agencies and CSOs. The response of the European Union follows a ‘Team Europe’ approach, combining resources from the European Union, its Member States and financial institutions.

READ  Africans cautioned against accepting  inaccurate information about COVID 19 prevention, treatment

About the International Organization for Migration (IOM)

The International Organization for Migration is dedicated to promoting humane and orderly migration for the benefit of all. It does so by providing services and advice to governments and migrants and other mobile populations. IOM works to help ensure the orderly and humane management of migration, to promote international cooperation on migration issues, to assist in the search for practical solutions to migration challenges and to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants, refugees, displaced persons and host communities.

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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  My boss sexually harrasses, starves me- 28-yr old Nigerian trafficked to Oman

“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  Key migration terms

“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   Controversy as evacuees, Nigerian Ambassador argue over payment for COVID :19 test

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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  Greece begins deporting refugees to ‘isolated camps’

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  2,000 people lost their lives at sea attempting to reach Europe in 2020

“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  My boss sexually harrasses, starves me- 28-yr old Nigerian trafficked to Oman

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

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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