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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.”

READ  UAE pays for 180 tickets as 252 stranded NIgerians return 

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  Venezuelan refugees without documentation risk being left out of health, social welfare programmes- IOM

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  Covid 19: UN in West and Central Africa worry about migrants as traffickers abandon victims in desert 

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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IOM assists border control on route linking Ethiopia, Kenya

IOM has helped to establish a new Border Control Post between Ethiopia and Kenya. Photo: Rahel Negussie/IOM

Addis Ababa – Ethiopia, Africa’s second largest country (by population) after Nigeria, is also one of the continent’s largest sources of international migrants.

Along its vast national circumference –some 5,311 kilometres, connecting Ethiopia to Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya and Somalia– government control posts are limited. Lack of adequate staffing and modern technology impedes proper migration management, a matter of concern for national governments as well as for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

At the start of this new year, IOM has helped open a new Border Control Post (BCP) between Ethiopia and Kenya. The post, at Neprumus in Ethiopia’s Dasenech district, straddles one of the 830-kilometer Ethiopia-Kenya frontier’s most frequented migratory routes, alongside a major route for Ethiopian migrants trying to reach South Africa. Ethiopians normally pass through Kenya into Tanzania, then travel further south.

READ  Without safe migration, economic recovery will be limited

In March 2020, at least 60 Ethiopian irregular migrants were killed after being trapped in a lorry along this route. Hence, the urgent need for better and improved border control posts in the region.

“Supporting the establishment of modern and efficient BCPs will facilitate safe and orderly migration of citizens, enhance the relationship between bordering countries, provide protection, and increase the political and socio-economic stability between Ethiopia and Kenya,” explained Kederalah Idris, IOM’s Better Migration Management (BMM) Project Officer.

IOM is also supporting Ethiopia’s Immigration, Nationality, and Vital Events Agency (INVEA) with training to enhance the capacity of immigration officers, and at the same time supplying infrastructure and office equipment, computers, and generators to establish new border control posts.

“Strengthening BCP will play a great role in facilitating safe movement of community members to neighbouring Kenya and will create job opportunities for the community. In addition, it will have a big contribution in facilitating regular migration, while monitoring irregular movements,” said INVEA Director-General, Mujib Jemal, during his opening speech. He also recognized IOM and the zonal administration’s efforts in facilitating the opening of the BCP.

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At stake is more than improved border efficiency. IOM sees hope for improved trade benefiting the regional economy and raising livelihoods for some 48,000 people living in the Dasenech District.

Health checks are also being integrated into the BCP, which is a timely development given that COVID-19 continues to affect the nation. As of 18 January, there has been 131,546 confirmed cases in Ethiopia leading to 2,033 deaths. Against this COVID-19 backdrop, IOM looks forward to these new controls reducing mobility restrictions and facilitating movement of goods, services and skills. Beyond commerce, IOM also views BCPs as vital for protecting people from falling prey to human smugglers and traffickers.

Plans are to open more BCPs in the Pagag, Kurmuk, and Fefrer border towns in Gambella, Benishangul Gumuz, and Somali regions, bordering South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia respectively.

During the inauguration attended by representatives from IOM and senior officials from INVEA, IOM Ethiopia received a ‘Certificate of Recognition’ from the Ethiopian authorities for the support to strengthening Ethiopia’s border management and control efforts.

READ  80 migrants risk their lives to cross English Channel during coronavirus lockdown

The establishment of this important BCP is supported by the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

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Amid 2020 pandemic IOM supported over 2,500 migrants with voluntary return from Greece

Dudu and his family taking some selfie pictures before departing to Georgia. Photo: Konstantina Mintzoli/IOM
A family from Iraq receiving transportation assistance from IOM to the airport in Athens. Photo: Konstantina Mintzoli/IOM

Athens – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) supported the voluntary return of some 2,565 people from Greece to their home countries in 2020, in coordination with the Greek authorities and respective countries’ diplomatic representatives.

Amid hardships and challenges induced by COVID-19 in the past year—including mobility restrictions and closed borders—many migrants living in Greece expressed interest in returning voluntarily to their home countries.

“It is extremely important to be able to continue offering the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration support during this challenging period, as for many migrants, COVID-19 posed additional challenges to their stay in the EU,” explained Gianluca Rocco, Chief of the IOM Mission in Greece.

The 2,565 Returnees from Greece through IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme originated from 46 countries, with the largest contingent (734 migrants) coming from Pakistan. This was followed by Georgia (529 migrants), Iraq (489), Afghanistan (188) and Iran (163). Thirty per cent of migrants assisted were males between the ages of 22 and 29.

READ  Amid protests, Greece suspends migrants detention plan

The number of returns fluctuated throughout 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, from 868 in the first quarter to 300 per month at the end of the year.  Since launched in Greece in 2010, IOM’s AVRR programme has assisted more than 50,000 people to voluntarily return to their home countries.

In 2020, IOM developed initiatives to overcome challenges, mitigate negative impact on migrants and ensure that Ministry of Health protocols were applied to all without discrimination. IOM medical teams provided assessments and medical examinations, including COVID-19 testing. In addition, relevant information was communicated through online outreach activities, and the dissemination of leaflets and posters to migrant communities. In parallel, helplines operating in 13 languages supported remote counselling as needed.

“We worked intensively with the Greek authorities and the Embassies of countries of origin to develop new cooperation mechanisms to overcome mobility restrictions and make the returns possible, particularly for the most vulnerable,” said IOM’s Rocco.

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IOM Greece also established an Online Scheduling Appointment (OSA) platform through which potential beneficiaries were able to book counselling appointments online.

When commercial flights were not available, IOM organized charter flights to Georgia and Iraq for 433 people in total in close collaboration with all relevant actors in Greece and the two destination countries.

Prior to their departure from Greece, migrants who applied for AVRR had the opportunity to access temporary accommodation facilities including the Open Centre for migrants (OCAVRR) in Athens.  IOM also provided a cash grant to cover returnees’ initial basic expenses after their departure.

Upon return, 1,008 migrants who qualified under the programme for in-kind reintegration assistance were able to use the support to set up small businesses (individually or in partnership), training programmes, temporary accommodation, job placements, medical support and material assistance.

IOM reiterates the importance of promoting the systematic inclusion of reintegration assistance as a force for stability in communities of return and as a bridge between migrant return and sustainable development.

READ  UAE pays for 180 tickets as 252 stranded NIgerians return 

Download here for a snapshot view of the programme’s main 2020 highlights.

The project “The implementation of assisted voluntary returns including reintegration measures and operation of Open Center in the Prefecture of Attica for applicants of voluntary return (AVRR/OCAVRR)” is 75 per cent  co-funded by European Funds (Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund) and 25 per cent by Greek National Funds.

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Human trafficking: PJI  urges proper trauma management for returnees

The Pathfinder Justice Initiative (PJI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, has called for proper trauma care for migrant returnees to prevent them from becoming vulnerable to subsequent trafficking.

Evon Benson-Idahosa, the Executive Director, PJI, made the call at a Rehabilitation Workshop for Providers Serving Survivors of Human Trafficking held in Benin on Thursday.

The workshop was organised by PJI and funded by INSighT- Building Capacity to deal with human trafficking and transit routes to Nigeria, Italy and Sweden.

Benson-Idahosa said that a majority of returnee-migrants usually undergo different traumatic situations and needed to be properly rehabilitated before being integrated back into the society. She noted that if the migrant returnees were not properly rehabilitated, they would not be able to put into good use any form of skills acquisition or empowerment received.

“Providers serving survivors should know how to handle traumatised victims because many of them, especially females, have been raped and have gone through horrible experiences during their trafficking journey.

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“The providers should know that there are best practices in terms of handling trafficked victims; they need to use a survivor centred approach to prioritise the needs of the victims,” she said.

She called on the government at all levels to partner more with NGOs on providing best traumatic care for returned migrants in the country.

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Support VOICE FOR AFRICAN MIGRANTS journalism of integrity and credibility.

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.

For continued free access to the best and latest migration, trafficking, displacement and humanitarian reports including thorough investigative reports in these areas, we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.

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