Banjul – On 19 May, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) facilitated the voluntary humanitarian return of 148 Gambian migrants stranded in Libya through a return flight, and another 45 through a commercial flight from Niger.
This represents the highest number of Gambian migrants assisted with voluntary return in a single day, since IOM opened a country office in The Gambia in July 2017. The returns were made possible through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, funded by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.
Prior to departure, IOM staff in Tripoli and Niamey provided all returning migrants with health checks and pre-departure transportation assistance, counselling services and protection screening. In addition, personal protective equipment in compliance with COVID-19 regulations was provided.
The returnees from Libya included vulnerable migrants who had been subject to exploitation and violence. Those with identified vulnerabilities were referred for further assistance. Since 2017, over 3,300 Gambians have benefitted from IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme, which offers a dignified and safe return for migrants stranded in Libya.
Most of the Gambian migrants who returned from Niger were stranded in the desert at the border with Algeria, in the Agadez region. In Agadez and Niamey, IOM’s team provides emergency and life-saving humanitarian assistance to vulnerable migrants in one of its seven transit centres.
This assistance includes registration, accommodation, food, health care, psychosocial support, and assistance in the delivery of consular documents, before they return to their country of origin. Since 2017, over 1,700 Gambian migrants have been assisted to return home from Niger.
Among the 193 migrants who returned, there were 184 men, 3 women and 6 children. Three of them were from Senegal and were supported with onward transportation.
Upon arrival in The Gambia, returnees received a comprehensive orientation on the process of receiving reintegration assistance – which may include economic, social and psychosocial support, tailored to each returnee’s needs.
“People in these flights have been going through great distress and, with our partner IOM, we are keen to support the Gambian Government in providing them post-arrival assistance,” said EU Ambassador to The Gambia, Corrado Pampaloni. “The reintegration path will now begin, and we will be there to accompany too.”
“Today’s flights reflect the great work of our teams across multiple countries, who are always ready to support stranded migrants in need,” emphasized Fumiko Nagano, IOM’s Chief of Mission in The Gambia. “This further highlights our strong partnership and coordination with relevant authorities to promote the safe and dignified return and reintegration of migrants into their communities.”