23 November 2017

Cameroon: Seybou Boubacar - "The Return of Migrants Is Voluntary"

Chief of Mission, the UN Migration Agency. International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

How did the return of the migrants start?

Through collaboration with the government of Cameroon, the Embassy of Cameroon in Tunisia we have facilitated the return of some 250 Cameroon migrants from Libya. It all started through an email from our colleagues in Tunisia but working for IOM in Libya. The email made us to understand that some Cameroonian migrants in Libya want to return home due to poor working conditions. Later, we started working closely with the Cameroon's Embassy in Tunisia to negotiate the return of the migrants. We had to cross check to be sure they were Cameroonians before repatriating them.

The migrants have arrived. How did you prepare to receive them?

For now, we have to take care of the vulnerability of the migrants. We are going to provide them accommodation in a hotel. Later, we are going to discuss with each migrant, in order to know in which way we can facilitate their reintegration into their community of origin. Upon arrival at the airport, we have provided them with medical and psycho-social assistance. Medical doctors have examined the health conditions of the migrants in order to provide a quick response to their needs. Looking at the migrants, some of them are already suffering from different health problems. It is not easy to stay in a transit country, particularly a country like Libya. They are all exhausted and some are sick. From all indications, they are happy to return home and see their families.

After the return of the migrants, what next?

We are going to sit with the government and other parties and see in which way we can facilitate their economic integration in the society. This could happen through a community project or an income-generating project. We are going to work as a team with certain government ministries such as the Ministry of Youth and Civic Education, the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training (MINEFOP) and see how to facilitate their economic reinsertion in the society. Operations are taking place within a European Union programme which started in June. This year, we have received close to 300 migrants from Libya. Our team will continue to work with the Cameroon Embassy in Tunisia to trace how many people in Libya are ready to voluntarily return home. It is important to note that the return of migrants is a voluntary operation. With support from the European Union, we are facilitating the return of migrants not only from Libya but also Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.

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