The International Organization for Migration (IOM) yesterday (4/06) assisted 179 Malian nationals stranded in Niger with their voluntary return home. The migrants had been waiting at IOM's transit centres in Niamey and Agadez for almost three months due to COVID-19-related border closures.
"It has already been three months that I have been staying in this transit centre in Niamey," said Moussa, one of seven unaccompanied migrant children who travelled on Thursday's charter. "I can't wait to finally be back home and see my family."
IOM has documented roughly 30,000 stranded migrants in West and Central Africa. This figure includes nearly 18,000 foreigners unable to cross borders to return home, and people like Mauritanian herders who need to cross into neighbouring countries to graze their cattle.
This first air movement was made possible by an agreement between the Governments of Niger and Mali. In the past two weeks, IOM in Niger has organized land movements that saw the return of 43 migrants to Burkina Faso and 58 migrants to Benin.
An additional 1,400 migrants from several, mainly west African, countries remain in the transit centres and quarantine sites in Niger waiting for travel restrictions to lift so they, too, can return to their countries of origin. The centres have been operating at full capacity since the start of the health crisis, so IOM has also stepped up infection, prevention and control (IPC) measures.
Thursday's movement was made possible with the financial support of the European Union. Migrants are assisted at IOM's six transit centres and temporary humanitarian sites in Niger in the framework of IOM's Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration supported by the European Union.
The establishment of humanitarian corridors is essential to ensure that people are able to cross international borders in a timely and dignified manner, with their rights respected and public health issues addressed. IOM stands ready to help governments increase disease surveillance at their borders, train and equip border officials, and assist with quarantine measures for those who return.
IOM remains deeply concerned about the plight of stranded migrants. The Organization is providing a wide range of direct support services to migrants across the Americas, Africa and Asia including financial support, food, clothing, shelter, psycho-social and health services.
For more information about stranded migrants in 17 countries around the world please see Journeys Interrupted photo feature published on 03 June.