By Akanimo Sampson
One hundred and fourteen migrants from Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Liberia returned home safely this week from Algeria via a voluntary return flight organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) thanks to the permission and support from the government of Algeria.
This is the second voluntary return operation to be facilitated by the United Nations migration agency amid COVID-19 within less than two months, following the voluntary return of eighty four migrants to Mali on 14 July.
The flight departed from Algiers towards Conakry, with a stopover in Monrovia and as its final destination, Abidjan.
The group, including 102 men, six women, four boys, and two girls, had been stranded in Algeria.
As their socio-economic situation became challenging due to COVID-19, they had approached IOM and their respective embassies to request an assistance to return home and to reunify with their families.
Thanks to collaboration of the Algerian authorities and the facilitations that have been granted within the framework of the programme of voluntary returns of migrants in irregular situation in Algeria, travel restrictions were exceptionally lifted to enable IOM to facilitate the return of the migrants.
Partner embassies from Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea supported with the issuance of travel documents for all migrants in due time prior to departure.
In absence of a permanent diplomatic representation in Algeria, the government of Liberia conducted remote identity verification interviews and assured the delivery allowing migrants to benefit from the return operation.
Migrants residing outside of Algiers received inland transportation assistance and were accommodated at the IOM run transit facilities (DARV), a government structure made available to IOM to accommodate migrants waiting to return to their countries of origin.
The inland movement and exit procedure were closely coordinated with and supported by relevant Algerian authorities, which has significantly facilitated the preparation and departure of the migrants.
IOM staff in Algeria implemented specific COVID-19 prevention measures in line with international, national and IOM standards, which included medical checks for health conditions prior as well as a mandatory COVID-19 PCR test five days prior to the flight, the distribution of COVID-19 kits and awareness-raising on COVID-19 prevention.
Upon arrival to their respective countries, migrants will be received by IOM staff at the airport and benefit from assistance on arrival, including protection and medical services, before returning to their communities of origin.
In the following weeks, all returnees will receive a socio-economic reintegration assistance including medical and psychosocial support, educational and vocational training, support for housing and other basic needs, as well as the set-up of income generating activities to ensure a sustainable reintegration into the origin communities, depending on the needs and the will of the returnees.
The return assistance was made possible with support from the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.