More migrants return home voluntarily through IOM Niger

The UN Migration Agency’s Assisted Voluntary Return Programme in Niger has reported that so far this year it has sent home a number of migrants which already exceeds the total number of migrants who were repatriated to their countries of origin last year.

By the end of July of this year more than 10,000 migrants have been repatriated compared to roughly 7,000 in all of 2017, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reports. The increase in the number of returnees has been largely fuelled by the increasing flow of migrants across the Algeria-Niger border.

The month of May saw nearly 3,400 migrants choose so-called assisted voluntary return to their countries of origin, a number exceeding any other single month previously recorded. This year’s returnee figures are a significant increase when compared to the 1,721 migrants who were provided return assistance in 2015 and roughly 5000 who were provided return assistance in 2016.

More than half of the 12,000 migrants who arrived at IOM transit centres had no form of identification. Over 5,000 travel documents were issued in cooperation with consulates and embassies of the West African countries including Niger.

Close to 90 percent of the more than 8,000 rescued migrants were discovered during 84 search operations near the border, the IOM reports.

“The IOM team is working tirelessly to facilitate voluntary returns and provide protection assistance to all West African migrants, whether rescued from the desert or requesting our assistance while in Niger,” said the IOM’s Chief of Mission in Niger, Giuseppe Loprete.

According to the Associated Press, Algeria has abandoned more than 13,000 migrants in the deserts of Niger and Mali since May 2017, leaving them to wander through hostile terrain in temperatures well above 40° Celsius.

“Irregular migrants, including many pregnant women and minors, should not be left without food or water or expected to walk for miles in blistering 30-degree (Celsius) temperatures to seek safety in the desert,” IOM’s Director General William Lacy Swing said in a statement.

Hassan Kacimi, a senior Algerian interior ministry official, tried to explain away the Algerian government’s lack of humanitarian support “what the IOM is not saying is that it does not do anything to help them (when they are in Algeria). It is Algeria that provides them with assistance by distributing food kits and water,” he claimed.

The latest round of deportations was reported on the 15th of July by a Nigerien official who said that nearly 600 African migrants transiting through Algeria had been “abandoned” in “the usual atrocious conditions near the border with Niger,” AFP reported.

“According to the migrants, they were taken close to the border and dumped,” the official said. “Left with a minimum of food and water (they) walked a good 50 kilometres before being rescued,” the official added.  

TMP – 03/09/2018

Photo credit: IOM. Migrants assisted at IOM’s transit centre for women in Niamey.

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