ECOWAS and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in February facilitated the safe return of 299 ECOWAS citizens stranded in Niger.
IOM transit centres in the Agadez region of Niger are overcrowded due to the socio-political and security situation in the sub-region, with some migrants spending relatively long waiting periods, which entails an increasing need for direct assistance. The main nationalities remain Guinea, Mali, and Nigeria.
The support by ECOWAS has served as an immediate solution for the safe and dignified return of its nationals, decongesting the centres and providing humanitarian assistance to migrants in need while more mid-term and long-term solutions are explored.
For Laurent de Boeck, IOM Chief of Mission in Nigeria, "the fact that ECOWAS is committed to providing assistance to its citizens in need is a concrete example of the ECOWAS Common Approach on Migration, aiming to protect the rights of migrants."
Among the 299 migrants assisted in a safe and voluntary return, most of them were men and adults. With a total of 278 men (99%) and 8 women, 286 adults and 13 minors, 150 Nigerians, and 149 Guineans.
Prior to departure, IOM provided them with pre-departure counselling services, protection screening, transportation assistance, and targeted assistance to migrants with specific situations of vulnerability, such as pregnant women, unaccompanied migrant children, victims of trafficking, and migrants with medical conditions.
Upon their arrival, IOM works in close cooperation with countries of origin and partners to ensure immediate assistance such as food, medical screening, overnight accommodation, and pocket money to cover in-county onward transportation costs. In subsequent months, thanks to the support of the European Union and in partnership with governmental agencies and Civil Society
Organizations (CSO) partners, the returnees will receive in-kind reintegration assistance, including vocational education and training to help them start an income-generating activity of their choice for their sustainable reintegration.
‘The safe return of ECOWAS citizens to their homes with the support of the ECOWAS Commission aligns to goals of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and the commitment to make migration work for all’ said, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa Ugbe, Director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, ECOWAS Commission.