Despite borders closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, 124 Cameroonians stranded in Niger safely returned home last week on a flight chartered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This adds to the total of over 6,000 stranded migrants who safely returned to their communities of origin through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund launched specifically to increase migrant protection and assistance operations in West Africa.
The 124 returnees had been stranded in Niger over several months due to border closures in place to limit the spread of the disease across West and Central Africa.
“We are happy to welcome these young Cameroonians home, and hope that the assistance we will offer them will help them rebuild their lives in dignity,” said Boubacar Seybou, IOM Chief of Mission in Cameroon.
“Given the current health situation, organizing a return flight is not a small feat. I encourage the returnees to seize the next opportunities to safely reintegrate in their communities,” said H.E. Hans-Peter Schadek, EU Ambassador in Cameroon, who welcomed home the returnees at Yaoundé Nsimalen Airport.
In partnership with the Governments of Niger and Cameroon, IOM negotiated the opening of a humanitarian corridor to allow the Cameroonians to return home so they can reunite with their families.
All the migrants were tested for COVID-19 prior to their departure from Niamey and upon their arrival in Yaoundé. None of them were declared positive by health authorities. The returnees were also given healthcare kits including face masks and hydroalcoholic solutions.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, mobility has continued along dangerous migratory routes, leaving thousands of migrants exposed not only to abuse and exploitation, but also to COVID-19.
IOM data show that, since the COVID-19 outbreak, over 30,000 migrants are currently stranded at borders and in transit centres in West and Central Africa.
Launched in December 2016 with funding from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration is the first comprehensive programme to save lives, protect and assist migrants along key migration routes in Africa.
Since its inception, more than 4,000 Cameroonians have safely and voluntarily returned home.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Organization for Migration (IOM).