The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has reached a milestone of 40,000 stranded migrants participating in the organisation’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme from Niger to their countries of origin.
IOM’s AVRR programme in Niger began five years ago to respond to the need for stranded migrants to return to their homelands in West Africa.
Since Niger’s May 2015 adoption of law N° 2015-36 criminalising irregular migration, there has been a growing wave of requests for assistance to return by approximately 1,700 migrants assisted in 2015, 5,000 in 2016, 7,000 in 2017, and 16,000 in 2018. Close to 12,000 migrants participated in the AVRR programme between January and the end of September this year.
Most migrants registered in IOM’s six transit centres since 2015 are from West and Central Africa, mainly from Mali (24%), Guinea (23%), Senegal (9%) and Nigeria (5%). Forty-three percent of the migrants assisted were young males between 18-24 years of age.
Nevertheless, as one of the largest transit countries feeding the Central Mediterranean Route, this migration path has often led to mistreatment, exploitation or abuse during their journeys. Once stranded in Niger, migrants are often unable to pursue their journey northwards or to return to their country of origin on their own.
At IOM’s open and voluntary transit centres, stranded migrants receive direct assistance, including accommodation, water, food, access to medical care and aid in receiving travel documents. Psychosocial support, recreational activities and vocational trainings are also available.
This year, close to 65 per cent of the migrants assisted at IOM’s centres arrived without any identification or travel documents. The government of Niger issues travel documents to migrants from countries who have no consular representation in Niger.
Approximately 93 per cent of the migrants assisted at IOM’s transit centres in Niger reported that they did not plan to migrate again in the future.
In 2019 only, over 37,000 medical consultations were performed at IOM’s transit centres in Niger, with an average of 17 urgent medical cases per week.
These operations are organised in the frame of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration and the Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism (MRRM), supported by the European Union.
“This programme offers migrants in distress a dignified return and some basic assistance to get back on their feet in their country of origin”, declared Barbara Rijks, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Niger. “We are thankful for the Government of Niger, consulates, embassies and governments in countries of origin, and IOM missions who all work together to support migrants on this journey.”
IOM also continues to sensitise migrants and community members on the risks of irregular migration and its alternatives. Close to 500,000 migrants and community members have been reached since 2015.
As Niger is a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants, IOM provides AVRR support for migrants stranded in Niger who wish to return to their country of origin, as well as for Nigerien migrants who wish to return to their community of origin in Niger.
MRRM is a comprehensive programme that aims to provide direct assistance to migrants in transit and carries out activities to promote viable alternatives to migration, to inform individuals about safe migration and to encourage activities that ensure that migrants can contribute to the economy in their country of origin.