Algiers, 26 April 2021– Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has assisted 1,100 migrants to safely return home from Algeria through eleven voluntary return operations. More than 330 Guinean and Malian migrants assisted in the past month are among the returnees.
All safe and dignified return operations were organized thanks to the crucial support of the Government of Algeria and in coordination with IOM offices in East, West and Central Africa as well as East Africa. The Algerian Government has exceptionally lifted the travel restrictions that are in place since March 2020 to allow for the voluntary return from Algiers’ Houari Boumediene International Airport.
To ensure that migrants residing in all parts of Algeria have the chance to return home, inland transportation was provided to Algiers, the departure point. The IOM-run transit facility, DARV, a structure provided by the Algerian government, accommodated the migrants before their departure. The inland movement and exit procedure were coordinated with the relevant Algerian authorities, which significantly eased the process.
IOM staff assistance to returnees begins during the pre-departure phase from counselling and vulnerability assessments, followed by assistance to those in need and necessary arrangements to support on the day of departure with airport formalities, including check-in, verification of documents, exit procedures and general guidance on the upcoming travel. COVID-19 prevention measures were followed in line with international, national and IOM standards. All returnees were tested for COVID-19 prior to their departure and were assisted with medical checks to ensure they are fit to travel. Prevention kits (masks, sanitizer, information materials on COVID-19 prevention measures) were handed out.
“I left my country looking for better opportunities, but after four years far from home, I lost hope,” said Sira, a Guinean woman mother of two, and one of the assisted migrants. “I heard about IOM’s voluntary return programme through some friends, and I was successfully signed up after contacting the hotline. By going back home, I am getting back the hope that I had lost”.
In the past months, thousands of migrants have contacted IOM through the hotline and social media channels requesting assistance to return home and reunite with their families. Embassies based in Algiers and in neighbouring countries have actively facilitated the return processes by providing the needed consular support.
Upon arrival in their countries of origin, returnees had been received by IOM staff and governmental authorities. To ensure the sustainable reintegration of returnees into their communities of origin, eligible returnees will receive reintegration assistance which may include economic, social and psychosocial support following the development of tailored reintegration assistance plans based on their needs.
“I am really looking forward to seeing my mother after all these years,” said Baldé, one of the returnees. “After receiving the reintegration assistance, I am planning to start a small business to support my family. They are all very happy that I decided to come home”.
The return movements were made possible with financial support from the European Union. The pre-departure assistance, including DARV assistance, was made possible with the financial support of the German Federal Foreign Office.