Over 3,500 Returned Migrants; 2,000 Receive Reintegration Assistance in The Gambia
Banjul – The voluntary return of Gambians to their homes is averaging about 143 men and women per month since the start of 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported this week, or the equivalent of one medium-sized charter flight every four weeks.
As of 8 February 2019, 3,668 Gambians have been assisted to voluntarily return home under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration since the start of 2017. Over 70 per cent of these individuals were returned just from Libya, with another 25 per cent coming home from Niger. The remaining 5 per cent came home from Mali, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia.
Almost two-thirds of all returnees have already received their reintegration assistance. Jalika is one of the 2,097 Gambian returnees who received reintegration assistance from IOM in The Gambia after she returned from a perilous journey across the desert. Upon voluntarily returning from Niger in March 2018 with her 10-year-old daughter, she received grocery goods which allowed her to open her own shop.
“I am happy to be back home safe and sound,” she said. “After some ups and downs, IOM helped me stabilize my income. I want to expand the shop with more goods and get my son to work in the shop.”
Within six months after the return of many Gambian migrants, counseling sessions with the returnees aim to tailor reintegration assistance to their specific needs, interests and skills based on the available opportunities in the country. Returnees classified as vulnerable cases, such as Jalika, are provided expedited assistance within two to four weeks. Close to 90 per cent of assisted Gambian returnees opt to establish their own microbusiness mainly in retail (39 per cent), construction (31 per cent) and transport (13 per cent).
IOM in The Gambia supports the reintegration of returnees through a holistic approach, addressing both migrants’ and their communities’ economic, social and psychosocial needs. Reintegration assistance may come in the form of medical and psychosocial support, support to set up or strengthen a small business, support to pursue education or vocational training, support for job insertion or referrals to other services available in the country.
This assistance forms part of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration. Launched in November 2017 with the funding of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the initial target for The Gambia was to facilitate the voluntary returns and reintegration of 1,500 individuals over a period of three years. Less than two years after the launch, that target has been significantly exceeded.
Voluntary return options are an important protection measure for vulnerable and stranded migrants who are facing exploitation or abuse along the migration routes and who wish to return to their countries of origin but do not have the necessary means to do so. Returns are done at the explicit request of the individual returning, who has the right to pull out at any time of the process.
While IOM is not involved in or does not provide any financial contribution to forced returns, migrants who are forcibly returned may nevertheless find themselves in vulnerable situations and in need of assistance and protection as much as any voluntary returnee. Under certain conditions and safeguards, IOM can provide post-arrival and reintegration assistance to vulnerable migrants who were forcibly returned.
“The EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in The Gambia serves a threefold purpose: saving lives by assisting those en route, offering voluntary return assistance to those who want it, and providing reintegration support to returning Gambian migrants and their communities,” said Ambassador Attila Lajos, Head of the EU Delegation to The Gambia.
“Essentially, the Joint Initiative is about making sure that the migration process is safer and better managed, and that migrant rights and dignity are respected,” he added. “Personally, I am very proud of the interim results achieved so far by these joint efforts by the EU, IOM and the Gambian government. Saving 3,668 Gambian lives and already assisting almost two-thirds of them to find their way to make it in The Gambia is a great achievement which the country can be proud of.”
IOM also offers returnees the option to venture into collective or community-based projects. The Gambia Returnees from the Backway Association, an organization formed by returnees while in detention in Libya, embarked this year on a collective poultry project for 12 members and was supported by IOM through a two-day training on agribusiness, financial management, conflict management and leadership.
“Facilitating the voluntary returns of over double the initial target is a huge milestone for IOM in The Gambia. Moving forward, we are hoping to diversify the types of industries returnees engage in for their reintegration, enhance referrals to existing vocational training programmes, and further link economic reintegration to psychosocial support,” said Fumiko Nagano, IOM Chief of Mission in The Gambia.
The EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration is funded by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and implemented in close collaboration with 26 African countries. The Joint Initiative facilitates orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration management through the development of rights-based and development-focused policies and processes on protection and sustainable reintegration.