Stranded Bangladesh Migrants Return Home
A group of 48 Bangladeshi migrants who had been left stranded by
smuggling networks in the Sahara desert while trying to reach the
northern shores of the Mediterranean, have been helped by IOM to
The men, who left home in March 2004 but had been stranded for
eight months in the desert without documents or money, had
transited through the Gulf and various West African states. They
had then travelled overland before being left in scorching desert
temperatures with little access to water. For the past eight
months, the men had survived by breaking rocks to earn a little
money to call home and pay for necessities.
IOM took charge of the men near the Mauritanian town of Zouerate
after being contacted by the UN and Bangladeshi authorities. A
representative of the nearest Bangladeshi Consular office assisted
with the identification of the migrants and in providing them with
the necessary travel documentation.
Requesting assistance to return home, the men were then taken by
IOM to the capital, Nouakchott before being flown back home to
Bangladesh. Upon arrival at Dhaka, the men were given assistance to
reach their final destination in Bangladesh.
According to Vijaya Souri of IOM Senegal who accompanied the
migrants from Zouerate, the men had paid smugglers up to 12,000
euros each to take them to various destination countries in Europe
with Germany and Spain being the most popular.
Some of the men said their families had notified the Bangladeshi
police about the smuggling agents involved back home but the agents
had disappeared before the police could arrest them. None of the
men’s families had been able to recover the fees.
According to Souri, another 72 Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani
migrants are also stranded in Zouerate and living in very poor
conditions. The men haven’t had access to water for several
days and are being constantly harassed by smuggling agents to
continue their journey.
“These migrants are of major concern to IOM. The lack of
water and the now near freezing desert temperatures make their
situation even more pressing. IOM is urgently seeking funds to help
rescue them and return them to their home countries,” added
Every year, thousands of irregular migrants from sub-Saharan
Africa and Asia try to reach the northern shores of the
Mediterranean via the Maghreb using smuggling networks. Many find
themselves stranded without resources and in need of identification
documents and return assistance.
Since late 2004, IOM has assisted 221 Bangladeshi and Indian
migrants stranded in the deserts of North Africa to return home
voluntarily. This latest assistance and that provided to other
groups from South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa in the past few
months, was funded by Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and UK. This
was in response to IOM appeals launched last October to help
stranded migrants in North Africa. But IOM’s caseload in the
region has outstripped available resources.
In December 2005, IOM launched a global humanitarian assistance
programme to help the growing numbers of migrants who had been
abandoned to return home on a voluntarily basis. The programme,
which aims to address the need to provide assistance to irregular
migrants stranded in either transit or destination countries is
also in constant need of funds.
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