Algiers– On Sunday 31 January, IOM helped 138 migrants to return to Mali through a special voluntary return flight organized thanks to the crucial support of the Government of Algeria and in coordination with the Malian authorities.

This stands as the first voluntary return operation in 2021 and the eighth movement that IOM facilitates in Algeria since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Carrying 1 woman and 137 men, the flight departed from Houari Boumediene International Airport and landed in the Malian capital Bamako. IOM staff and an interpreter form the Malian embassy joined the returnees to provide any needed support.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and related travel restrictions, the socio-economic situation of many migrants in Algeria has been impacted. Migrants reached out to IOM and their respective embassies requesting support to return to their countries of origin. Many of them have been waiting to return home since March 2020. 

To ensure that migrants residing in all parts of Algeria get the chance to return home, inland transportation was provided to Algiers where they were hosted at IOM run transit facility (DARV), a structure provided by the Algerian Government to accommodate migrants before their return.

IOM staff in Algeria followed COVID-19 prevention and hygiene measures in line with international, national and IOM standards. This includes medical checks before and during travel, mandatory COVID-19 PCR test five days prior to the flight, the distribution of COVID-19 prevention kits (masks, hand sanitisers and information materials). The inland movement, mandatory PCR testing and exit procedure were coordinated with relevant Algerian authorities. The Malian embassy has provided translation and consular support and helped to accelerate the pre-departure procedures.

Upon arrival to their respective countries, migrants were received by IOM and benefit from assistance on arrival, including protection and medical services, before returning to their communities of origin.

In the coming weeks, eligible returnees will receive socio-economic reintegration assistance including medical and psychosocial support, educational and vocational training, support for housing and other basic needs, as well as the set-up of income generating activities to ensure a sustainable reintegration into the origin communities, depending on the needs and the will of the returnees.

This voluntary return flight was made possible with support from the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.