Algiers, Algeria– This week (17/11), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted thirty-nine (93) migrants from Senegal, Gambia and Guinea to return home safely from Algeria through a special voluntary return organized thanks to the crucial support from the Government of Algeria and in coordination with countries of origin.

This movement stands as the fourth voluntary return operation facilitated by IOM in the past four months during the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, eighty-four migrants were safely returned from Algeria to Mali, while in August one hundred and fourteen migrants were assisted with a voluntary return to Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and Guinea, and back in September eighty-five migrants from Burkina Faso and Benin were assisted to return to their home countries.

The migrants departed from Algiers’ Houari Boumediene International Airport and reached Conakry, after a stopover in Dakar where the Gambian returnees will be assisted by IOM Senegal to return safely to their country of origin via inland transportation. 5 women, 85 men, 3 children (1 boy and 2 girls) were among the returnees. IOM staff were also aboard the flight to provide operational escort services. 

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and related travel restrictions, the socio-economic situation of many migrants was impacted. Migrants reached out to IOM and their respective embassies to request administrative and financial assistance to return home and reunite with their families. Most of them had been waiting for departure since the month of March.

To ensure that migrants residing in all parts of the country have the chance to return home, inland transportation was provided to the departure point of Algiers. IOM run transit facility (DARV), a structure provided by the Algerian government, accommodated the migrants. The inland movement, PCR testing and exit procedure were coordinated with relevant Algerian authorities, which significantly eased the process.

IOM staff in Algeria followed COVID-19 prevention and hygiene measures in line with international, national and IOM standards including medical checks prior to and during travel, mandatory COVID-19 PCR test five days prior to the flight, the distribution of COVID-19 prevention kits, including information, education and communication materials.

Upon arrival to their respective countries, migrants will be received by IOM staff at the airport and benefit from assistance on arrival, including protection and medical services, before returning to their communities of origin.

In the following weeks, all 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.

The return assistance was made possible with support from the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Four international students who have finished their studies and were facing the risks of overstaying their temporary residence permit were among the returnees.