As movement restrictions remain in place in Egypt and in other countries across the globe, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is exploring alternative ways to assist the growing number of stranded migrants in Egypt to return to their countries of origin through the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme (AVRR).

In this context, IOM with support from the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration (EU-IOM Joint Initiative) facilitated the voluntary and safe return of two stranded female migrants from Egypt to Kenya.

The two migrants have been flown back home through a repatriation flight that was organized by the Embassy of Kenya in Egypt. The flight departed from Cairo’s main airport and landed in Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi on Sunday 21 June. Members of the IOM’s operations team in Egypt were presented at Cairo International Airport to assist the two migrants with check-in and to cover their overstay penalty/exit visas.

Prior to their departure, returnees were provided with fitness to travel medical screening and got the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19 and obtained a test certificate that was requested by their country of origin. They have also attended special coronavirus related counseling sessions to ensure their safety during the trip.

Upon their arrival, returnees were received by officials from the Kenyan Ministry of Health and admitted at one of the government’s designated quarantine facilities. IOM Kenya’s COVID-19 response team in Nairobi followed them up and facilitated medical assistance and psychosocial support.

Soon after undergoing COVID-19 testing, returnees were discharged from the quarantine facility because of their medical conditions in line with government protocols for guests with pre-existing conditions. They are currently on self-quarantine and IOM Kenya’s team is following up on them.

Once the self-quarantine period is over, returnees will be invited to counselling sessions and receive in-kind reintegration assistance to help them build a new life in their country of origin.

“While waiting for repatriation from Egypt, IOM’s financial assistance enabled me to live comfortably. I am grateful for all the support I have received from the organization so far and I look forward to getting the reintegration assistance and starting a new chapter in my life,” said Wambui*, one of the two returnees that were assisted by IOM.

Supported by the European Union (EU) Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the EU-IOM Joint Initiative is the first comprehensive programme bringing together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, the EU and IOM around the shared goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.

As part of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative, IOM has distributed over 1700 food and non-food boxes to stranded and vulnerable migrants in Egypt since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to help to reduce the socio-economic impact of the crisis on them.

IOM estimates that there are around 900,000 to 1 million migrants and refugees in vulnerable conditions in Egypt. The two returnees were among them as they have been stranded in Egypt for a few years now and one of them is suffering from health problems. Their return was delayed because of travel restrictions that were imposed by the Government of Egypt to slow the spread of the COVID-19.

*The name has been changed to protect the identity of the migrant.