Assisted Voluntary Return: Ensuring Humane and Safe Assistance in Cameroon
Through its assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) programme, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) supported Cameroon in the reception of over 400 migrants. Between January and July 2022, about 30 persons were able to return safely to Douala through an IOM-supported reintegration project. Most of the migrants arrived from Niger. Some were also in Tunisia, Morocco, Chad, and Mali.
On 27 July 2022, a family with two children landed at the airport in their hometown of Douala. The two boys’ mother and her partner, aged 33 and 35 respectively, had met in Libya.
The couple was determined to build a better future together, but when faced with repeated refoulements, the family decided to return to Cameroon. With the help of IOM, a return to their country of origin was organized in safe conditions.
A Cameroonian police officer checking information related to the migration journey upon arrival in Douala. Photo: IOM 2022/Kim Winkler
Upon arrival at Douala airport, the family was welcomed by an IOM AVRR officer before being interviewed by the Cameroonian police. The latter’s mission is to obtain details of the trip and to verify the identity of the assisted returnees. The police officers asked a number of specific questions to the returning family in order to rule out any risk of identity theft.
IOM works closely with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Civic Education (MINJEC), which is represented at the airport by its insertion advisors. They assist the AVRR programme by providing guidance and assistance on the reintegration project that the returnee plans to set up. The insertion advisor is also trained to detect signs of concern during the interaction with the migrants. When necessary, he or she can initiate a psychological support process.
Returnees go through a medical examination where a physician assesses their needs for medical assistance. Photo: IOM 2022/Kim Winkler
The presence of AVRR officers on site aims to reassure beneficiaries, including by facilitating their exit from the airport. Indeed, the partnership between IOM and Cameroon facilitates airport procedures and provide adequate information on the conditions of assistance.
The cooperation also makes it possible to set up advocacy and awareness-raising activities for individuals and communities. These activities are aimed at both returnees and potential migrants. The objective is to raise awareness about the dangers associated with irregular migration in a meaningful way so that everyone is able to make informed decisions.