Algiers- Today (30/09), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted 85 migrants from Burkina Faso and Benin to return home safely from Algeria through a special voluntary return organised thanks to the crucial support from the Government of Algeria and in coordination with countries of origin.

This marks the third voluntary return operation facilitated by IOM in the past three months during the COVID-19. In July, eighty-four migrants safely returned from Algeria to Mali while in August one hundred and fourteen migrants were assisted with voluntary return to Benin and Burkina Faso. Travel restrictions in place since mid-March were exceptionally lifted following approval of the authorities to allow migrants to return home.

“I was supposed to stay in Algeria for one month only, long enough to finish my training, and now seven months have passed, and I am still stranded here far from my children,” said a woman from Benin who was on board the flight.

The flight departed from Algiers’ Houari Boudemiene International Airport and reached its final destination Porto Novo after a stopover in Ouagadougou. Returnees included sixteen women, sixty-four men, five children (two boys and three girls).

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 and related travel restrictions, many migrants have faced economic hardship leaving them in difficult situations and need assistance. Migrants contacted IOM and their respective embassies to request administrative and financial assistance to make use of their right to return home and reunite with their families, of which a number has been waiting for departure since the month of March. The return operation also included five international students who have finished their studies and were facing the risks of overstaying their temporary residence permit without sufficient means to cover their needs.

The Embassy of Burkina Faso in Algeria as well as the Embassy of Benin in Morocco issued necessary travel documents for all migrants in due time prior to their departure through remote consular support.

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, returnees were received by IOM staff and were offered reception and post-arrival assistance before they travel onwards to their communities.

In consideration of the complexity of the AVRR process and to assure sustainability during reintegration, migrants will benefit from an integrated approach that addresses both the needs of individuals and communities in a mutually beneficial way by responding to priorities identified by local authorities, migrants and their host communities. Assistance may include orientation and training, job fairs, focus groups or counselling sessions and also respond to the social and psychosocial needs.

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