COVID-19 has generated various socio-economic impacts on the estimated 6.3 million migrants currently hosted in Egypt. Many migrants have lost key sources of income, while others, who were waiting to return to their countries of origin, remained stranded due to travel restrictions that were put in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Ding*, a South Sudanese national and a father of seven, previously worked as an English teacher in a private school in Alexandria. Due to the prevention measures that were adopted to slow the spread of COVID-19, the school where he used to work was closed and he lost his job.

“I am doing my best to provide for my family. Besides my job as a teacher, I used to work as a security guard and sometimes at construction sites. Now, I cannot find a job in any of these sectors,” he explains.

Ding is considered by IOM to be one of 600,000 vulnerable migrants in Egypt who encounter a wide range of challenges, including inadequate access to food, health, and education services in addition to limited access to socio-economic opportunities.

To address Ding’s emergent needs, IOM provided food boxes, and financial support to Ding, while he searched for a job to support his family. IOM continues to follow up on his situation to offer more support when needed in coordination with Ding and his community leaders.

In response to requests for support received from migrants, community leaders, partner organisations and embassies, IOM in Egypt has procured and distributed more than 2,500 food and hygiene kits in different cities across Egypt, with support from the European Union through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration. This includes Alexandria, Cairo, Hurghada and Al-Fayoum.

Since the start of the pandemic, IOM has worked closely with community leaders to identify and assist the most vulnerable migrants in Egypt, like Ding.

“Thanks to the collaboration with IOM, we managed to help many people in our community to cope with the pandemic and raise their awareness about COVID-19 prevention measures,” said Ali Abdulrahman, the Eritrean Refugees Community Leader in Egypt. “IOM’s support to the Eritrean Refugee Committee in Egypt is helpful during the challenging COVID-19 times.”

To ensure adequate information sharing on COVID-19, IOM also increased its awareness raising activities through community leaders. To do this, information tools with guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) are provided to community leaders who these circulate more broadly.

In addition to the distribution of the food and hygiene boxes, IOM provided socio-economic and medical assistance to 57 vulnerable migrants in Egypt. Housing assistance was also provided to 14 migrants that experienced delays in voluntarily returning to their countries of origin because of travel restrictions.

Despite the closure of the airport for a period of time, IOM also facilitated the voluntary and safe return of two stranded female migrants from Egypt to Kenya. The two migrants were flown back home through a repatriation flight that was organized by the Embassy of Kenya in Egypt on 21 June 2020.

This assistance was made possible thanks to the European Union funding through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, a comprehensive programme that aims to save lives, protect and assist migrants along key migration routes in Africa. The programme was launched in December 2016 with funding from the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF).

*Name changed to protect the beneficiary’s identity.