Benin City – This month (9-11/03), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) hosted a series of psychosocial activities for Nigerian returnees in Benin City, Edo State, the main place of origin of migrants returning to the country.

Twelve returned who have recently been trained as psychosocial mentors under the direct supervision of IOM officers led three group sessions targeting vulnerable returnees including victims of trafficking (VoTs), single mothers, survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) as well as child returnees, and family of returnees with mental health needs.

“The project, focused on a community-based approach to psychosocial reintegration to bring returnees together in an environment that promotes dignity and allow each member to share experiences without shame or fear of discrimination,” said Narulita Ayu, IOM Nigeria MHPSS Project Officer. “The activities provided also an opportunity to share messages on COVID-19 prevention,” she added.

The pandemic has compounded the vulnerabilities of people around the world including Nigerian returnees. Among 105 people surveyed in May last year, 90 per cent reported that their emotional wellbeing had deteriorated since the outbreak of COVID-19.

On the first day of activities, participants joined a peer-to-peer psychosocial group session for family members and caregivers of returnees experiencing severe mental health conditions to connect, share experiences and draw support from each other.

The second day was dedicated to colouring activities for children, aimed at providing a vehicle for self-expression and the opportunity of sharing feelings and experiences in a safe space. Thirteen participants, including child returnees, were tasked with drawing and colouring images related to COVID-19 protection guidelines.

On the third day, the mentors organized make-up and self-care activities for 15 female returnees. The mentors initiated the activity with key messages on the importance of self-care and it was followed up with self-make-up sessions.

“This activity is an eye opener for me and a better reflection of myself. I am very happy to be a part of the make-up session because I hardly think of myself, I feel have no added value to family,” said one of the participants.

The project titled Facilitating a mentoring system among returnees through a community-based approach to psychosocial reintegration is funded by the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.

For more information please contact Jorge Galindo at IOM Nigeria, Tel: +234 906 273 9168, Email: