105 Nigeriens Safely Return from Chad in First AVR Operation from the Country since 2012
N’Djamena – 105 Nigeriens who had been left stranded in Chad for six months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have safely returned home on Thursday, October 1, on a special flight chartered by IOM with the support of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.
As per Chadian and Nigerien health rules, all the travelers were tested – negative – for COVID-19 and provided personal hygiene kits including hydroalcoholic gels and facial masks prior to embarkation.
This is the first assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVR) operation by charter from Chad since 2012, and one of the first voluntary humanitarian return operations IOM is organizing from Chad since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am happy to see that through the partnership with the European Union, we can finally support this group of Nigeriens to return home safely and reunite with their families after months of absence and uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for strong cooperation between all partners to ensure that truly no one is left behind”, says Anne Schaefer, IOM Chad Chief of Mission.
The group of returnees includes 77 men, 36 women, and 31 children under the age of 12. Among them, 105 have been living in Chad for years, working in small businesses in catering, hairdressing and butchery.
“I came to Chad in 2017 because things were difficult back in Niger. It was easy to travel to Chad so I decided to try my luck here”, remembers Moussa, 35. “I have never been to school so at home, I worked petty businesses but I wasn’t making enough”, he remembers.
A father of four and the eldest of 5 siblings, Moussa had to support his family from an early age. “My father died when I was three and I lost my mother in 2008. I had to step up for my younger siblings, that is why I decided to leave to earn more so I can support them”, Moussa says.
In N’Djamena, Moussa worked as a roving hairdresser in the streets of N’Djamena, the Chadian capital. “On normal days I would make 2,000 CFA and on good days, up to 2,500 CFA. But whatever the amount, I sent most of it back home to my family”, he adds.
But things fell apart for Moussa when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Like most migrants and workers in the informal sector, his business was brought to a standstill as a result of the mobility restrictions to limit the spread of the virus.
“I made up my mind to return home a long time ago, but I couldn’t, because the borders were closed”.
In N’Djamena, IOM was contacted by the Haut conseil des Nigeriens Au Tchad with whom it worked for months to identify Nigeriens stranded and in need of assistance in N’Djamena.
Through, IOM organized the charter flight.
"Following the assistance given to a group of Chadian students stranded in Cameroon last May, this is the second time that the European Union, at the request of IOM, triggers the COVID-19 emergency fund part of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative to help a group of people, including women and children, left stranded by the pandemic. I am delighted that IOM has been able to provide effective intervention and that these nationals of Niger have been able to return to their country. We all recognize that the pandemic, beyond its public health impact, had also wider socio-economic impacts that have further weakened the coping strategies of the vulnerable part of the population, among the informal sector, the migrant workers, refugee or internally displaced population,”, said Mr Zissimos Vergos, chargé d’affaires a.i. of the EU Delegation in the Republic of Tchad.
Among the group of returnees were also 8 migrants – including a family of 3 – who had been living in IOM-managed transit centers of N’Djamena and Faya in the north since February 2020.
Since 2017, IOM has been supporting the Government of Chad in providing critical protection and assistance to stranded migrants, particularly survivors of trafficking and exploitation, including through direct assistance such as shelter, food, psychosocial support, and assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for migrant protection and reintegration, the first comprehensive programme to protect and save migrant lives along dangerous migration routes in West and Central Africa. This regional project is funded by the European Union through the EU Trust Fund for Africa. At Chadian level, IOM works in close cooperation with the Chadian government.