IOM Facilitates the Safe Return of 149 Sierra Leoneans Stranded in Niger
Freetown- Last week (18/11/22), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted 149 Sierra Leonean migrants stranded in Niger to return home safely via charter flight. IOM worked in close coordination with the Government of Sierra Leone to facilitate this dignified return. Even before the scheduling of the flight, returnees underwent a special online verification exercise by Sierra Leone’s Immigration Department to ascertain their nationalities.
Upon arrival, IOM staff registered the returnees and provided cash assistance for their immediate needs, as well as food, water, and onward transportation. In the coming weeks, they will receive reintegration assistance that will address their economic, social, and psychosocial needs, with several types of support tailored to their needs and interests. So far more than 5,000 Sierra Leoneans stranded along migration routes have been assisted to voluntarily return home from 2017 – 18 November 2022.
Sierra Leone is among the top five countries in West Africa with the highest number of returns of stranded migrants in 2022. “Too many young Sierra Leoneans embark on high-risk journeys through irregular migration. Thanks to the EU and the Government for their support. To be able to cover the needs of vulnerable Sierra Leoneans stranded abroad, collective action is needed now to support their return home and reintegration options” said Christos Christodoulides, Head of Office a.i. at IOM Sierra Leone.
Joseph, 23, is returning home after 2 years spent abroad. He shared with us how his journey unfolded. Before attempting the 'back way' to seek new opportunities in Europe, he was completing senior secondary school. Now he wants to make up for the lost time. " Thanks for the opportunity of returning safely. I am glad that I am back and hope to be able to continue my education," he says.
Dave Bangura drew lessons from his challenging journey and is now hopeful for a better future at home. “Irregular migration is not worth it. I suffered a lot in the desert as I attempted to go to Europe. You can make a living here if you have the skills & work hard. During my travels, I have seen people with valuable skills succeed,” said Dave.” If I should travel at all, I will instead use regular channels. But my immediate plans now are to start a business at home” he added.
The charter flight was made possible thanks to the Special Measure for the European Union-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in Africa under the Neighbourhood, Development, and International Cooperation Instrument – Global Europe (NDICI- Global Europe)