IOM Opens New Transit Center for Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Niamey

Published Date: 
Fri, 08/02/2019 - 17:45
Country: 
Niger

Niamey – IOM opened this Thursday (01/08) a new transit center in Niamey, where unaccompanied migrant children and families will be hosted, as they wait for their return to their country of origin, through the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme, under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration

IOM provides direct assistance to migrants in its six transit centers in Niger located in Arlit, Dirkou, Agadez and Niamey, which are open and voluntary for migrants while they wait for their return to their country of origin.

The new center is supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Union, within the framework of IOM Niger’s Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism.

In 2018, 1,473 accompanied migrant children and 346 unaccompanied migrant children were assisted at IOM’s six transit centers for migrants in Niger. The most prevalent countries of origin for unaccompanied migrant children were Guinea-Conakry (57%), Mali (10%) and Côte d’Ivoire (8%).  Three percent of unaccompanied migrant children were female and staying at IOM’s transit center for women in Niamey.

This new transit center will replace the previous, smaller center for unaccompanied children while also accommodating families with children who were previously staying at Eagle, IOM’s transit center for adult migrants. The families will have their own rooms on the ground floor while the unaccompanied children will be accommodated upstairs.

By hosting them under one roof, IOM is piloting a new approach focused on promoting a family environment, which should have a positive impact on their reintegration once they return home.

“On a social level, children learn best by imitation. Through this approach of having unaccompanied children cohabitating with families, the adults can set good examples and provide advice for the youngsters while the teenagers can act as big brothers for the children,” says Eva Pons, Protection Officer with IOM in Niger.

“I’m happy to move in with the families”, says Remy, 17, from Benin who has just moved to the new transit center. “Seeing all these children running around makes me feel at home. Plus, some of them are from the same nationality which makes me feel like I’m back with my family.”

In addition to the provision of basic services, this new transit center will offer them a safe space with services tailored to their needs. The protection staff at the center assist with psychosocial support appropriate to their age, as well as individual case management to address their vulnerabilities.

Furthermore, their daily schedule is enriched with a variety of activities tailored to their psychosocial development. Social, cultural, recreational and educational events are regularly organized by protection staff and IOM’s community mobilizers.

IOM aims to ensure a smooth transition for migrants returning to their communities of origin. However, in some instances of family reunification, the transition can be difficult for both children and caretakers. For that reason, the weeks leading up to their departure from the center, protection staff makes sure that they are well-equipped to reintegrate into their communities of origin.

“This new center will further strengthen our protection assistance for vulnerable migrants, and at the same time reinforce our close partnership with the Government of Niger,” said Barbara Rijks, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Niger. “For many years, IOM Niger has been working closely with the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Protection of Children to ensure that the needs of the most vulnerable migrants are addressed. This close partnership includes the deployment of Nigerien social workers from the Ministry to IOM’s transit centers”.

In addition to the Ministry for the Promotion of Women and Protection of Children, IOM works closely with the Ministry of Justice, the Judge for Minors and UNICEF in Niger to determine the best interest of unaccompanied migrant children, based on a thorough assessment. This process includes family tracing in the country of origin, in order to ensure the safe return of the child as quickly as possible in line with international child protection principles.

For more information, please contact Monica Chiriac at IOM Niger at Tel: +227 8931 8764, Email: mchiriac@iom.int.