European Union has signed an agreement with the International Organisation for
Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of the Interior to fund the return,
reintegration and support of some 1,500 irregular migrants from Libya.
The three-year initiative, funded by the EU’s Emergency Trust Fund for Africa forms part of the larger 14-country regional programme in West and Central Africa as well as Libya.
At the signing ceremony held on Friday, Ms. Fumiko Nagano, IOM chief of mission said the project is designed to contribute to the strengthening of migration governance for The Gambia. It will help raise awareness of 250 communities and the potential 2,500 migrants on safe migration options and alternatives.
“Irregular migration, especially by the youths, continues to pose significant challenges for The Gambia,” Ms. Nagano said, noting that testimonies of dangerous journeys and perils and sufferings faced by these migrants are well documented by returnees.
“Reintegration is often a lengthy and complex process,” Ms. Nagano argued said, noting that it requires holistic, multidimensional support that focuses not just on economic aspects but also social and psychosocial elements.
As part of the assistance, the project provides 65 Euros to each of the returnees upon their arrival to The Gambia. This fund covers their immediate needs, including transportation to their homes. Returnees’ needs are subsequently assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine the type of reintegration assistance they would receive, Nagano explained.
However, the project was launched at the Valetta Summit on Migration back in November 2015, according to the EU ambassador to The Gambia, Attila Lajos.
“The EU Trust Fund has been created due to the recent unprecedented levels of irregular migration from Africa towards Europe, to support the most fragile and affected African countries,” Ambassador Lajos said.
Last year, an estimated 5,143 people died or went missing in the Mediterranean.
“We have all heard about difficulties encountered by African migrants stuck in Libya, with sad stories of kidnappings, slavery, torture and sexual violence. None of us can remain insensitive to such human suffering,” the EU diplomat said.
The project will provide lifesaving assistance and strengthening of migrant support services along their routes to address immediate needs of Gambian migrants for food and water, medical and psycho-social care, as well as temporary shelter.
According to IOM officials, many stranded migrants express the wish to return home rather than continue their dangerous journeys. This is why IOM will provide voluntary return assistance from countries of transit or destination in Africa, notably Libya and Niger.