The International Organisation for Migration has been able to assist in the return of more than 22,500 migrants back into Nigeria from 20 countries across North Africa, Middle East and Europe.
The United Nations agency, which started operations in Nigeria in 2001 (20 years ago) with helping in returning stranded Nigerian migrants from Rome, Italy.
A statement on Tuesday, 2 November, 2021 from the organisation read that: “Today, IOM through its Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme has assisted the return of more than 22,500 migrants from 20 countries across North Africa, Middle East and Europe.”
IOM commenced operations twenty years ago, upon the signing of the Cooperation Agreement with the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, an agreement which permits it to implement programmes in Nigeria related to the migration of persons and provision of humanitarian aid.
The statement said: “From a hand-counted team in early 2001, IOM Nigeria has grown into a 1,500-strong mission, with presence in five locations (Abuja, Benin City, Lagos, Maiduguri and Yola) and is among the biggest IOM Missions on the continent and one of the biggest UN Agencies in Nigeria.
The statement quoted IOM Chief of Mission Frantz Celestin to have said on Monday at a luncheon celebrating 20 years of the organisation in Nigeria, that:
“I am proud of my colleagues in Nigeria, who have worked tirelessly and tenaciously, some at the frontlines, in an ever-changing working environment with passion and ingenuity to support the Federal Government of Nigeria respond to the needs of its people.”
Celestin said IOM’s emergency programming portfolio is diverse spanning from emergency response, transition and recovery to migration management and migration data.
He said as of September 2021, more than 1.5 million individuals benefitted from IOM WASH, shelter, non-food items, livelihoods, camp coordination and management interventions and various Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) services and activities in the North-east, noting that IOM operates and manages two of the enablers to the humanitarian efforts in the region, the Humanitarian hubs, which provide a safe space for all humanitarian actors in the deep field and the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) which is responsible for determining trends and patterns of mobility, the characteristics and needs of the affected populations.
Also speaking, UN Resident Coordinator, Edward Kallon said: “IOM has been very strategic to the humanitarian response in the North-east. They are the key players and leaders in establishment of the Humanitarian hubs. They are playing a critical role in providing that space for humanitarian actors to be able to respond in a very complex operational environment.”
The statement recalled that in 2021 more than 4,800 aid workers from 135 organisations utilised all nine humanitarian hubs and their vital services, and as a result of the unprecedented challenges in sustaining and delivering quality health care during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, IOM offered its medical laboratories and staff to support the establishment of the UN Severe Acute Respiratory Isolation and Treatment Facility and to date, over 7,500 individuals from UN agencies and the diplomatic community have used the testing and facilities in Abuja, Lagos and Maiduguri for diagnostic and travel purposes.
IOM Nigeria’s footprint in the country has expanded considerably in the past 20 years with generous support from more than 20 donors and development partners.
Head of Cooperation at the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Cecile Tassin-Pelzer was quoted in the statement to have said: “IOM has the power to continue changing people’s lives, changing attitudes and realities. We are really looking forward to continue working with IOM.”