84 Malian nationals – 73 men, 7 women, 2 boys and 2 girls – made it home from Algeria, thanks to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which arranged a voluntary return flight from Algiers to Bamako.
The voluntary return was made possible, also, because of an agreement between Algerian and Malian authorities to temporarily lift travel restrictions and enable the safe return of migrants stranded due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the breakout of COVID-19, job opportunities for migrants became scarce in Algeria and the demand for support of primary needs increasingly acute. The voluntary return operation contributed to the protection of migrants and helped to overcome difficult living conditions during COVID-19.
“The virus left me stuck in Algeria and delayed my return to Mali since the crisis started. I was waiting and hoping that things get back to normal so I could return home with my children,” said one Malian migrant.
IOM staff in Algeria implemented specific COVID-19 prevention measures in line with international, national and IOM standards, which included checks for any health conditions prior to and during travel as well as the distribution of COVID-19 kits and awareness-raising on COVID-19 prevention.
Upon arrival in Mali, migrants are subject to that country’s national prevention protocol, including a 14-day mandatory quarantine. After quarantine and testing for COVID-19, they will be able to return to their communities.
IOM Mali will support the returnees with in-kind reintegration assistance through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration (EU-IOM JI) depending on their needs, skills and aspirations. This may include medical assistance, psychosocial support, educational and vocational training and support for housing and other basic needs, as well as the launch of income-generating activities to assure a sustainable reintegration.
Besides the assistance of the European Union, through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, the voluntary and safe return was made possible thanks to other donors, including the Protection Services to Vulnerable and Stranded Migrants in and Transiting through North Africa programme funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the Safety, Support and Solutions along the Central Mediterranean Route programme funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom.