News from Africa

IOM Begins Airlift of Stranded Migrants from Central African Republic

Human Rights

Té / 11 January 2014

IOM will today (11/1/2014) start an airlift to evacuate stranded foreign nationals from the Central African Republic (CAR), following appeals from neighbouring African countries.

GENEVA, Switzerland, January 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)

The first three IOM charter flights this weekend will repatriate some 800 Chadians from the war torn CAR capital of Bangui to the Chadian capital N’Djamena.

The 800 are part of a group of some 2,500 Chadians sheltering in a transit camp adjacent to Bangui airport, living in terrible conditions at the over-crowded and insanitary site.

The conflict in the country has displaced some 935,000 people, including some 513,000 – about half of the population – in Bangui alone. Thousands of homes have been damaged or looted. Many displaced families are thought to be seeking shelter in churches and schools, as well as in the airport camp.

IOM has received requests for assistance from Chad, Niger, Mali, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to evacuate thousands of their most vulnerable, stranded nationals. The organization is also working with Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Cameroon to provide post arrival re-integration assistance to migrants evacuated by their governments.

“Several concerned governments including Mali, Senegal, Niger and Chad have already organized evacuation flights, but need additional resources to cope with all the migrants wanting to leave the CAR and those arriving home, who are often destitute. IOM is helping in a variety of ways, including providing onward transport for returnees,” says IOM West Africa Director Carmela Godeau.

A total of over 60,000 migrants from neighbouring countries have already asked for assistance from their embassies in the CAR. Nearly 27,000 have already been evacuated by their governments, leaving at least 33,000 in urgent need of help.

“The evacuation of these migrants must be done quickly and in an orderly manner to avoid people trying to leave on their own overland and taking terrible risks, in desperation,” says Godeau.

Many Chadian migrants trying to return home on their own are increasingly finding themselves stranded in dangerous border areas. As of Tuesday, 7,600 Chadians, most of them women and children, had arrived destitute in the border areas of Gore and Sido in southern Chad. Many others may attempt the same route, unless they can be evacuated in an orderly operation with international assistance.

IOM has deployed 15 operations and medical staff in Bangui to organize airlifts of the kind used to repatriate tens of thousands of migrants following the 2011 Libyan crisis.

The first three evacuation flights between Bangui and N’Djamena will be funded by IOM’s revolving Migration Emergency Funding Mechanism (MEFM).

But IOM today launched an appeal of USD 17.5 million to evacuate up to 10,000 African migrants from the CAR and to help 50,000 to resettle after they return home. IOM will receive returnees at return ports of entry, assist with onward transportation to final destinations, provide support packages on arrival and help people to cope with reintegration challenges.

“Most of these migrants are going back to poor countries where it will be difficult for them to start a new life and earn a living. They will need help once they arrive home. Reintegration assistance is a key part of every evacuation operation,” says Godeau.

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