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IOM Resumes Reintegration Mission From Niger To The Gambia3 minutes read

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The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has resumed its Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme from Niger to The Gambia, a statement by the organisation said at the weekend.

The programme, which is with the support of the European Union, resumes after a six-month hiatus due to COVID-19 border closures.

On Wednesday last week, 26 Gambian migrants finally returned home, after spending months being stranded in IOM’s transit centres in Niger.

The group returned home on a charter flight from Niamey, Niger’s capital, passing by Conakry in Guinea, for the return of 100 Guinean migrants. With The Gambia’s airspace still officially closed, this humanitarian corridor was exceptionally approved by authorities.

Mobility restrictions related to COVID-19 have stranded hundreds of thousands of migrants around the world. An IOM Issue Brief has analysed the broad impacts of border closures on stranded migrants and proposed innovative steps nations can take, in particular ensuring stranded migrants regardless of nationality or migratory status are included in all national COVID-19 response plans.

Prior to their departure, in collaboration with the European Union Capacity Building Mission (EUCAP Sahel) and the Centre for Medical and Health Research (CERMES) in Niger, IOM organized COVID-19 testing for migrants hosted at transit centres in Agadez and Niamey. Before their travels, the migrants were all given hand sanitizer and masks, and pre-packaged food and water to minimize contact.

Upon arrival, the returnees underwent temperature screenings and were issued arrival assistance cards before being transported to an overnight temporary accommodation facility, where they were provided meals and core relief items, including essential hygiene supplies.

“AVRR has always been an indispensable tool for migration management – a lifeline for migrants who wish to return home but do not have the means to do so,” said Fumiko Nagano, IOM’s Chief of Mission in The Gambia.

“This mechanism has become even more vital amidst the pandemic. Despite the current challenges, IOM remains committed to supporting safe and dignified returns, in close coordination with the government authorities who made this return possible.”

The following day, the returnees received further medical and psychosocial support and took part in an orientation session on the process of receiving reintegration assistance. Each migrant received an allowance to cover immediate needs and onward transport.

“The European Union remains strongly committed to protecting migrants and supporting returnees in their reintegration, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said H.E. Attila Lajos, EU Ambassador to The Gambia, on the importance of the return programme.

With Niger currently the top sending country of returning migrants to The Gambia, the resumption of the AVRR programme was critical. Since 2017, 1,600 Gambians returned home from Niger, representing more than half of all returns to The Gambia in 2019 and 2020.

In March, in order to contain the spread of the virus, the governments of The Gambia and Niger imposed several restrictions, including the closure of all borders. This affected IOM’s AVRR programme and left thousands of migrants stranded in IOM’s six transit centres across Niger.

“I have been in Niger for over nine months,” said Lamin Darboe, one of the returnees. “It wasn’t easy. I’m just happy to finally be back home because I have been wanting to go home for so long.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic migrants at IOM’s transit centres in Niger were provided with masks and handwashing stations and underwent regular health checks. Prior to their departure, the returnees attended special awareness-raising sessions on the coronavirus and underwent mandatory COVID-19 PCR tests.

IOM last assisted with AVRR from Niger to The Gambia on 19 March 2020, shortly before The Gambia’s borders closed in response to its first confirmed COVID-19 case. Until this week, only seven Gambians had been able to return home with IOM’s assistance – voluntary returnees from Germany and Switzerland, through exceptionally approved commercial flights.

As COVID-19 continues to impact the socioeconomic climate, the returnees will begin receiving their reintegration assistance in the coming weeks. The assistance aims to address economic, social and psychosocial needs, with various types of support tailored to the returnees’ needs and interests.

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Anthony Joshua and Odion Ighalo Weigh in on Violence in Nigeria as Soldiers Open Fire on Protesters

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Sports stars of Nigerian heritage have taken to social media to condemn the brutal crackdown on protesters in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos and other cities following days of protests in the country.

Since October 8, protesters have been carrying out peaceful demonstrations across the nation and social media calling for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police.

However, the protests assumed a violent dimension last week when thugs attacked peaceful protesters in Lagos and Abuja. And on Tuesday 20 October, the violence escalated with 43 protesters and six policemen reportedly killed. There were also reported cases of arson and looting.

Two-time unified heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua posted on social media that he was praying for peace in the country. The WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO champion, whose full name is Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua, was born in Watford, England to Nigerian parents.

In a video uploaded on his Twitter handle, he said:

“This is a message to the people of Nigeria. Even though i’m no there with you in the physical, we’ve been making some tangible efforts to try and support your protests on the ground.

“I know it’s getting to a stage where things are heating up and tensions are high, but in my prayers at night, i’m praying for peace and positivity, because i know that the people on ground aren’t trying to be heard for their own benefit. Its for the benefit of the next generation.

“Me myself, i’ve had to take time to understand the issues that people in Nigeria are facing. Why sometimes i’m silent is because i’ve learnt that my silence can’t be misquoted. So me and my family and my close friends have been trying to do something tangible things and we’re organizing many care packages for the people on the ground. So even if i’m in my training camp and we’re in London, we can support you guys from a distance.

“December the 12th, i’m competing and after that i’m going to try and make some plans to come to Nigeria to meet my friends and family and meet some of the people trying to make long lasting change. But for sure, from London and far and wide, your voices are definitely being heard.

“So keep on pushing, keep on striving. You have my support through and through. My ears and my eyes have been opened. I understand the issues that you guys are facing and for some people what i’m going to do will be enough. And for some people it may not be enough. But together as we hold hands and push for a better change, we all move forward in a positive direction. So keep on pushing. Your voices have definitely landed in my ears. And you definitely have my support.”

It was announced last week that Joshua would make a mandatory title defense against Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev on December 12 at the O2 Arena in London.

However, Manchester United and former Nigeria international Odion Ighalo was particularly scathing of the authorities, condemning the violence and urging the UK government, the UN and world leaders to act.

Also speakng in a video posted on his Twitter handle, he said:

“I’m sad and heartbroken and i don’t know where to start from. I’m not the type of guy that talks about politics but i can’t keep quiet anymore about what is going on back home in Nigeria.

“I would say to the Nigerian government, you guys are a shame to the world for killing your own citizens. Sending military to the streets to kill unarmed protesters because they are protesting for their rights is uncalled for.

“Today 20th October 2020, you people will be remembered in history as the first (civilian) government that sent the military into cities to start killing its own citizens.

“I am ashamed of this government. We are tired of you guys and we can’t take this anymore. I’m calling on the UK government, calling on leaders all over the world, to please see what is going on in Nigeria and help us. The government is killing its own citizens. We are calling on you guys and the UN to see to this matter. And i want to call on my brothers and sisters back home to remain safe. Stay indoors and don’t come out because this government are killers and they will keep killing if the world does not talk about this.”

Ighalo posted the video after Manchester United won 2-1 at the Parc des Princes in Paris against Paris Saint-Germain in their opening Group H match of the UEFA Champions League. He was an unused substitute.

In the Lekki area of Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, armed soldiers allegedly shot sporadically at protesters, killing no fewer than seven persons in the process. The soldiers had been deployed to enforce a curfew announced by the Lagos State governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Many protesters were also said to have sustained bullet wounds as a result of the attack that occurred suddenly after the giant video billboard on a tollgate where the protesters have been demonstrating for days and the streetlights within the area were switched off.

The Nigerian government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired military general, had announced the scrapping of the SARS unit as well as a raft of reforms over a week ago. Officials called for the demonstrations to be suspended to give the authorities time to make good on their pledges. However the move failed as protesters responded that they had no trust or faith in the government.

Around half of Nigeria’s 200 million population is estimated to live in extreme poverty. Unemployment is widespread among the youth who have been reportedly targeted for arbitrary arrests, extortion, abduction, torture and extra-judicial killings by the security forces, especially the much loathed and dreaded SARS.

Africa’s biggest oil producer is currently facing a recession as the fall in crude prices sparked by the coronavirus pandemic has battered government finances creating much social unrest.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) estimates the Nigerian economy could have lost an estimated N700 billion (over $1.7 billion) to the #EndSARS protests in the last 12 days.

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#EndSARS Protests: Nigeria Loses N700 Billion During Demonstrations – LCCI

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The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), says the Nigerian economy could have lost an estimated N700 billion to the #EndSARS protests in the last 12 days. The protest originated about two weeks ago on the issue of police brutality and extrajudicial killings. It has grown into a social crusade against bad governance.

A statement from the President of LCCI, Toki Mabogunje, states on the negative impact of the #EndSARS demonstrations on business activities across the country.

The statement is titled, ‘LCCI press release on the economic implications of EndSARS protest’.

It further explained that “The LCCI appreciates the value of citizens’ engagement and the demand for accountability which the EndSARS protest essentially represents.

“These are in consonance with democratic norms. They also form vital ingredients for good governance.

“Over the past twelve days, economic activities have been crippled in most parts of the country and has been particularly profound in the urban areas.

“The Nigerian economy has suffered an estimated Seven Hundred Billion Naira (₦700 billion) loss in the past twelve days,” Mabogunje adds.

She noted that the #EndSARS demonstrations had been impactful and profound, adding that it had the power of the people and the potency of the energy of the youth to bring about change.

According to the LCCI president, the protests have achieved some significant outcomes and has reawakened the need to reform the shortcomings in Nigeria’s political governance.

She recommended that the protesters dialogue with the government.

This, according to Mobogunje, is necessary to reduce the massive disruptions, blockades and barricades around our major cities and interstate highways.

Mobogunje urged the government to commit to rapid improvement in governance quality and accountability in the police and public sector. And urgently grant audience to the leadership of the #EndSARS to deliberate on the way forward and to agree on an action plan for the delivery of agreed outcomes.

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#ENDSARS protest and mental health

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