Access and Funding for Displaced Syrians Remains a Top Humanitarian Concern Amid COVID-19 Crisis (IOM)

The people of Syria entered their tenth year of conflict in March, only to be confronted with another looming threat: the COVID-19 pandemic. The disease compounds an already devastating crisis that has left 11 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Joint Statement by IOM, UNHCR and UNODC on Protection at Sea in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea

Five years on from the 2015 ‘boat crisis’ in the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea, in which thousands of refugees and migrants in distress at sea were denied life-saving care and support, we are alarmed that a similar tragedy may be unfolding once more.

We are deeply concerned by reports that boats full of vulnerable women, men and children are again adrift in the same waters, unable to come ashore, and without access to urgently needed food, water, and medical assistance.  There is no easy solution to the irregular maritime movements of refugees and migrants. Deterring movements of people by endangering life is not only ineffective; it violates basic human rights, the law of the sea and the principles of customary international law by which all States are equally bound.

We call on States in the region to uphold the commitments of the 2016 Bali Declaration as well as ASEAN pledges to protect the most vulnerable and to leave no one behind. Not doing so may jeopardize thousands of lives of smuggled or trafficked persons, including the hundreds of Rohingya currently at sea.

As we have seen time and time again, in desperate situations – whether in search of safety and protection or basic survival – people will move, whatever obstacles are put in their way.

Saving lives must be the first priority. We recognize that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, States have erected border management measures to manage risks to public health. These measures, however, should not result in the closure of avenues to asylum, or in forcing people to either return to situations of danger or seek to land clandestinely, without health screening or quarantine. States can – and should – ensure that our common concerns relating to public health and security are matched with a re-affirmation of solidarity and compassion.

Faced again with the need to find a regional solution to a regional problem, as was the case during the 2015 crisis, it is important to build on the solid cooperation and planning that has already been undertaken by ASEAN and the Bali Process to address irregular maritime movements.

We call on States to continue and expand search and rescue efforts, and to ensure that landing procedures and reception conditions are safe and humane. Some States in the region have already demonstrated that health screening and quarantine arrangements can be implemented so that people can disembark in a safe, orderly and dignified manner. Search and rescue must be combined with arrangements for prompt disembarkation to a place of safety.

Now is the time for governments in the region to recall the commitments made in the Bali Declaration. We urge the Bali Process Co-Chairs to activate the Consultative Mechanism to convene affected countries and facilitate a timely and regional resolution of the crisis in the Andaman Sea.

We also call on States in the region that are not directly impacted to offer support to those States that do proceed with rescue and disembarkation.

IOM, UNHCR and UNODC reaffirm our support to States across the region to provide immediate assistance to asylum-seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrants, as well as to strengthen the broader response capacity to respond to irregular movements.

IOM, UNHCR and UNODC have dedicated capacities that can be mobilized to assist States and local authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including support for initial health assistance, information dissemination, and where appropriate to ensure that quarantine procedures are followed.

In the longer term, a sustainable and comprehensive response to the movement of refugees and migrants cannot be achieved without concerted international cooperation. We encourage States to draw upon the Global Compact for Migration and Global Compact for Refugees to promote a sustainable and comprehensive response to the movement of refugees and migrants.

This includes establishing effective, predictable and equitable disembarkation arrangements anchored in a broader strategy with safe and legal migration options, including for family reunification.

In line with the United Nations Transnational Organized Crime Convention and its Protocols, signed by all States of the region, traffickers and smugglers should be investigated and prosecuted for their crimes in full accordance with international standards for human rights, while fully respecting the rights of victims. States should underscore the existing political commitment to zero tolerance towards the criminal elements facilitating movements and taking advantage of the vulnerable.

Equally, international action and solidarity are essential to tackle the drivers of refugee and irregular migrant movements, including statelessness, discrimination, deprivation, persecution, and other violations of human rights.

Without collective efforts to address these interlocking issues, this human tragedy will continue to unfold over and over again. We call on States to break this cycle now.

1,300 Nigerien Gold Miners Stranded in Burkina Faso, IOM to Assist their Return Amid Border Closures (IOM)

Over 1,300 Nigeriens are currently stranded in Burkina Faso after fleeing clashes in Diebougou, a gold mining region in that country’s south. Lacking means to use public transportation, due to national travel restrictions. and with no resources to pursue their journey, the cohort left the mining zone by foot, with a few on bicycles, hoping to reach Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital, before continuing on to Niamey, the Nigerien capital.


COVID-19 Crisis: Over 2,000 Stranded Chadian Students Return Home Through The EU-IOM Joint Initiative (IOM)

Almost 2,000 stranded Chadian students are receiving assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to return home safely from Cameroon. IOM is working in partnership with the European Union and the government of Chad.

IOM Asia-Pacific Appeals for USD 90.7 Million as Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Top 310,000 Across Region (IOM)

As the number of new confirmed coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases continue to rise across the region, the International Organization for Migration’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific is stepping up its work with governments and partners to ensure that all migrants, returnees and other displaced persons are included in efforts to mitigate and combat the pandemic’s impact. To support this vital work, the IOM Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific this week (29/04) launched its Regional Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan for USD 90.7 million.

Ethiopian Survivors of Migrant Truck Tragedy on 24 March Return via IOM Assistance (IOM)

It was a tragedy that shook the African continent: remains of 64 migrants from Ethiopia found locked in a container at the back of a truck, discovered on 24 March near Tete, Mozambique after crossing over the Malawi-Mozambique border.

IOM Maintains COVID-19 Support for Vulnerable Migrant Communities in Cyprus (IOM)

The number of COVID-19 case in Cyprus has dropped over the past three weeks (837 confirmed cases and 15 deaths overall) but the risk of infection persists among the most vulnerable communities on the island due to overcrowded living conditions, challenges in accessing basic services such as health, as well as communication barriers.

Bangladeshi Migrants Return Home from Libya With IOM’s Assistance (IOM)

More than 150 Bangladeshi migrants including conflict wounded, survivors of failed sea crossings to Europe and former detainees returned home from Libya Thursday morning with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme.

After ISIL, Agricultural Production Struggles to Recover in Parts of Iraq (IOM)

The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) occupied large swathes of Iraqi territory between 2014 and 2017. The consequences of this occupation are still being felt in many rural areas where agricultural production was used as both a source of political propaganda and income, or destroyed as the group was forced out, a new IOM report says.