In 2014, UNHCR Niger launched the second operation to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of Malian refugees. The process begin with urban refugees in Niamey and will concerned any areas where refugees seek UNHCR assistance to return.
Sensitize and inform
“Good morning dear moms, dads, sisters and brothers. Welcome you all." This is how Maurice, voluntary repatriation coordinator in Niger, affectionately begins all meetings with refugees before leaving the floor to an elder or an imam for the Fatiha1. But today is a special day. The meeting aims to inform urban refugees in Niamey on voluntary repatriation.
For some time, requests for repatriation are made by refugees. For UNHCR as well as the Niger government, the situation in northern Mali does not allow for a promotion of return. But the free and informed decision of the refugees must prevail. The responsibility of UNHCR is to sensitize and inform. Maurice insists again and again on the fact that the choice to return is unique to each person, each adult member of the household, and once they cross the border, they will become again Malian citizens under the protection of their country.
As individual assistance comes to an end, many of them are looking forward to community interventions in their areas of origin they might be beneficiaries.
In the meeting room of the One-Stop-Shop, reception center of all urban refugees of Niamey, the attention is deep, the audience is silent. Each statement by Maurice and translated by Kili Wala (refugee and volunteer at the One-Stop-Shop) is punctuated by the approval through the typical guttural sound of people living on both sides of the border between Niger and Mali. When comes time for questions, there is a hustle in the room. We must continue to explain and explain again, and this until everyone has both feet on the bus that will take them home.