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Sudan and Niger – an Exchange of Voluntary Returnees

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Two sets of voluntary migrant returns undertaken over the last few weeks best illustrate Sudan’s position as a country of origin, transit and destination.

Geographically Sudan is among Africa’s largest countries. It straddles several mixed migration routes and connects West and East Africa on the main routes to Europe via Libya or Egypt – two of its neighbouring countries.

In October 2021, 48 Sudanese nationals received assistance to return from Niger. A few weeks before, 50 migrants were supported to leave Sudan - in two separate movements – to their communities of origin in Niger.

Financial assistance for all such voluntary returns – both in Sudan and Niger - was provided through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Return and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa (“the EU-IOM Joint Initiative”).

The 48 Sudanese returnees were all men who had been in Niger for varying lengths of time. One of them was Yaseen Ibrahim who is in his twenties. "After injuring my legs in a car accident, I just wanted to return. When I reunite with my family, I will be able to heal," he said.

On the other hand, the 50 Nigeriens were mostly farm workers who had been living in Gedaref State near the border with Ethiopia.

Among them was 29-year-old Lalob who returned to Niger with her five children when the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic situation in Sudan worsened her situation.

"I lost my job as a farmworker, and my children were unable to attend school; my hope is that when we return to our homeland they will be able to complete their education,” she said.

Agricultural workers like Lalob are just one category of migrants living in Sudan. But many make the trip seasonally. Gedaref is the hub for cotton, cereals, sesame seeds, and fodder - all produced in the surrounding area.

Lalob spoke as she and 19 others boarded a bus that was to take them to Khartoum where the Migration Resource and Response (MRRC) would support them with temporary accommodation as they prepared for the flight to Niger.

The MRRC - one of several such centres run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) - was also able to support the migrants with pre-departure counselling, PCR tests, airport immigration protocols and flight boarding assistance to N'Djamena, Nigerien capital, where officers from the local IOM office were to provide them with further support.

Another 30 returnees were supported to travel back to Niger in late September.

Just like Sudan itself, Gedaref is both a destination and transit location for migrants, especially from Ethiopia, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Since January 2021, IOM, through the MRRC in Gedaref, has facilitated the movement of 84 returnees in coordination with the Khartoum MRRC. This was in support of migrants' assisted voluntary return to their countries of origin.

A total of 50 migrants have returned from Gedaref to Niger so far in 2021 while another 103 were due to leave the state in October and November.

Upon arrival in their countries of origin, returnees are supported to re-establish their lives based on vulnerability assessments that are conducted to identify their unique needs and vulnerabilities. Then they are provided with tailored reintegration support which may include assistance to establish a micro-business or to enroll in a vocational training programme, along with psychosocial counseling and business skills training, to name a few. The EU-IOM Joint Initiative also covers education costs for child returnees.

Sudanese returnees, along with their families, have one more benefit: they are enrolled for National Health Insurance which is offered in partnership with the Sudanese authorities.

About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative

Launched in December 2016 with the support of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, along with the European Union and the International Organization for Migration, around the goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.

For more information please contact: Wilson Johwa, email: wjohwa@iom.int or Linda Onias, email: lonias@iom.int