Bandjou is a tiler from Guinea. He left home to seek work in Libya and stayed for 10 years, earning a living for himself and his family. When violence broke out in Libya, he decided that it was time to go back home and sought assistance to do so. In 2018, Bandjou left Libya and returned to Guinea through the Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). He is now back on his feet, heading up a tiling company with the reintegration support he received from the European Union (EU) and IOM. His initiative is also rippling out to fellow Guineans in the community.
“I was helped to build my business, and IOM motivated me to hire potential migrants, people without jobs in Guinea,” he explained. “Everyone needs help: if employment opportunities are not given to Guineans, many of them will leave. Today, I have eight employees.”
The EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration recognises that choosing to go back home is just one part of the story for migrants like Bandjou. Since its launch in December 2016, the EU-IOM Joint Initiative has focused on saving migrants’ lives and boosting protection, but also on offering migrants a dignified return to their homes and sustainable reintegration plans.
In that spirit, IOM has chosen ‘Migration with Dignity’ as the theme for this year’s International Migrants Day this year (18 December). In announcing the theme, IOM Director General António Vitorino called on the international community to safeguard the fundamental rights of all migrating peoples and their well-being in conditions of security and dignity.
Irregular migration can be a dangerous, degrading process that strips migrants of their intrinsic worth and rights as human beings. Too often, on the routes through Africa and across the Mediterranean, human smugglers, traffickers and others take advantage of migrants who are desperate to make a better living for themselves and their families abroad.
To avoid people putting their lives at risk, regular, safe and legal migration channels are needed. If migrants are able to migrate via regular channels, they can further their aspirations to rise above poverty, to seek better education and livelihoods for themselves and their families, to reunite with family members, or to escape social deprivation, conflict, violence and the effects of climate change. Migrants who are able to use regular and safe migration pathways go on to make contributions to their countries of destination and of origin, and thus the benefits are shared by all. Moreover, they are able to make their moves with dignity.
Rolled out with the backing of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa along the migration routes in partnership with 26 countries in Horn of Africa, North Africa, Sahel & Lake Chad regions, the EU-IOM Joint Initiative has done much to support migration with dignity in its first two years.
The EU-IOM Joint Initiative’s activities aim to humanise and dignify what is often (mis)represented as an undifferentiated mass phenomenon.
In Djibouti, IOM has worked in partnership with the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs on a study of street children, of whom the majority are migrant children, with the aim of strengthening common response to address their needs.
A migration path free from misinformation, coercion or force includes the choice to return in a dignified, safe, and supported manner. Returnees under the Joint Initiative do not arrive in their country of origin without being offered the means to start afresh, to regain footing with their families and communities and to make a productive contribution to society.
The Joint Initiative further empowers returnees through education, awareness and training.
In Sudan, the Joint Initiative engaged a local NGO to provide a basic “Start Your Business” training for returnees to promote self-sufficiency by helping them build capacity to find sustainable livelihood opportunities in their communities.
In Mauritania, 24 young people aged 14 to 17 from various cultural backgrounds participated in a one-week film-making workshop, where they learnt how to write and film short movies around topics such as cultural diversity and social cohesion.
Dignity is upheld when the media reports on migration, and migrants, in an informed, balanced, ethical, fact-based and humane way, mindful of the complexity of the reality and the humanity involved.
To that end, IOM has trained over 300 journalists in eight countries in the Sahel and Lake Chad region to strengthen media coverage on migration. Local journalists were given an overview of the regional migratory context and discussed protection issues when interviewing people in vulnerable situations (such as victims of trafficking, children or people with health concerns). IOM has also developed a media toolkit in both French and English.
Bringing people together through cultur
In the run-up to International Migrants Day and through IOM’s Global Migration Film Festival which started on 28 November, human dignity in migration is being celebrated with events and festivals across Africa.
The Joint initiative is supporting over 25 film screenings in Niger: in transit centres, migrants’ houses and cultural centres. The events will bring together ambassadors, officials, Nigerien youth and returnees. In Benin City, Nigeria, (the main city of origin for Nigerian migrants) over 100 returnees who had attended business skills training under the Joint Initiative also attended 25 festival screenings. Over 300 people including government officials, migrant beneficiaries, and students will attend screenings in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.
In total, over 100 screenings in over 20 countries are planned across West and Central Africa, the Horn of Africa and North Africa, many with Joint Initiative support.
In Nairobi, Kenya the EU-IOM Joint Initiative will be represented at the PAWA festival, designed to address the challenge of unemployment among vulnerable or disadvantaged young people specifically in the creative industry. A further two events will take place in Djibouti, one in Sudan and five in Ethiopia, including in migrant response and transit centres.
The EU-IOM Joint Initiative has made great strides to ensure that migration policy is about the dignity and well-being of migrants and their communities, rather than a narrow, short-term focus on reducing numbers.
But we are not there yet. In our third year we will keep working to serve the shared interest of people on both sides of the Mediterranean.