A boat carrying migrants from Tunisia to Italy. | Photo: EPA/JOSE SENA GOULAO
A boat carrying migrants from Tunisia to Italy. | Photo: EPA/JOSE SENA GOULAO

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted in the voluntary repatriation of a first group of migrants who survived shipwrecks off the coast of Tunisia between May 10 and May 12, as part of an assisted voluntary return program.

The first group of migrants, 18 of which come from Bangladesh and one Egyptian, left Tunisia for their respective countries of origin. They departed on May 20 and 22 from Tunis Airport after surviving shipwrecks off the coast of Tunisia, which claimed dozens of lives, earlier in the month. The return is a part of an assisted voluntary return program by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The IOM announced the news in a statement in which it said there were 85 survivors of the shipwrecks in all. Among the survivors were 34 Somalians, 28 Bangladeshis and 12 from African countries including Eritrea, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt and Tunisia.

'Urgent need was ensuring medical treatment'

The IOM, together with the Tunisian Red Crescent, was involved from the beginning when the survivors arrived in Sfax and Zarzis."The urgent need above all was ensuring the necessary medical treatment to the migrants and providing them temporary lodging in dignified conditions," said Daghrir Rabi, head of the IOM delegation in Sfax.

The Center for Classification and Social Orientation in Sfax took care of 15 unaccompanied minors, thanks to joint efforts by the Tunisian Ministry for Social Affairs and delegates for the protection of minors. In the meantime, various civil society organizations were able to accommodate 13 young women and minors in Tunis.

IOM facilitates contact with families

In addition to providing medical care, the IOM also facilitated contact with families of origin, in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). As of now, about 20 of the migrant survivors - from Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, and Egypt - have applied for refugee status. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is assisting them in their efforts. Many other survivors expressed the desire to return to their families in their countries of origin.


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