From file: Migrants wearing face masks board an airplane to voluntarily return to Iraq, at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens, Greece, 6 August 2020 | Photo: Archive EPA / YANNIS KOLESIDIS
From file: Migrants wearing face masks board an airplane to voluntarily return to Iraq, at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens, Greece, 6 August 2020 | Photo: Archive EPA / YANNIS KOLESIDIS

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced that nearly 50,000 migrants have voluntarily returned to their countries of origin in 2021, an increase of 18% compared to 2020.

Nearly 50,000 migrants received voluntary return assistance to return to their countries of origin, and over 113,000 reintegration activities were supported at the global level in 2021 through the UN migration agency IOM. That's according to the agency's 2021 annual report published on July 28.

"Last year saw an increase in global mobility. However, due to COVID-19, the numbers are still low compared to pre-pandemic levels," stated IOM in a note.

Last year, the UN agency helped 49,795 migrants return to their countries of origin, which represents an 18% increase compared to 2020. Among these, 6,367 migrants were assisted within the framework of the Humanitarian Voluntary Return (HVR) program run by IOM, a form of applied repatriation assistance in humanitarian contexts.

European economic area, the main hosting area

The main countries to experience repatriation were Guinea (5,165 people), Mali (4,453 people), Ethiopia (3,934 people) and Nigeria (3,322 people).

Just like the previous year, the European economic area was found to be the main hosting region in 2021, with 16,993 migrants who received voluntary repatriation assistance toward their countries of origin.

Niger remained the main hosting country with a total of 10,573 voluntary repatriated assisted migrants, according to IOM, representative of an increasing trend of repatriation from transit countries to other hosting countries outside the European economic area.

"This report highlights the capability of IOM to meet the growing requests by a part of the migrants for safe and a dignified return home, and the organization's support to migrants once they are repatriated following the revoked travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic," stated Yitna Getachew, IOM Head of the Protection Department.

Over 113K reintegration activities

According to the UN agency, the reintegration "is a key aspect of the voluntary repatriation programs assistance, offering those who return opportunities and to promote sustainable development in their countries of origin."

In 2022, the 121 IOM offices across the world reportedly helped 113,331 reintegration activities at individual, community and structural level.

Overall, the top three countries, including those hosting and countries of origin, that offered reintegration support in 2021, were Germany (15%), Nigeria (12%) and Guinea (8%).

The support was mainly through social and economic assistance and consultancy services aimed at reintegration.

 

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