Minsk — The International Organization for Migration (IOM), with support from the European Union, continues to assist people on the move with various solutions, including safe, voluntary and dignified return home. In the early hours of 22 March, in coordination with the Government of Iraq, a charter flight organized by IOM for migrants returning to Iraq through the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme departed; the flight was arranged within the European Union funded project “Helping Belarus address the phenomenon of increasing numbers of irregular migrants”.
In autumn of 2021, Belarus saw a significant increase in the number of vulnerable migrants. Thousands of migrants, including many Iraqi nationals, became stranded on Belarusian territory. IOM scaled up its activities; established a presence in Hrodna (a city close to the Belarus-Poland border); and regularly visited the logistics facility where initially over a thousand of migrants were residing temporarily to deliver humanitarian assistance and register those wishing to return home for the AVRR programme. People who applied for AVRR were transported to the Belarusian capital of Minsk, where they went through medical check-ups, received pre-departure assistance and flew to their countries of origin on commercial flights.
Seeing renewed interest in returns to Iraq, IOM organized a charter flight from Minsk directly to Erbil, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
We are exhausted. Besides, my son got ill. When we reached out to IOM doctors for help, we also learned about the opportunity to return home and couldn’t miss out on it,
says Shaker, a father of four from Erbil Governorate.
Prior to departure, every returnee underwent a pre-embarkation check which included COVID-19 PCR testing, a COVID-19 symptoms check, a physical examination, and the identification of any urgent medical interventions that could prevent the person from traveling. All applicants were declared fit to travel, and they safely landed at the Erbil International Airport on the morning of 22 March. The returnees were met by IOM staff upon arrival and were provided with onward transportation to Dohuk, Sulaymaniyah and Erbil by the airport authorities. IOM in Iraq, notably with European Union funding, will provide eligible returnees with post-arrival and reintegration support, including individual counselling, economic reintegration assistance, and support accessing specialised services including mental health and psychosocial support.
In Iraq, I will go back to my work and will put all my efforts to care about the family,
Ismail, salesman from Dohuk Governorate, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, adds:
Wherever you live, wherever you are, there is no place better than home. My family is happy that we are going back and that we will meet our relatives and friends
The European Union and IOM will continue to provide AVRR services; more charter flights can be planned to assist those migrants remaining in Belarus who voluntary decide to return home.
For more information, please contact Hanna Kalichava, IOM Belarus Public Information Assistant: firstname.lastname@example.org, +375(29)568-44-94.