IOM Begins Central African Republic Airlift of Stranded Malian Migrants

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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IOM Begins Central African Republic Airlift of Stranded Malian Migrants

GENEVA, Switzerland, January 14, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM today hopes to begin an airlift to evacuate some 550 Malian migrants stranded by fighting in the Central Africa Republic (CAR), following a request from the Malian government.

The IOM airlift, which will involve two rotations between Bangui in the CAR and Bamako in Mali, will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday (14 and 15/1.) The flight time between the two capitals is five hours.

The operation follows three earlier IOM charter flights completed this weekend (11 and 12/1) to evacuate some 800 Chadian nationals from Bangui to N'Djamena, the Chadian capital, at the request of the Chad government.

The conflict in the CAR has already displaced close to a million people nationwide and over half a million in Bangui. At least 100,000 people are living in squalid conditions in a transit site at the airport and hundreds of migrants are sheltering from the violence at their embassies.

Over 60,000 migrants have already asked their embassies to help them to leave the country since the beginning of the crisis and at least 33,000 still need to be evacuated, according to IOM staff in Bangui.

IOM Bangui Emergency Coordinator François Goemans says that the numbers could increase as more migrants seek help. The Chadian government, for example, has already increased its initial estimate of 48,000 of its nationals in need of assistance to over 100,000.

“The conditions endured by the migrants and displaced local people are equally bad. Thousands of people have been living in makeshift camps for weeks with very little food and water and virtually no sanitation,” he notes.

Mali has already evacuated 541 of an estimated 3,000 Malian citizens living in the CAR. But the Malian embassy in Bangui says that there are at least 750 more in a dire situation who need to be evacuated urgently.

Most of the Malian evacuees to date have been women and children and have lived in the CAR for many years. Some were even born there, according to IOM Mali Chief of Mission Bakary Doumbia, whose team met the first evacuation flights on arrival in Bamako.

“Many do not speak Bambara (the Malian language) and several of them had never visited Mali prior to their evacuation,” he says.

“Many are destitute on arrival and traumatized by the violence that they have seen. They will need a lot of assistance to be fully reintegrated into Malian society and we are working with the Malian authorities to assess their needs and see how we can best help to meet them,” he adds.

Mali is one of several African countries asking IOM for help to evacuate their nationals from the CAR and reintegrate them when they arrive home. Chad, Niger, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have asked for similar assistance. Senegal, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Cameroon and Somalia have all asked for post arrival and reintegration assistance.

IOM has launched a CAR appeal for USD 17.5 million, of which USD 10 million will finance the evacuation by air of a total of 10,000 migrants. The remaining USD 7.5 million will fund the reintegration of 50,000 others in their countries of origin.