European Union External Action

Migration: EU-IOM joint work gives migrants hope for new start in home countries

07/08/2018 - 08:30

More than 32,000 stranded and vulnerable migrants were supported to voluntarily return to their countries of origin and over 44,000 migrants have received assistance upon arrival since the start of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative. The Joint Initiative was vital for Pierre-Roland, Helène and Jean-Marc, and many others, to be reintegrated into their country.

International Organization for Migration, migration, EU-IOM

The EU and its Member States have progressively put in place an external migration policy which makes the saving of lives of migrants and refugees, the breaking of the smugglers' and traffickers' business model, the establishment of legal pathways as well as the addressing of root causes of irregular migration top priorities.

Important progress has been made on several strands “Our policies in the last year or so have started to produce results. Now they need to be sustained", High Representative / Vice-President Mogherini said upon arrival to the June European Council meeting.

To that end, the European Union works closely together with partner countries and international organisations, such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR.

In 2016, the EU, through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, and with contributions from Germany and Italy, launched with the IOM the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration. The AU-EU-UN Joint Taskforce, established in November 2017, is another example of successful cooperation and partnership to save and protect lives along the routes, in particular inside Libya, which builds on the work done by countries of origin, the IOM, and which is supported by EU funding.

The EU-IOM Joint Initiative aims to provide increased protection and assistance for vulnerable and stranded migrants, assist voluntary humanitarian return, support them towards sustainable reintegration and enable them to make informed decisions about their migratory journey. Awareness raising and information actions as well as improved data on migration flows and routes are equally part of the Joint Initiative's actions.

The Joint Initiative has three regional components, covering Central and West Africa, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Since the start of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative 44,000 migrants have received reintegration assistance which includes amongst others direct support on arrival, the formulation and implementation of reintegration plans as well as monitoring and evaluation of the impact of reintegration assistance.

In early July the Government of Cameroon, in partnership with the EU and the IOM, celebrated the first anniversary of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for the protection and reintegration of Cameroonian migrants. Around 2,000 migrants have been supported in their return, almost 1,500 have received care and more than 700 have been supported in their economic reintegration.

Pierre Roland, a 24-year-old Cameroonian, decided to go to Europe, passing through Nigeria, Niger and Libya, when he was unable to find a job as a primary school teacher. In Libya he felt into the arms of traffickers and faced multiple hardships, such as imprisonment, physical violence and psychological abuse. His immediate wish was to return to Cameroon. Thanks to the EU-IOM Joint Initiative he received medical care at the Central Hospital in Yaoundé, psychological support to help him come to terms with his return as well as to commit to his new path – to build a life for him at home. He received support to set up a project for the supply and sale of metallic scouring pads in the Mfoundi market.

International Organization for Migration, migration, EU-IOM

He strongly hopes that other young Cameroonians who consider taking dangerous journeys would take his experience as an example: "I encourage young people to take the money with which they intend to fund their venture to Europe and instead invest it in entrepreneurship."

EU cooperation with countries of origin to give people opportunities at home and fight instability, poverty, climate change and violence is a vital element of the EU's comprehensive external migration policy. The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa benefits a wide range of African countries that encompass the major migration routes to Europe. Important initiatives are being financed under the EUTF which aim at supporting all aspects of stability, forced displacement and irregular migration. Over 3 million people receive basic social services and more than 142,000 have been assisted to develop economic income generating activities.

Ahead of the June European Council meeting Mogherini also reminded of the importance to close the funding gap so that work can continue. "These are projects that have an impact on the ground, they have been producing results so far but obviously, we need to sustain them over time, to consolidate these results in a sustainable, humane and respectful of human rights' way", she underlined. The European Council decided to transfer EUR 500 million from the 11th European Development Fund reserve to the EUTF and called upon Member States to contribute further to the EUTF.

The stories of Helène and Jean-Marc show that every action counts. Helène could hardly make ends meet for her daughter and herself and decided to leave Cameroon. After having faced many very difficult moments Helène returned from Libya with the help of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative. After the approval of her business plan she received financial support to open her own hair salon.

International Organization for Migration, migration, EU-IOM


Jean-Marc, also a returnee from Libya, opened a bookshop at the Mokolo market in Yaoundé. 

International Organization for Migration, migration, EU-IOM


Saving and protecting lives is the EU's most urgent priority. Sustainable reintegration is another one. The stories of Pierre Roland, Helène and Jean-Marc are three personal stories which show the positive impact of the EU-IOM partnership. "Thousands were given the opportunity to go back home in a dignified voluntary way, and to begin a new life – thanks to the European Union. We have, I believe, a responsibility to also look at these stories.", the High Representative / Vice-President said. Challenges remain and the EU, together with its partners, continues to work that the actions deliver results and have an impact on the people in need.           


Main Photo: ©IOM-OIM