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Assistance to Migrants Rescued at Sea in Tunisia

GENEVA, Switzerland, June 19, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — In the aftermath of the Libyan crisis, many migrant boats set sail from Libya with the hope of reaching Europe. Some of these boats were rescued off the Tunisian coast. The Tunisian Government requested IOM’s assistance in providing immediate humanitarian assistance and voluntary return to migrants wanting to return home. IOM coordinates its actions with the Tunisian authorities, the Tunisian Red Crescent, UNHCR, UNICEF and other stakeholders.

In total, since early 2014, 12 boats and 1,396 migrants were rescued at sea by the Tunisian authorities or Tunisian fishermen and IOM has supported local authorities and assisted 1,072 migrants with following interventions:

Provision of immediate assistance, such as the distribution of hygiene kits, clothes and the provision of medical assistance, including counselling as well as the provision of hot meals.

Identification of migrants and their needs and vulnerabilities by the IOM team while providing immediate assistance, advice and information about other assistance available. Particular attention is given to unaccompanied migrant children, ensuring that the determination of the best interest of the child is made in coordination with the competent national authorities and UNICEF.

Supporting authorities to provide emergency shelter, while durable solutions are found for them. This aspect requires significant coordination between Tunisian institutions, IOM and the Tunisian Red Crescent.

Out of the 1,072 migrants immediately assisted, about 50 per cent expressed the wish to return voluntarily to their country of origin. IOM has provided assistance tailored to the needs of the most vulnerable groups – including migrants with a medical condition, single mothers and pregnant women, the elderly, migrants in physical and/or psychological distress, migrants with disabilities, victims of trafficking and unaccompanied migrant children.

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In organizing their voluntary return, IOM establishes contacts with respective embassies for the issuance of travel documents. IOM further ensures transfer and airport assistance and organizes escorts when necessary. Finally, reintegration assistance is offered to the most vulnerable, in order to ensure a sustainable return to their country of origin.

In 2015 to date six boats with a total of 806 migrants were rescued off Tunisian shores. The most recent rescue by the Tunisian Navy occurred on 10 June, when 356 people were brought safely to shore. IOM, coordinating with other actors on the ground have been providing medical assistance, clothes and other non-food items and food. Today, 24 migrants will be safely returning home through IOM’s assisted voluntary return program. Twenty-three more migrants will be assisted to return home early next week.

Funding for these operations is provided thanks to the support of the European Union in the framework of the Regional Project “Stabilization of communities at risk and strengthening migration management in order to support the transitions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya”(START), as well as Switzerland and Norway.

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