GENEVA, Switzerland, March 14, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM organized an evacuation flight on Wednesday morning for 106 Mauritanians fleeing violence in the Central African Republic (CAR). Over half of the evacuees were children. A second flight for another 101 Mauritanians is scheduled for this morning (14/3).
The flights, which are sponsored by the Government of Mauritania, rely on IOM to provide registration, fit for travel health screening, ground transportation, boarding assistance, coordination with airport authorities and civil-military coordination.
When the first flight arrived in Nouakchott, Mauritania on Wednesday, the returnees were received by IOM Mauritania staff, government representatives and family and friends.
Mauritania has also agreed to bring out Malian nationals and this morning’s flight will stop in Bamako, Mali to drop off 27 Malians before continuing on to Mauritania.
On Wednesday IOM four buses escorted by Sangaris French Military Forces moved the evacuees from the Mauritanian Consulate to M’Poko Airport in Bangui. People along the street jeered at the convoy and shooting was heard in the vicinity.
The Car has become a dangerous place for foreign nationals, who are sometimes accused of supporting the armed rebel group ex-Seleka. Fourteen of the passengers on the flight were evacuated from Boda, where Muslims are trapped in an encampment surrounded by the armed group anti-Balaka.
More than 100 of the Mauritanians choosing to evacuate had been living in Bria, in eastern Car. They heard reports that the anti-Balaka were coming and decided to flee. One Mauritanian man who had been living in Bria for 20 years, running an import-export business said: “All the Muslims and foreign nationals have fled Bria. We were scared that the anti-Balaka would come for us, so we had to leave as well.”
Two brothers, Assan and Masur, who had been living and working in CAR for 10 years as food distributors fled with their wives and total of six children. “We’re leaving because of the anti-Balaka. They don’t like Muslims. We lost everything. Now we are going back to Mauritania. We will see what God can do for us,” said Assan.
The Mauritanian High Ambassador based in Nouakchott and the Chief Mauritanian Consul to Equatorial Guinea travelled to Bangui to facilitate the movement.
IOM has evacuated a total of 6,153 third country nationals from CAR. It is also carrying out mapping to identify and locate third country nationals still at risk in the country to address their protection and humanitarian needs.
The Organization is appealing for USD 17.5 million to evacuate stranded migrants and assist communities in need in CAR. IOM has already allocated USD 3.1 million from its own (MEFM) emergency fund. The United States Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) has contributed 1.5 million USD to replenish the fund.
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