|Almost 2,000 stranded Chadian students are receiving assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to return home safely from Cameroon. IOM is working in partnership with the European Union and the government of Chad. |
The Chadians, who were studying in neighbouring Cameroon, decided to come home after the COVID-19 spread to that country. Many reached the border on foot, crossing into the Chadian provinces of Logone Occidental and Mayo-Kebbi Ouest.
Upon their arrival, the students were quarantined for 14 days along the border. None tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Nonetheless, most now find themselves without resources to continue their journeys to the capital N’Djamena, 450 kilometres from the quarantine centres.
IOM, at the request of the Government of Chad, supported the students with transportation, chartering special buses headed back to their communities of origin.
“What a journey! I went to a travel agency in Yaoundé to pay for my transportation with my own money to go to the Far North, in Yagoua,” says Abacar, one of the students who is enrolled in a Masters’ degree on Human rights and humanitarian action in Yaoundé.
“They took my temperature in Yaoundé then I took a bus to Yagoua,” he continued. “Then, I paid for a moto taxi to take me to the Bangor river border and finally I took a pirogue to the gendarmerie station where they called an ambulance to take me to the isolation centre in Chad.”
The EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, is the first comprehensive mechanism to protect migrants in West and Central Africa. The fund made a special allocation of 50,000 Euros through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa that allows these students to return home.
Cameroon is one of the African countries most affected by the coronavirus. In a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic, Cameroon closed its land borders on 18 March. IOM believes thousands are stranded in the country’s northern regions, where universities have large numbers of foreign students, particularly from Chad.
With 46 cases of COVID-19 — yet no fatality- confirmed as of 27 April — Chad, too, has closed its land and air borders, schools, universities, religious buildings and non-essential businesses. Public transport is strictly limited. Several provinces are enforcing curfews. IOM is working closely with Chad’s government and other partners to ensure that the most vulnerable population groups are protected and assisted.
“Since the borders closed, we have been informed of regular arrivals of Chadian nationals in the country,” said Anne Kathrin Schaefer, IOM Chief of Mission in Chad. “This worries us; as most here have no opportunities to safely return to their families after having used their meagre resources to purchase food, water and other essentials during their quarantine period.”
Measures taken by governments to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in West and Central Africa have left more than 10,000 migrants stranded at borders or waiting in transit centres across the region. To sustain humanitarian operations, the EU-IOM Joint Initiative is working towards securing humanitarian corridors in countries of origin and of transit. Additionally, it is helping to find solutions to bring to safety thousands of migrants waiting in transit centres.
“When the Covid-19 crisis ends and if I find the means, I have no other option than to return to Cameroon to complete my studies,” said Maiguididigui, a Chadian woman who had been studying modern literature in Yaoundé. “I’m so glad that we are being assisted to return home. We were all wondering how we would do to reach our towns”.