MOGADISHU, May 5 (Xinhua) — The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has urgently appealed for funding to assist migrants facing life-threatening risks in Somalia.
Funding to assist migrants in the country has fallen drastically over the years, while the needs of the migrant population continue to increase due to climatic shocks, conflicts, and economic crises, the United Nations migration agency said. IOM Chief of Mission for Somalia Frantz Celestin said the agency needs 3 million U.S. dollars before the end of June, or at least 50,000 migrants who are passing through Somalia will be left without access to critical life-saving assistance each year.
“We will also be forced to close the Migration Response Centers (MRCs) in Bosaso and Hargeisa, which have been operational since 2009 and 2008 respectively, and assist an average of 10,000 migrants each year,” Celestin said in a statement issued in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Thursday evening. The MRCs are run by the Somali government and supported by the IOM, where stranded and transiting migrants can access free medical care, psychosocial support, water, food, clothes, information, family tracing, and a safe return option to their countries of origin.
The agency said these challenging circumstances are forcing thousands of people each year to go on perilous journeys out of the Horn of Africa in search of better opportunities in Gulf countries or Europe. With sufficient funding, the IOM said, it can work with the government to provide immediate assistance, raise awareness about the risks of such journeys and develop effective migration management strategies to promote reintegration, access to a safe return, and reception.
Somalia is a main transit country for thousands of migrants heading to Gulf countries, according to the IOM. Migrants travel through the country on foot or with the assistance of smugglers who often treat them inhumanely, some going as far as killing them, it said. “We are deeply concerned, especially as we are seeing more and more unaccompanied migrant children stranded. They don’t speak the language, have lost contact with their families, and often find themselves working under exploitative conditions or being forcibly married in the case of girls,” Celestin said.