Returnees boarding their return flight to Kathmandu and New Delhi (IOM Cyprus)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus, in coordination with IOM Nepal and IOM India, organized the voluntary return Saturday (19/09) of 63 Nepali and 21 Indian nationals.

Their flight left Larnaca bound for Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India, where the first group of passengers disembarked, after which the remaining returnees continued to Nepal’s Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu.

The mixed group of men and women mainly were students no longer able to pay college fees in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the national economy and human mobility as well as travel restrictions compelled many migrants to turn to IOM for daily subsistence and support to voluntarily return to their countries,” explained Natasa Xenophontos Koudouna, Head of Office for IOM Cyprus.

“Following the migrants’ registration with IOM to voluntarily return—and thanks to the cooperation with government authorities in Cyprus, Nepal and India—all were happy to help the stranded migrants to voluntarily return to their homes,” IOM’s Xenophontos Koudouna added.

Prior to their departure, all returnees were tested for COVID-19. On flight day, IOM Cyprus staff members assisted the returnees with all airport procedures and one-time cash assistance was given to each as a contribution to their initial expenses upon arrival and immediate needs, chiefly onward travel to their home communities.

Respective governments are ready to receive them and apply all necessary COVID-19 measures as applicable in each country of origin.

“We are glad to extend our support to Nepali migrants in need. An IOM Nepal team was present at the airport to assist them through immigration in coordination with the country’s COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre and other relevant authorities,” said IOM Nepal Chief of Mission Lorena Lando.

She added: “IOM Nepal has been regularly assisting vulnerable Nepali migrants for their return and reintegration ever since IOM was established in the country in 2007.”

During the flight, all passengers were required to wear masks and gloves. Upon arrival in both Kathmandu and New Delhi, one-pagers were distributed, explaining COVID-19 measures, reintegration support and how to contact IOM and the respective country offices.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, 36 migrants have voluntarily returned from Cyprus to eight countries of origin via commercial flights with IOM’s assistance, the latter including the provision of all necessary travel documents in collaboration with the relevant consular authorities.

ΙΟΜ Cyprus has been implementing the AVRR program since 2016, having assisted more than 600 migrants to voluntarily return to their countries of origin. The program is co-funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and the Republic of Cyprus.

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