Fifty-three migrant family groups comprising 64 children, 29 women and 33 men were last week air-lifted from the city of Matamoros (Tamaulipas, Mexico) to San Pedro Sula (Honduras). The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a United Nations agency, organised a charter flight for the 126 migrants who expressed their decision to return voluntarily to their country of origin.
IOM deployed all efforts and collaborated closely with the Honduran Embassy in Mexico and with the National Migration Institute of Mexico to arrange for this first charter flight in its Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) programme.
In the days preceding departure, with the support of its Shelter Support programme and local partners, IOM provided migrants with accommodation and food.
According to its internal protocols, IOM ensured that all migrants were made aware of all processes so that all decisions could be taken based on complete information. Further, IOM verifies that persons who express a desire to return do not face any immediate risks upon arrival.
“I made the decision to return to my country because of the situation I faced with my son; because promises made to us by the ‘coyotes’ are not fulfilled, and we risk our lives along the way”, said a young mother on board the flight.
“When we finally crossed the border into the USA, they took us back to Matamoros in Mexico, where I spent eight days in a shelter. There, we saw IOM and we learned about different options. But I want to see my other daughter now, so I decided to return home.”
“Something I want to say is that if I ever migrate again, I will look for information before leaving, because many people simply give money which we do not really have to ‘coyotes’ or guides, who takes advantage of us”, said another Honduran migrant who decided to return due to the difficult conditions in the Mexican border city.
“After considering our options, we found the shelter supported by IOM who helped us out by giving us food and a place to stay, and the possibility of return.”
“IOM has been providing support to shelters to increase their capacity along with the option of assisted voluntary returns by bus and commercial flights over the last months”, explained Christopher Gascon, IOM Chief of Mission in Mexico. “This is the first return by charter flight, which offers a better service to migrants who want to return home. We hope to provide many more charter flights in the weeks to come.”
The IOM Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR) programme offers an alternative for an orderly, safe and dignified voluntary return for migrants. IOM offers humanitarian assistance to those who cannot or do not wish to remain in Mexico. Voluntariness is a key principle of IOM AVR programmes worldwide.