An agency of the United Nations, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Turkey and the European Union (EU) Delegation in partnership with the Government of Turkey, have launched a new phase of a project that provides assistance to migrants living in Turkey who opt to return to their country of origin.
The Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) of Irregular Migrants in Turkey project helps migrants get home and settled in a safe and dignified way.
Turkey, the world’s largest migrant and refugee-hosting country, hosts over four million migrants, seeking a different life from the instability, uncertainty and poverty they have left behind.
Many struggle to integrate due to legal, financial, and language barriers, or lack of support. There comes a time when they realise they cannot continue to stay in Turkey and that going home is the best option.
This was true for Zarghona Balkhi and her young daughter Raihan who IOM helped return from Turkey to Afghanistan.
After a two-week ordeal organised by smugglers crossing Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Turkey, they arrived in Istanbul with Zarghona’s son (Raihan’s older brother) who later disappeared just weeks later.
“I tried to find work here but without speaking Turkish and not having an education, it is too difficult for me. My son was my only livelihood and without him it is impossible to stay,” said Zarghona. With IOM assistance, Zarghona and Raihan returned to their home city of Mazar-i-Sharif and were reunited with their family.
“Safe options for migrants to return home are crucial, without the stigma of deportation. AVRR assistance brings a complementary option for stranded or vulnerable migrants to return home in dignity and safety with the opportunity to reintegrate sustainably in their home communities,” says Lado Gvilava, IOM Turkey’s Chief of Mission.
Through the programme, migrants can make an informed decision and take ownership of the voluntary return process. In addition, through IOM’s vast network of offices worldwide, returnees can receive tailored support to overcome challenges relating to their reintegration or address specific vulnerabilities that they face.
The new phase of the project will be implemented together with the Turkish Ministry of Interior, the Directorate General of Migration Management (DGMM), and the Central Financing and Contracting Unit (CFCU) and will aim to assist a minimum of 3,500 migrants to be provided with assistance, with approximately 20 per cent of the most vulnerable to be provided with reintegration support.
IOM will also implement a series of capacity-building activities and study visits, with to support DGMM’s efforts to strengthen the national AVRR mechanism in line with national and international standards.
IOM has a long history and extensive experience implementing AVRR programmes since 1979, running projects in all regions of the world. In 2015, IOM assisted 69,540 migrants to return (the highest level for the past 15 years) from 97 host/transit countries to 156 countries of origin.
In Turkey specifically, IOM has helped 8,098 stranded migrants with assisted voluntary return and 438 with reintegration assistance from 2009–2018. Working alongside government partners, IOM AVRR programming is guided by the principles of voluntariness, migrant-centred response, safety, sustainability of reintegration, confidentiality, and evidence-informed programming.