- A group of 63 stranded and rescued Gambians whose efforts to reach the European shores have been aborted, were assisted by the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) to return home voluntarily, which was in response to a growing number of requests for help.
"The Gambians had set out on the perilous journey to the Canary Islands on 6 May from the Senegalese capital, Dakar, in a 30 metre-long boat along with 58 others, mostly Senegalese, irregular migrants. Each passenger had paid about US$700 for the voyage," the IOM officials said.
After two weeks at sea and having run out of fuel, the patched wooden boat had been blown towards the African coast by a storm. A nearby fishing vessel alerted the Moroccan authorities of the distressed boat and its passengers.
After their rescue at sea, the rescued migrants were left with battling life without money and papers. Migrants could not withstand this and decided to seek assistance to return home. With funds from the British, German and Spanish governments, the migrants' repatriation was coordinated by the IOM, Moroccan and Gambian authorities.
IOM officials said since the opening of their office in Rabat, Morocco, in January 2007, the number of requests made by irregular migrants wishing to return to their home countries has been unprecedented.
“In just a few months, IOM has helped 640 irregular migrants stranded in Morocco, not just with returning home safely, but also with reintegration assistance,” IOM’s Chief of Mission in Rabat, Stéphane Rostiaux, concurred.
“However, we urgently need additional funds if we are to continue providing such humanitarian assistance. Without it, we will have to limit our help before eventually stopping it. We don’t want to raise false hopes amongst stranded migrants wanting to go home but who have few options of doing so safely.”
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