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COVID-19: A year on

A year into the pandemic, the impact of COVID-19 on return and reintegration persists © Shutterstock
Almost a year into the coronavirus pandemic, we take stock of the latest developments among ERRIN reintegration partners around the world

While the situation in Europe still remains dire, the impact of COVID-19 on the decreased return numbers persists. ERRIN service partners continue to indicate their readiness to receive more returnees once this is possible and remain on stand-by to provide service.

In Afghanistan, the local IRARA office has resumed regular operations to the best of their ability. Service delivery continues without disruptions in Somalia and Somaliland. With winter coming to Bangladesh and COVID-19 infection numbers raising, returnees are encouraged to avoid face-to-face meetings and use online channels to get in touch with the partners. Repatriation flights to Sri Lanka have resumed again, but field visits to project locations are on hold and the Western Province of the country is still under a lockdown.

In the majority of African countries where Caritas operates, the offices of local ERRIN partners re- opened again. Ghana and Gambia are facing more precarious situations, with limited possibility to conduct in-person meetings with returnees; same applies to Niger, which in addition to the pandemic is struggling with seasonal flooding. As for the other parts of the world covered by Caritas, Brazil has returned to regular service delivery. The situation remains stable in the Eastern Neighbourhood and Central Asia. India and Nepal are slowly getting back to normal as the measures are getting more relaxed, but with the latter still accepting no repatriation flights.

Despite the impacts of the recent conflict, the office in Armenia remains open by appointment. The local staff follows-up with returnees mostly virtually and predicts possible disruptions in assistance due to the current situation in the country. The airports remain operational, but commodity prices are on the rise.

Within the framework of the ERRIN pilot project in Cameroon, Senegal, Mali and Morocco, OFII is facing disruptions in Mali, as the office in Bamako remains closed. Travels between regions and major cities in Morocco are severely restricted, so are visits to locations. Exceptionally, due to the pandemic, OFII can make cash transfers to the returnees instead of providing in kind assistance. In Senegal, additional social assistance to cover for medical fees, rent and other basic needs has been provided to returnees.

Our partners in Iraq (ETTC) and Pakistan (WELDO) report that the situation in both countries is stable, with no restrictions impeding the support provided to ERRIN beneficiaries.

It should be noted that the majority of the ERRIN service partners are reporting increases in commodity and normal household items and consumables. At the same time, the service partners are attempting to provide as much guidance as possible to small business owners supported through the ERRIN programme to sustain their activity during the pandemic.

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