DAKAR, April 3 (Xinhua) — Closing borders in West and Central Africa amid the COVID-19 crisis “can have a catastrophic impact on families living on frontier trades,” Florence Kim, a spokesperson of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told Xinhua here on Friday.
“The closing of land and air borders in almost the entire region necessarily has an impact on mobility, whether regular or irregular,” said the spokesperson for the IOM in West and Central Africa, adding that “the region is characterized by cross-border economic activities. People cross the border sometimes several times a day to go to sell, buy, etc.”
“Closing borders can have a devastating effect on these families who make a living from this activity,” Kim said. “But some border posts have remained open, allowing this trade that supports the entire families.”
According to her, during this difficult COVID-19 period, her organization has adapted its activities to the context like any other humanitarian actor. “For us, the priority is that all migrants who are currently in transit, such as in Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali or Chad and who cannot return home, receive immediate assistance from us,” said Kim.
She indicated there are currently more than 2,500 migrants waiting in IOM transit centers to return to their homes in the sub-region.
“These people are very frustrated that they have to stay days or even weeks confined inside the centers. It is very difficult psychologically. We try to provide them with psychosocial support and entertainment activities,” she said.
Kim added that people must not forget that there are also 5 million internally displaced people (IDP) in the region, especially in Burkina Faso and northeastern Nigeria.
“These people often live in precarious conditions. It is vital that we continue our prevention and awareness-raising efforts to avoid spreading inside the IDP sites and centers,” said Kim.
“For years now, we have been training border agents and carrying out simulation exercises at airports,” she added. “For the moment, it is essential that we can continue our prevention activities, and that we continue to deliver the necessary aid for thousands of people. A humanitarian corridor would then be one of the only possible options to allow it.”