IOM Azerbaijan assists stranded migrants due to COVID-19 to return homeland

# 13:40
31 August 2020

The United Nations Migration Agency - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Azerbaijan organized and covered the costs of PCR testing for coronavirus (COVID-19) and provided other relevant assistance needed for 69 Sri-Lankan citizens in Azerbaijan who are planning to return to their country of origin, IOM Azerbaijan told APA

A group leader of the Sri Lankan migrants, Anuruddha Pathirathne said that after they had spent their last money on flight tickets they found out that only passengers with a certificate of negative COVID-19 test result issued within 48 hours before departure are allowed to board the flight. “These people are students of local universities and their family members. Since these people had to remain at home during quarantine regime for four months, and those who earned money could not go to work, most of their financial status were in dire state. That’s why they could not cover PCR test at their own expense,” says Pathirathne. 

Therefore, they turned to the local IOM Mission for help.

“The situation was worsened by the fact that Sri Lanka does not have an embassy in Azerbaijan to help them. It was necessary to conduct PCR tests and sort out immigration matters for Sri Lankans in a short time prior to the departure, since many had already bought flight tickets, and without certificates they would not have been allowed on board,” says Ilyas Nabiyev, Project Coordinator.

After the appeal from the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Iran, the IOM Azerbaijan got agreement with one of the local clinics to conduct PCR tests and receive the results within some hours, since the next day the migrants had to fly away. 

“We managed to collect all the migrants who applied to us the day before departure and with the help of local medics conducted PCR tests. Having received the results in the evening of the same day, we went to the airport where migrants, who had tickets for a plane that would take off in a few hours were waiting for us,” says Nabiyev. 

Medical certificates confirming negative COVID-19 test results, Personal Protective Equipment, - i.e., face masks and gloves were delivered to the migrants by IOM Azerbaijan employees at the airport before their departure. 

“Thanks to the well-coordinated work of the mission staff all the migrants safely fly back to their homeland,” said Pathirathne, a migrant from Sri Lanka. 

The assistance was delivered to the Sir-Lankan citizens in the frame the regional project on humanitarian assistance to stranded, vulnerable migrants (foreign nationals) in the South Caucasian countries funded by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM). The project corresponds with four pillars of the IOM’s Global Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and the associated IOM South Caucasus Appeal: Tracking Mobility Impacts of COVID-19, Risk Communication, and Community Engagement (RCCE), Logistics, Procurement, and Supply Management, and Protection.