With immigration dominating the election agenda in the UK, consuls welcomed a briefing from an international agency that can assist them in the voluntary repatriation of nationals.
Speaking at the Consular Corps lunch, Marek Effendowicz, head of communications at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), explained to consuls the range voluntary return programmes on offer to help irregular migrants and asylum seekers to return home with dignity.
“We act as a buffer between the individual and the UK authorities,” explained Mr Effedowicz, whose organisation has assisted in the return of 34,000 people to 146 countries since 1999.
The IOM’s Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP) provides returning asylum seekers with assistance and is co-financed by the Home Office (80 per cent) and the EU (20 per cent). The IOM can help returnees with documentation, return flights and can even arrange transport to the individual’s home doorstep. It also provides returnees Reintegration Assistance, which can be used for training or to set up a small business.
Irregular migrants – those who have overstayed their visas or have been smuggled into the country and have been living in the UK illegally – do not qualify for reintegration funds, but the IOM may still assist with documentation and pay for the flight home.
At the moment, the IOM’s programmes are not available to EEA nationals, but Mr Effendowicz said he hoped new legislation would extend assistance to the victims of trafficking, irrespective of nationality.
Mr Effendowicz concluded his talk by appealing to consuls to help them in their work by providing identification documents, such as passports or birth certificates, for returning nationals. “It’s not always easy with returnees who turn up the consulate with no identification, but we will help where we can and whatever assistance you could offer is always welcome.”
Consular Corps President Guy van Glabeke with the head of IOM Communications Marek Effendowicz