This was once a booming northern border town, supporting thousands of Chadians and Libyans who came to trade, barter or sell their wares.
But with the closing of Chad’s border with Libya last March, boom turned to bust. Access to Libyan markets has practically disappeared for Chadians in Bourkou region, resulting in a scarcity of food and other essentials like fuel, and inflated prices leaving many local people struggling to meet their daily needs.
And all the while, vulnerable migrants stranded in Libya, including survivors of human trafficking in urgent need of assistance, continue to arrive, exacerbating tensions with host communities struggling to make ends meet.
To enhance food security in the region and reduce tensions between migrants and host communities, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Governor of Bourkou last week launched the “Human Security and Community Stabilization in Chad” project in Faya, the capital of Bourkou.
On one hand, the project, funded by the Government of Japan, supports the rehabilitation of a transit center for migrants located eight kilometers outside of Faya, where IOM will be able to provide urgent protection assistance and aid to migrants transiting in the region, including medical, psychosocial and voluntary return assistance.
On the other hand, the project promotes community farming by rehabilitating four gardens that will benefit the community at large. In addition, as IOM noticed through its Flow Monitoring Points (FMP) a growing number of women (18 per cent in 2018 to 22 per cent in 2019) from Chad migrating within the country to find better economic opportunities 100 women will also be supported to engage in agricultural livelihood activities.
“Before the Arab Spring I made my living easily in Libya without dreaming of going to Europe or arriving one day in Faya (Chad). After the fall of (Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi, chaos ruptured; life was not the same anymore,” recalls Seni, a Burkinabe migrant waiting for IOM’s assistance to return home. “I have experienced suffering of all kinds and death threats. My only ambition is to go back to see my family back home.”
The project will also promote community farming by rehabilitating four gardens that will benefit the community at large and 100 women will receive targeted support to engage in agricultural livelihood activities.
“Through our activities in Faya, IOM makes a difference in the lives of migrants and members of the host population in one of the most remote places of the Chad,” said Anne Kathrin Schaefer, IOM Chief of mission in Chad.
Bourkou region, a desert zone near Libya border, had been declared priority area in OCHA’s 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan. Conflict and presence of armed group make it difficult for partners to operate, IOM is currently the only UN agency present in the region. Through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, and in order to monitor the movement of migrants through Chad, three FMPs were put in place along the main migration routes in Zouarke, Kalait and Faya where one-third of the movements were recorded by IOM’s Flow Monitoring Points in 2019 and where the Chadian authorities have repeatedly identified and referred victims of trafficking to IOM.