Libya to allow IOM access to migrants to fast track repatriation

Libyan authorities have agreed, in principle, to allow the International Organization of Migration (IOM) access to take care of migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea and to speed up their repatriation, the Director General of IOM, William Lacy Swing, said in an interview with UN News.

Following a meeting with the Libyan Prime Minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, Mr. Swing presented his proposition that, “Rather than taking migrants returning from the high seas and putting them in detention… they hand them over to IOM and let us, within a few days, take them back home by air.”

The move, if implemented, will be significant considering the harsh treatment and inhumane conditions migrants and international organisations report in Libyan detention centres.

“If they go through with our suggestion, we’ll take the migrants from the high seas directly home within few days rather than going into detention, those will be major improvements,” he said.

However, Mr. Swing expressed concern about the plight of the thousands of migrants currently still in detention, “They told us that they have closed 29 of the 53 centres, but there are still thousands in them but I think some progress was made this time.”

Mr. Swing also revealed another major development, “The other good news is that the Prime Minister told me in my meeting that they have started the process of separating the women and children from the men which is something we have been advocating for at least for 18 months. We’re so glad that that’s happening,” he said.

Mr. Swing also said the Libyan government has created a migration working group consisting of all ministries associated with migrants’ issues, the diplomatic corps and international organisations, The working group will be co-chaired by IOM and is tasked to come up with a holistic migration policy.

Asked to comment on how the latest migration developments in Europe will affect Libya, the Director General said IOM was in discussion with the EU and that IOM is “trying to be helpful to all sides, to the African states whose young people are wanting to go to Europe and the Europeans who are trying to come up with a more comprehensive policy.”

TMP – 14/07/2018

Photo credit : UN News

Photo caption: IOM Director General William Lacy Swing