Increase in voluntary returns from Libya results in detention facility closures

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 23,302 migrants have returned from Libya to their home countries through its Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme since January 2017. Since November, IOM has assisted 10,171 migrants to return home safely with support from the European Union, the African Union and the Libyan government. Another 5,200 migrants have returned with the support of African Union member states in the same period.

IOM recently scaled up its return programme in the wake of shocking reports of rampant migrant abuse and squalid and overcrowded conditions at Libyan detention facilities.

As a result, the number of migrants detained in Libya has dropped by more than 80 per cent since May 2017 according to a senior government official in Libya.

Brigadier General Mohammed Bishr, head of the department to tackle irregular migration in Libya, said that the drop in the number of detainees has allowed the closure of 20 of the country’s 53 migrant detention centres. Acknowledging that conditions in government detention centres were not ideal, he added that they “try to provide a minimum of services to the most vulnerable, especially women and children.”

“We are continuing to assist migrants inside Libyan detention centres, while increasing efforts to reach stranded migrants outside of detention,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya Chief of Mission in March of this year.

Belbeisi noted that since the expansion of IOM’s voluntary return operation, the number of migrants in official detention centres has dropped from an estimated 20,000 people in October 2017 to 4,000 people.

During an AU-EU Summit held in Abidjan on 28 November 2017, an AU-EU-UN taskforce was established to alleviate the suffering of migrants along the migration route and particularly in Libya, as well as to accelerate voluntary returns to countries of origin.

TMP – 09/05/2018

Photo credit: MSF/ Guillaume Binet/Myop. Men detained in Abu Salim Detention Center in Tripoli, Libya.