Over 15,000 migrants in Libya to be flown home

Photo credit: Taha Jawashi/AFP via Getty Images. African migrant woman and children wait at a detention centre on the outskirts of the Libyan capital Tripoli.

TMP – 06/12/2017

Around 15,000 migrants will be flown home from detention centres in Libya before the end of the year, after shocking reports have emerged of widespread migrant abuse and squalid and overcrowded conditions at these facilities.
“Scaling up our return programme may not serve to fully address the plight of migrants in Libya, but it is our duty to take migrants out of detention centers as a matter of absolute priority,” said William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) at its Council meeting in Geneva.
Migrants in Libya who are not in detention centres but wish to return home will also be eligible to be repatriated.
The voluntary return programme has brought more than 14,000 migrants back to their home countries so far this year, a major increase from the 2,775 voluntary returns carried out in 2016.
In recent weeks, Libya has seen a drastic increase in the number of migrants being held in detention centres – from a usual range of 5,000 to 6,000 to over 15,000 people, as migrants have been transferred from unofficial detention centres in the smuggling hub of Sabratha.
To date, more than 400,000 migrants are registered with IOM in Libya. The total number of migrants in the country is thought to be far higher though, at between 700,000 and one million.
The African Union, the European Union and the Libyan Government have also agreed to work together to facilitate the return of thousands of migrants trapped in Libya.
On a recent trip to Burkina Faso, French President Emmanual Macron urged African countries to take the lead on rescuing migrants trapped in Libya and said that a “police and military” effort was needed to bring home the migrants, most of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa.