West African migrants in Libya returned to their home countries

TMP – 24/02/2017

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has organized the return of 334 migrants from Libya back to their home countries.

On 14 and 16 February, IOM organized two charter flights to help two groups totaling 334 migrants to return home to Nigeria and Senegal from Libya. On the first flight were 101 women, 43 men and 18 children, who were returned home to Nigeria. Another 172 migrants, including 171 men and one woman, returned to Senegal on the second flight.

The return assistance was made possible through funding by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office and falls under IOM’s return assistance programme.

Among the migrants were also nine unaccompanied migrant children who received family tracing support, in coordination with IOM offices in their countries of origin.

Fifty-six of the migrants will be provided with reintegration support to enable them to start a business or continue their education. IOM interviewed the migrants before departure and provided health checks to ensure that they were fit to travel, and the migrants also received clothes and shoes.

Many of the migrants spoke of the hardships they had endured in Libya and how they had become stranded.

One of the returnees to Nigeria, Bridget Akeamo, said her parents decided to send her to Italy when she wasn’t able to find a job after finishing school. She left Nigeria in August last year, and returned four months pregnant.

Bridget said she was arrested while trying to make it to Italy from Libya by immigration officials. “Ever since then, I have been moved from one prison to another until I was taken to detention camp in Tripoli. We were subjected to inhumane treatment while in prison, from the food we eat to the water we drink. Most of the young ladies in detention camp were raped by Libyan officials and if you refused their advances, it will be hell for you. Thank God I am back in Nigeria,” she said.

A Senegalese returnee, Abdoulaye Niass, said his situation in Libya was dire. “We were in prison. I spent almost four months there. We went there because we wanted to reach Europe. But they caught us at sea. Over there [in Libya], we didn’t have food. We couldn’t sleep well. They were beating us,” Abdoulaye says.

Over the last ten years, IOM’s assisted voluntary return programme has arranged the return of 412,000 migrants whose application for asylum was rejected or withdrawn, those who were stranded, victims of trafficking, unaccompanied children or those with health-related needs.

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