The International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance, with support from the European Union Trust Fund has continued to provide a safe option for migrants stranded in Libya wishing to return to their countries of origin despite clashes in Tripoli, the country’s capital, that have displaced at least 32,000 people.
A charter flight left Tripoli’s Mitiga airport Wednesday night with 153 migrants aboard bound for Bamako, Mali and onward to The Gambia. On board were 52 Malian nationals, 12 Senegalese, 17 Guineans and 72 Gambians.
The Malian government supported the transit of the charter through Bamako on its way to Gambia, Senegal, and Guinea Conakry.
“I can’t put what I have endured here in words”, Mary said, holding her infant son in her arms.
“I lost one of my children and my husband in a detention centre. They were both ill and help did not reach them on time. My three sons are the only family I have left now, and I’m taking them home.”
Operations at the only functioning airport in the city have been affected by the escalation in violence in the capital, limiting the availability of flights out of the country. Despite security constraints, IOM continues to provide a direct and safe option to migrants wishing to return home from Libya on chartered and commercial flights, in close coordination with the Libyan authorities.
Migrants like Mary who was bound for The Gambia are provided with pre-departure medical assistance by IOM health teams to ensure they were fit for the journey, food and non-food items, pre-departure counselling and travel documents provided by their embassies based in Tripoli.
The Charter comes in the framework of the EU-IOM joint initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration implemented by IOM.
In coordination with four IOM missions, in Mali, The Gambia, Guinea Conakry and Senegal, all returnees were provided with post arrival support that included further medical screenings, meals and non-food items and reception assistance at various transit points and at their final destinations.
“Working together with the Libyan authorities and four IOM Missions, we managed to provide a safe and dignified return for stranded migrants,” says IOM Libya Chief of Mission Othman Belbeisi.
“The current situation in Tripoli poses several challenges, that is why it is important that all migrants wishing to return home are provided with a safe option to do so.”
On its first stop in Bamako, Mali, the nationals of Mali and Guinea Conakry were received and provided with support. The Guinean nationals will be provided with transportation home. After their arrival in Banjul, Gambian and Senegalese nationals were received and provided with post-arrival assistance; Senegalese nationals will be transported to Dakar, where they will be received by IOM Senegal.
“Over the coming weeks, we will be working in close coordination with government and local partners to facilitate the safe and dignified return of these migrants to their communities, and to ensure their economic and psychosocial reintegration,” said Fumiko Nagano, IOM Chief of Mission in The Gambia.
The IOM charter was the seventh to depart from Libya in April, bringing the total number of returnees this year to 3,631. Return assistance was also provided to migrants on regular commercial flights to various destinations such as Algeria, Bangladesh and Sierra Leone.