International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has provided over 150 Ghanaians with Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance from Libya.
It is the first charter flight since the reopening of the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), in Accra, following COVID-19 related border closures.
The charter flight was made possible through funding from the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, the first comprehensive programme of its kind launched in May 2017 to save lives, protect and assist migrants along key migration routes in Africa.
Before boarding the flight in Tripoli, all 157 Ghanaian migrants received consular assistance, medical screening, and personal protective equipment including masks, gloves and hand sanitizers, as well as psychosocial support.
Among the returnees were 19 migrants with medical conditions, including five with wheelchairs, who were provided with necessary treatment and medical escorts onboard.
IOM Ghana’s Chief of Mission, Abibatou Wane-Fall, says “since the COVID-19 pandemic poses additional challenges to vulnerable migrants, a more coordinated and efficient support system with Government and partners is needed to make sure no migrant is left behind in the COVID-19 response.”
Upon arrival in Accra, migrants were tested for COVID-19 and provided with onward transportation and cash assistance for their immediate needs, including travel to their home communities. The most vulnerable received needed assistance including follow up on medical cases and psychosocial first aid.
Out of the nearly 600,000 migrants identified in Libya by IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), more than 27,000 are Ghanaians. Libya accounts for 63.5 per cent of the returns to Ghana under the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. Other major countries of return include Niger and Mali.
“Before going to Libya, I was working as a taxi driver. I thought life in Ghana was difficult. I was very wrong. I regret embarking on this journey. My friends who remained behind are doing well, whereas I am worse off”, said Kwadwo who returned with the charter.
Upon return, migrants are eligible for reintegration assistance, which includes counselling, referral to existing programmes and services (trainings, medical and psychosocial assistance), or in-kind support, as necessary.
Additionally, they can become part of collective or community-based projects to set up a business with other returnees or community members.
The recently launched Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Reintegration of Returnees in Ghana provides important guidance, including on handling returns and supporting returnees in their reintegration process.
As part of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, IOM Ghana also works with the government and partners to raise awareness about the risks of irregular migration among communities, promote safe migration, and to counter stigmatization and discrimination.
Since 2017, IOM has assisted 1,543 Ghanaians with their voluntarily return home, more than 77 per cent of them from Libya.
So far, over 480 returnees have completed their reintegration process; 1,457 have participated in reintegration counselling, and 1,461 have received mental health and psychosocial assistance.