By Jamie Prentis.
Tunis, 17 February 2017:
In the last three days, 334 Nigerian and Senegalese migrants have been returned home from Tripoli by charter flights organised by the International Organisation for Migration.
The charter flights from Mitiga airport were coordinated with the Libyan authorities, the Directorate for Combating Irregular Migration (DCIM) and Nigerian and Senegalese embassies.
Most of the returnees – they included nine unaccompanied children – spoke of economic hardships in their home countries but also the difficulties they faced in Libya.
Among the 334 migrants, 56 were also eligible for reintegration support, which aims to support them as they start afresh in their countries of origin by. This can include help in starting a business or continuing their education.
Hannah, 23, used to work as a fashion designer in Nigeria. When she was four, she lost her parents and has been struggling since to take care of her four siblings. Hannah tried to find work in Libya, but on arrival, she said, she was kidnapped and subjected to forced labour. The harsh working conditions made Hannah reconsider and, when able to escape, she asked IOM for help.
Dorcas, also from Nigeria, left home with her husband and one-year-old baby, Felix. They decided to try reach Europe, but while in Libya, Dorcas’ husband ventured on alone to test the route.
“He left us and he will not come back.” One day she will have to tell her son his father died at sea, Dorcas said.
Such cases are not uncommon according to the IOM. Some reported paying the equivalent of LD 3,500 just to reach the Libyan coast, before turning back because of fears about their safety. Two Nigerian women said they made a similar decision when three of their friends died at sea.
The IOM interviewed the migrants before departure and provided health checks to ensure they were fit to travel. All received clothes and shoes, as part of IOM’s pre-departure assistance.
(Names have been changed)