By Jamie Prentis.
Tunis, 17 March 2017:
The Guinea embassy in Tripoli’s Hay Andalous is crowded with 51 frightened migrants trapped in the building by the violence in the capital.
They had been due to be sent home by the International Organisation for Migration. However, local fighting has made it impossible for them to follow the 98 of their fellow countrymen who were flown home earlier in the week on a charter flight. Their planned one night stay at their country’s embassy has been unexpectedly extended.
The IOM told the Libya Herald it was impossible to transfer the migrants to the flight waiting at Mitiga Airport because of fears for their safety. The aircraft therefore left without them. Some of the fiercest clashes have erupted around the Guinea embassy. Neighbourhood roadblocks have made movement perilous.
With chartered IOM flights irregular, Christine Petré, the organisation’s Libya spokesman said they were now exploring the use of commercial flights instead. A variety of airlines is being considered and the IOM hopes to have repatriated the 51 Guinean’s by the end of the month.
Nonetheless, the 98 migrants were able to fly out of for Conakry because safe passage was organised from Tripoli’s Triq Al-Sika detention centre where they were held. Petré said the IOM visited migrant detention centres almost daily. She insisted their managers have been largely cooperative.
The next two UN charter flights from Tripoli will be to the Ivory Coast on 21 March and Nigeria on the 23 March. Petré said that all the passengers for these repatriations are also held at the Triq Al-Sika detention centre, so the IOM expects these flights to go ahead.
When UNSMIL chief Martin Kobler visited the same detention centre last month he said all migrants “deserve equal treatment with dignity and humanity.”
So far in 2017 the IOM has assisted 1,261 migrants to go back to their homes.