IOM aids migrants stranded in Libya to return home


Senegalese migrants departing to Senegal from Libya on 6 January © IOM 2016
Senegalese migrants departing to Senegal from Libya on 6 January
© IOM 2016

Relief Web

Libya – IOM this week (6-7 January) assisted 154 Senegalese and 133 Burkinabe nationals stranded migrants in Libya to return to Senegal and Burkina Faso. Many of them had spent months in immigration detention centers.

The migrants flew out of Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport on two charter flights that arrived in Dakar, Senegal and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, respectively. The IOM office in Libya worked closely with the Senegalese and Burkina Faso Embassies in Tunis and Tripoli, the Libyan authorities to facilitate this repatriation.

Almost all of these migrants had entered Libya irregularly via Algeria and Niger, paying smugglers between USD 800 and USD 1,500 for a trip that lasted anywhere from two weeks to 8 weeks.

During their stay in Libya, migrants reported to have faced tough conditions just to survive, not only because of the lack of paying jobs, but mainly due to widespread insecurity and crime. Being constantly at risk of being robbed or taken hostage for ransom was the hardest part, many said.

Mussa, a 50-year-old Senegalese married father of eight said, “I came to Libya through the Niger desert. On the way we had an accident. Three people (two men and a woman) were seriously injured and the truck driver left them to die in the desert. I continued with my brother, who broke his leg in the same accident, until we finally arrived at the Libyan border where we met with other smugglers who forced us to pay almost USD 1,800 to take us to Sabha (780 km south of Tripoli).”

Said Camara (42), a Senegalese construction worker and married father of three, who suffers from a broken leg because of a shooting incident during his arrest by the police in Qarapoly (60 km east of Tripoli): “I came to Libya 5 months ago, after my brother convinced me to earn enough money so I could cross the sea to France and seek a decent life there.” He added: “After my leg injury – which probably will be amputated according to doctors – I have no choice but to return to my country and my family. Without the help of IOM, my return would have not been possible. The desert road is unbearable for those who are in my situation.”

“We heard a lot about the work opportunities for Africans in Libya, especially during Gaddafi’s era. All this was confirmed by our friend Idris, who came six years ago and convinced us to catch up with him. In the beginning things were good, we were able to work and earn some money for our family. However, in the last year, things turned out very badly for us, we were unable even to feed ourselves,” said Moktar and Malik, two brothers from Burkina Faso who went to Libya four years ago.

Abdullah from Burkina Faso said, “I was scheduled to return with IOM support on 17th December but a gang has stolen my phone, my money and my travel document and I missed the previous trip, but thank God and thanks to IOM who rescheduled me for 6 January 2016.”

IOM Libya Chief of Mission Othman Belbeisi said: “Those two movements would have not been possible without the direct evolvement of the respective embassies, Senegal and Burkina Faso, the Libyan Directorate of Combating Illegal Migration and IOM Missions in Senegal and Burkina Faso. With their support we were able to provide these 287 migrants with a possibility of a fresh start in 2016.”

Before departure, all migrants received food, hygiene kits and clothes and the most vulnerable cases (20 per cent) were allocated reintegration grants to facilitate their socio-economic reinsertion back home.

Upon return in Senegal, migrants were received by Sory Kaba, General Director for Senegalese abroad, and Jo Lind Roberts Sene, Head of Office, IOM Senegal. In addition, all migrants were supported with an onward transportation grant to facilitate their transportation to their final destinations.

Upon return in Burkina Faso, migrants were received by Daouda Ouedraogo, Permanent Secretary of High Council for Burkinabe abroad and Boubacar Milougou, Permanent Secretary of National Council for Emergency Relief and Rehabilitation, and Abdel, Head of Office, IOM Burkina Faso. In addition, all migrants were supported with onward transportation grants to facilitate their transportation to their final destination.

Funds for the two charters were provided by the State Secretariat of Migration, Switzerland as part of an IOM project Humanitarian Repatriation for Stranded Migrants in Libya (Swiss). The charters were the third and fourth of a series of repatriation flights that IOM Libya is organizing in the coming months to Senegal, Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso.

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