IOM yesterday organized a voluntary repatriation charter flight from Libya to Guinea for 173 stranded Guinean migrants.
The operation, in close cooperation with Guinea's Embassy in Libya and the Libyan Department for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM), was the latest in a series of voluntary return flights for migrants from Libya to West Africa. It was funded by the Swiss Secretariat for Migration and the European Union.
The migrants, many of whom had spent months in the Abu Sleem detention centre near Tripoli, flew back to Conakry from Tripoli's Mitiga International Airport. Before leaving the centre, IOM staff gave them clean clothes, shoes and hygiene kits. Several migrants told IOM that they had endured harsh conditions in the centre, with little food and water.
Frank, 28, who has scoliosis (severe curvature of the spine) told IOM that after four long agonizing months in Libya, all he wanted was to return home. "I had USD 400 with me when I arrived and a few pictures of my mother and other family members back home. When I was caught by the police, I was taken to prison. I never received my belongings back. I don't care so long as I get to leave and return home to my family," he said.
Fatima, a mother of two – a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl – told IOM that she has been stranded in Libya unable to leave since the death of her husband, who had been working in Tripoli. Even though she was not one of the Abu Saleem detainees, she found it difficult to survive with no work and no income to support her children. "I never want to return to Libya again," she said.
Ibrahim, 18, had wanted to go to Italy and find work there. After being arrested in the city of Zawia, 40km west of Tripoli, he was detained for 8 weeks until IOM facilitated his release, along with 38 other detained migrants, a day prior to their departure to Guinea.
On arrival in Conakry, all the returnees were given money for onward transport to their final destinations. Twenty of the most vulnerable returnees will be given reintegration assistance.