The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a United Nations agency, has continued to provide Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) assistance to migrants stranded in Libya and wishing to return home, despite the backdrop of continuing armed conflict in Tripoli and the challenging conditions on the ground.
On the night of April 11, IOM in Libya organised a charter flight to Mali carrying 160 migrants, with an onward journey to Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.
The 160 migrants on board included a mixture of nationalities including 99 Malians, 51 Ivorians and 10 Burkinabe. Among the returnees were 16 children and 20 women.
The flight departed from Mitiga airport in Tripoli, arrived in Bamako at midnight. The migrants from Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso are to continue their journey on April 12. These 160 migrants are among 188 whom IOM assisted just since April 5, when the current violence surged, returning those individuals home safely from Tripoli to Sierra Leone, Somalia, Mali, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.
During most of the past week airport security has been of some concern, with the Mitiga airport operational only between the hours of 19:00 (PM) and 7:00 AM.
Amid the ongoing clashes, IOM staff in Libya coordinated very closely with Libyan authorities to ensure the safe arrival of all migrants coming from different detention centres and different urban areas in Tripoli to Mitiga airport. The airport was briefly affected by the armed conflict this week.
“We continue to support a safe and dignified return for migrants to their home countries,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya Chief of Mission. “Our teams are working around the clock to provide much needed humanitarian support in Tripoli and across Libya.”
“I have been in Libya for four years now, but the situation is difficult. I miss my children and my wife, and I think it is time for me to go home to my family. I can already picture their faces when they see me,” said a passenger named Ali before boarding the flight.
In Mali arriving migrants were received by IOM staff, Malian government representatives and the European Union Delegation in Bamako. IOM coordinated with the Malian authorities, who supported the transit of the charter through Bamako on its way to Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso.
So far this year 3,175 migrants from detention centres and urban settings were able to return home via VHR, with Charters leaving from Benghazi, Sabha, Misrata and Tripoli.
“Receiving stranded migrants back from Libya, helping them reintegrate in their communities and identifying their specific needs is key,” says Pascal Reyntjens, IOM Chief of Mission in Mali. “This coordinated mechanism including the Malian authorities, the IOM specialists as well as the support to local actors is the way forward for these people to rebuild their future,” he added.
Prior to their departure, the migrants were provided with medical check-ups, as well as protection screenings and core relief items. Upon arrival, IOM provided them with immediate assistance and medical screenings. IOM will then provide tailored reintegration support to the returnees to assist them re-establish economically within their communities of origin.
This return was made possible thanks to the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration implemented by IOM.