IOM Ghana Prepares to Receive Ghanaian Returnees Amid Reports of Flagrant Abuse of Migrants in Libya

IOM provides support to Ghanaian returnees from Libya at Kotoka International Airport. Photo: IOM 2017 

Ghana - Amid the recent reports and videos showing the abuse of migrants including instances of slave-like treatment in Libya, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, is preparing to receive an increased number of Ghanaian returnees as IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme from Libya is scaled-up.

IOM’s voluntary return assistance continues to remain one of the few viable humane options for migrants caught in these inhumane conditions. In addition to facilitating returns, IOM has also been engaging with Libyan authorities to create paths to avoid the detention of migrants and where not possible, to improve their conditions in ways that uphold their dignity and support their basic needs.

Most Ghanaians attempting to reach Europe travel irregularly through Libya, where currently, tens of thousands of the estimated 700,000 migrants living in the country, suffer horrendous human rights abuses at the hands of exploitative smugglers. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers face extreme protection risks on route and upon arrival in Libya, as they cannot access services and live in fear of trafficking, exploitation, sexual violence, unlawful killings, capture and arbitrary detention in official and unofficial detention centres. IOM has reported the exploitation of migrants in Libya since April 2017 and has been working diligently to uphold the rights of migrants. The recent video footage showing African migrants in Libya reportedly being sold has increased public awareness and outrage. IOM’s Director General, William Lacy Swing stated ‘the abuse of migrants being held against their will in squalid, inhumane conditions is a blot on our conscience’.

Between June and November 2017, IOM has helped facilitate the return of 350 Ghanaians from Libya under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative on Migrant Protection and Reintegration funded by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. This is part of a regional programme to facilitate voluntary humanitarian return of migrants stranded and detained in Libya and other transit countries. The main goal of IOM’s work in Africa under the EUTF is to strengthen mechanisms to protect and assist migrants along all routes through both advocacy and direct assistance.

On 29 November 2017, IOM Ghana together with the Government of Ghana and Airport Authorities facilitated the arrival of 127 Ghanaians from Libya via charter at the Kotoka International Airport. Upon their arrival, all returnees were screened by Port Health, registered by Ghana Immigration Service and were provided cash support by IOM for immediate needs. IOM also provided migrants with food and water, as well as buses to local transport hubs.

So far in 2017, IOM, in close partnership with our counterpart governments in West Africa, has assisted more than 13,000 stranded migrants in Libya to return home. IOM is planning to assist another 15,000 as quickly as possible.

IOM Ghana is expecting to accelerate the rate of returns in the coming weeks. All Ghanaians whose returns are facilitated by IOM have chosen to voluntarily come home. As a part of the facilitation of charter flights from Libya and other transit areas, IOM conducts pre-departure interviews and medical examinations for all returnees. IOM further facilitates the acquisition of travel documents and issuance of exit visas from Libya for all of the Ghanaian returnees through the Ghana Mission in Malta. Migrants are assisted upon arrival and have the opportunity to benefit from reintegration assistance which can include counselling, referrals to services including psychosocial and medical, and other support as needed. Since June 2017, 133 Ghanaian returnees have been provided with and are currently receiving reintegration support.

“Our number one priority now is to work with the Government of Ghana to offer a dignified return home to Ghanaians in Libya, some of whom have gone through unspeakable ordeals. Our collective support also needs to go beyond their safe arrival at Kotoka International Aiport but should facilitate their sustainable reintegration in their local communities once back home” noted Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, IOM Ghana’s Chief of Mission.

For further information, please contact Anita J. Wadud at IOM Ghana: Tel. +233 302 742 930 ext. 2400, Email: