IOM Helps Stranded Burkina Faso Migrants to Return Home from Libya

Posted: 
09/23/16
Themes: 
Migrant Assistance

Libya - On 20 September, IOM Libya helped 160 stranded Burkinabe migrants, including 13 women, 9 children and 4 infants to return to Burkina Faso from Libya.

The repatriation – carried out in close cooperation with the Libyan authorities, the Burkina Faso Embassy in Tripoli and the IOM office in Burkina Faso – was by charter flight from Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport to the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.

Before departure, the migrants stayed overnight at a shelter organized by the Burkinabe embassy in Tripoli, where IOM Libya staff provided food and hygiene kits. A mobile patrol from the Tripoli Security Committee escorted the buses to Mitiga airport.

Most migrants told IOM staff that they arrived in Libya using a much used route (Burkina Faso – Niger – Qatroun – Sabha – Tripoli). They paid smugglers between USD 800–USD 2,000 per person and the journey took between two weeks and a month, during which time they were forced to scrounge for food and water.

During their stay in Libya, migrants reported struggling just to survive, but mainly due to widespread insecurity and crime as well as lack of employment opportunities. Being constantly at risk of being robbed or held for ransom was the hardest part, many told IOM staff.

“I arrived in Libya one year ago, after paying smugglers USD 500 in Niger to take me to Sabha (Libya),” explained Aniss, 21. “I would go daily, sunrise to sunset, to the station seeking work, getting hard labor for low wages to pay for my food and shelter. I would pay 40–50 Libyan Dinars if stopped at a check point. Once my friend Usama didn't have cash, so they searched him and took his phone.” 

Essam, 29, told IOM staff: “My journey to Libya was very difficult. I left Burkina Faso one and a half years ago, paying smugglers USD 800, but I was left behind at a detention centre in Sabha for one month. I worked for 8 months at an oil facility before it shut down for security reasons. Then I paid smugglers USD 400 to go to Tripoli, but I couldn't find any work there. Day-to-day life was getting more complicated and unsafe. Finally I contacted my embassy and I am now glad to be going back to my family.”

“I came with my husband three years ago, paying smugglers USD 1200,” explained Asma, a young mother of twins. “I worked as a house maid for a monthly salary of USD 200. But then the family stopped paying me, telling me the dollar value was too high. Then I worked for eight months without being paid.”

Ahmed, a 32-year-old farmer said: “I worked at a car wash for two years, then one day I was robbed late at night by armed men. They stole USD 500 and my phone.  I have three girls back home six, nine and 11 years old. I thought I was going to die that night.” 

On arrival in Burkina Faso, the migrants were met by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Burkinabe Abroad, the National Solidarity and Family Society and IOM. They were given onward money to pay for their transportation to their final destinations. In addition, 20 of the most vulnerable migrants will receive reintegration assistance.

The charter was funded by the European Union’s Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) as part of an IOM project: Repatriation Assistance for Vulnerable Migrants Stranded inside Libya and Promoting Stability in Libya’s Southern Regions.

For further information, please contact IOM Libya. Othman Belbeisi, Tel +216 29 600389, Email: obelbeisi@iom.int or Ashraf Hassan, Tel +216 29 794707, Email: ashassan@iom.int

Thousands of West African migrants have voluntarily returned home with IOM from Libya since 2011. File photo: IOM