Stranded Nigerian and Gambian Migrants Return Home from Libya
Libya - On 7 March, IOM helped 171 stranded Nigerian migrants – 76 men and 95 women – to return home from Libya by air. Two days later, on 9 March, IOM assisted another 141 stranded Gambians – all men – to return home to Banjul. It was IOM Libya’s first charter flight to the Gambia.
The two charter flights were coordinated with Libyan, Nigerian and Gambian authorities and departed from Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport. IOM provided pre-departure interviews, medical check-ups and material assistance, including clothes and shoes.
Among the Nigerian passengers was 23-year-old Gloria*, who came to Libya with her husband to try to travel to Europe. In Libya, they were arrested and taken to different detention centres. Gloria now hopes that her husband also will receive IOM voluntary return assistance so that they can be reunited at home in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, 17-year-old Esther* dreamt of continuing her education but lacked the financial means. She then decided to travel to Libya and eventually on to Europe. In Libya, she was pushed to work in demeaning conditions, which is why she decided to return home.
Maris* was working as a hairdresser in Nigeria, when she met a man who promised to find a decent job for her in Libya and to ultimately help her reach Europe. After reaching Libya, she was forced to work as a hairdresser without pay in horrible conditions. “I did not see the sun for four month,” she told IOM. “I am glad that I am being helped to get home,” she added.
Among the passengers on the Nigerian flight were 13 unaccompanied minors (12 girls and 1 boy), of whom 11 received family tracing assistance from IOM Libya’s protection team, funded by the Government of Italy. There was also a victim of human trafficking and a disabled person who required a medical escort.
The 24 most vulnerable cases on the Nigerian flight will also be eligible for reintegration support, which will give them the opportunity to start a small business or to continue their education. IOM will also support any medical treatment needed as a consequence of their time in Libya.
Three unaccompanied minors and two passengers who received medical assistance, but were deemed fit to travel without medical escort, returned home as part of the Gambian group. Twelve migrants from that group are entitled to receive IOM’s reintegration assistance on arrival in the Gambia.
“My wife and daughter are waiting for me to return with gifts,” explained 35-year-old electric engineer Peter* who is returning home to the Gambia empty handed after having lost all his savings in Libya. His wife is currently pregnant with their second child and his daughter is in school “I have nothing to give them, I would rather die than to return empty handed, but I will go home now and work in my country and die there,” he told IOM.
The return assistance was funded by the UK Foreign Office, the Government of the Netherlands and the EU’s Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace. It was part of IOM’s return assistance programme.
So far in 2017, IOM Libya has helped 1,164 stranded migrants return to their countries of origin. Of these, 298 were eligible for reintegration assistance.
*All migrant names have been changed to protect identities.