the International Organization for Migration (IOM) – in close coordination with the Government of Bangladesh – facilitated the safe return of 160 Bangladeshi migrants stranded in Libya via its Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme.
The flight left Benghazi, Libya, on 4 May and landed safely at Dhaka’s Hazrat Shajalal International Airport (HSIA) the following day. The migrants were stranded in Libya due to COVID-19 and the challenging security situation in the country. IOM worked closely with Libyan authorities and the Embassy of Bangladesh in Libya to assist these people in getting home.
Prior to departure, the migrants underwent health checks, and IOM provided them with pre-departure transportation assistance, counselling services and protection screening. They also received personal protective equipment (PPE) and took COVID-19 tests (PCR) before commencing the return to Bangladesh.
“The COVID-19 pandemic in Libya triggered a chain of events that led to significant loss of livelihoods for thousands of migrants. IOM’s VHR programme is the only safe and regular channel for migrants who want to leave Libya and return home in a safe, regular and dignified manner,” said Federico Soda, IOM Libya Chief of Mission. “These operations are complicated and made possible by the tripartite collaboration between IOM, the Embassy of Bangladesh in Libya and the Libyan authorities in Benghazi. This collaboration is financially supported by the European Union.”
In Dhaka, Bangladeshi Government officials and IOM staff received and supported the migrants at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, where they received cash assistance for onward transportation to their respective destinations.
The returnees will each receive a reintegration grant to help them re-establish themselves in their communities. This reintegration support is particularly important for migrants who, in some cases, experienced physical and psychological trauma while stranded in Libya.
“It is our priority to provide those wishing to return to their country with a safe and dignified pathway to do so, and to support their reintegration. To do this, we continue to work closely and constructively with the Government of Bangladesh, and I thank them for their ongoing efforts” said Giorgi Gigauri, IOM Bangladesh, Chief of Mission.
According to one of the returnees, “life in Libya was very dangerous as hostilities continued there; I decided to return to my country as I could not earn enough money. It was very difficult to stay over there.”
IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Programme is often seen as a lifeline for stranded migrants opting to return home and rebuild their lives. Since 2015, more than 2,900 Bangladeshi migrants have returned from Libya through the Programme, which is a part of the larger EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.
IOM’s return assistance is grounded in a rights-based approach focusing on the well-being of individual returnees and their communities throughout the return and reintegration process. The Organization’s approach puts individuals and the protection of their rights at the centre of all efforts.