The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has resumed humanitarian flights from Libya after receiving clearance from the Government of National Unity and has safely returned a group of stranded Gambian migrants who are among thousands of others waiting to go home through IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme.
Thursday’s flight, carrying 127 people (117 men, five women, five children) from Misrata airport to the Gambian capital of Banjul, marked the first since 8 August when all humanitarian flights were suspended by the Ministry of Interior. The returnees included migrants who had been detained in overcrowded detention centres and waiting for months to go back to their home countries.
“More than 10,000 migrants in Libya have requested IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance and have been waiting for months to return home,” said Federico Soda, IOM Libya Chief of Mission. “It is extremely significant that the government has lifted the suspension because IOM’s VHR programme is critical for migrants who want to leave Libya and return home in a safe, legal and dignified manner and rebuild their lives.”
The return process is also supported by the countries of origin with whom the pre-departure work in Libya is closely coordinated along with the arrival of their nationals in the capitals. Before departure, the returning migrants had health checks and were given pre-departure transportation assistance, counselling services and protection screening. They also received personal protective equipment and took COVID-19 tests before boarding.
Libya has long been an important transit and destination country for migrants arriving from different parts of Africa. Many become stranded in the country with limited options to return home. Since 2015, more than 53,000 migrants have returned from Libya through the VHR programme, which is funded by the European Union under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration and through the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Migration Fund.