World

UN Assists 285 Stranded Migrants, Including 158 Nigerians To Return Home

Akanimo Sampson

A United Nations agency, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) last week assisted 127 stranded migrants, among them 103 men, 14 women and 10 children, to return to their homelands via a charter flight under the United Nations agency’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme.

The previous Wednesday, IOM Libya continued to assist other migrants returning home by organising an additional charter for 158 Nigerian migrants bound from the Misrata airport for Lagos.

Migrants on that flight travelled from Tripoli to the airport, for which they received security escorted land transportation. 

Though many of them had already spent months, even years enduring difficult conditions in Libya, the flight and many others this year, were made possible thanks to the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration implemented by IOM. 

The migrants departed from Misrata and Tripoli making their way to 15 different countries of origin in either Africa or Asia. Due to the current conflict in Tripoli and the closure of Mitiga airport after being targeted by multiple airstrikes over the past few months, IOM coordinated with Libya’s Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM), ensuring the migrants safely departed the Misrata Airport, east of Tripoli. Passengers flew to Istanbul, where they boarded continuing flights to their final destinations.  

“Providing stranded migrants wishing to return home with a safe and dignified way to do so is one of our main priorities, especially amid the escalation of the conflict in the capital, Tripoli”, said Ashraf Hassan, IOM Libya Operations Officer, who added: “This complex operation took real coordination between 15 IOM missions.” 

Indeed, these men, women and children set out for an array of destinations stretching in a chain reaching over 10,000 kms from Africa to South Asia. For that, IOM also coordinated with consular officials and other national authorities.  

Within Libya, amid an increasingly challenging security situation, IOM continues to provide safe passage for migrants stranded in the country and who wish to return home. So far in 2019, over 7,200 stranded migrants have left with IOM’s assistance. Returnees reached Tuesday’s charter from Misrata after three other movements by both land and air. Some arrived on a charter flight from Zwara. Others came by bus from Tripoli and surrounding areas.  

A young mother, Amina, said: “Today we get to see our family again. I plan to go back to school, finish my studies, and take care of my boy.” 

Prior to the migrants’ departure, IOM teams screened for vulnerability screenings and completed medical assessments to assure all passengers were fit for travel. 

For medical cases and unaccompanied minors, IOM provides operational escorts. Migrants received hot meals and refreshments prior to boarding, also clothing and hygiene kits.

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