At least 469 Gambians have been repatriated from Libya this year since President Adama Barrow took power and more are expected to return before the year ends.
Gambia’s The Point reported ‘up to 160 Gambians who were languishing in Libyan jails were repatriated to The Gambia late on Thursday night through the support of the International Organization for Migration.’
On Tuesday, 4 April, IOM helped 170 stranded Gambian migrants,158 men and 12 women, return home to Gambia from Libya. There were also 11 children and two infants among the 170 migrants, including six unaccompanied male minors who were also on board the flight.
The charter, which was coordinated with the Libyan and Gambian authorities, as well as IOM Gambia, departed from Tripoli’s Mitiga airport and arrived the same evening.
IOM also provided pre-departure interviews, medical check-ups and facilitated exit visas for the passengers. Prior to departure the migrants also received further assistance, including non-food items.
IOM Libya Chief of Mission Othman Belbeisi and Programme Manager Ashraf Hassan took part in the preparations at the airport before take-off. “It was good to be back in Tripoli and be able to wish the passengers a safe flight before departure,” explained Hassan.
In addition, the passengers aboard the Gambia flight included four medical cases, including one mental health case, all of whom were accompanied by one IOM medical and one operational escort to ensure their safety during the flight.
Twenty-five of the most vulnerable cases on the flight were also eligible for reintegration support in Gambia. The aim of the reintegration assistance is to provide the migrants with an opportunity to start fresh once home by, for example, opening a small business or to continue their education.
The return assistance was funded by the Government of the Netherlands and is part of IOM’s return assistance programme.
So far in 2017, IOM Libya has helped 1,965 stranded migrants return to their countries of origin. Of those, 391 were eligible for reintegration assistance.