A flight to Ghana is the first return flight to leave Libya in the wake of this week’s ceasefire agreement ending hostilities in southern Tripoli and surrounding areas. The reopening of Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport permitted a commercial flight to leave the airport for Ghana, carrying 21 migrants, said IOM, the UN Migration Agency on Monday.
The migrants – from different districts of Tripoli – expressed interest in returning safely to their home country through IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme. The programme provides a safe pathway home to migrants who wish to return home but have little means of accomplishing that. Upon arrival, the returning migrants will be provided with sustainable reintegration assistance to further aid them when returning to their community of origin.
“We are relieved that this flight was able to leave Libya safely and we hope to charter more flights in the coming days and weeks to meet the increasing demand,” said Ashraf Hassan, VHR Programme Coordinator at IOM Libya’s mission. “We have observed a large number of people applying to return home through VHR. We are taking advantage of the current ceasefire and relative calm to assist them to exit to safety.”
Other chartered flights are also scheduled to leave Libya later this week with migrants on board assisted from different urban areas. The charters had already been scheduled for departure, however, following the eruption of violence and fighting between the warring parties two weeks ago and the cessation of operations at Mitiga airport, the flights had been postponed.
“The recent clashes in and around Tripoli have endangered the lives of locked-up migrants, further aggravating their suffering and increasing their vulnerability,” explained Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya’s Chief of Mission.
“We continue to respond to existing and emerging humanitarian needs including increasing requests for voluntary humanitarian return, as our teams on the ground are directly registering these requests in detention centers and urban areas to expedite the safe return of people.”
IOM launched its VHR hotline through social media platforms, to scale up efforts in reaching out to a larger number of stranded migrants across Libya whose lives may now be at a far greater risk due to the current security conditions.