Voluntary Humanitarian Return From Conflict-Hit Libya: 72 Stranded Migrants Return to The Gambia

Published Date: 
Fri, 04/26/2019 - 08:00
Country: 
Gambia

Banjul – “The conditions in Libya were very tough. Our human rights were not being respected,” says Lamin, a Gambian migrant who was in detention in Libya for five months. “Even before the flight took off, we could still hear gunshots around us,” he added.

Lamin hopes to return to being a taxi driver, his occupation before leaving The Gambia in 2015. He has just landed at the Banjul International Airport in The Gambia, with a group of 84 migrants—72 Gambians and 12 Senegalese—-that have fled conflict-hit Tripoli and have been supported with voluntary humanitarian return (VHR) assistance on a charter flight organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on 24 April.

Among the 72 Gambian returnees were nine women and seven children and infants. Banjul was the final stop on a trip from Tripoli, with a first stop in Bamako where 52 Malians and 17 Guineans transited to receive return assistance to their home communities.

Upon the flight’s arrival in Banjul, two migrants’ critical medical cases were identified, one was on stretcher and the other one on crutches and could barely walk without support. They were both provided with immediate medical assistance in two ambulances that were already in place.

Like most of those assisted by IOM in Libya, most of the migrants who arrived in Banjul had lost all forms of identification. Therefore, upon arrival, all of them were issued arrival assistance cards—with priority given to identified vulnerable case, including women, children and the elderly—which they can use for temporary identification.

They further underwent a preliminary health screening, immigration screening and were transported to an overnight temporary accommodation, where they were provided meals and non-food item (NFI) kits containing essential supplies such as hygiene material.

The following day, the returnees took part in an orientation session on the process of receiving reintegration assistance. Each one of them received “pocket money” in Gambian Dalasi (worth EUR 65) to cover basic needs.

“Over the coming weeks, we will be working in close coordination with government and local partners to facilitate the safe and dignified return of these migrants to their communities, and to ensure their economic and psychosocial reintegration.” emphasized Fumiko Nagano, IOM Chief of Mission in The Gambia.

The 72 Gambian returnees join a total of over 3,900 Gambians who have voluntarily returned home since January 2017—including over 2,900 from Libya alone. Returnees benefit from counseling sessions to tailor reintegration assistance to their specific needs, interests and skills, and based on the available opportunities in the country.

Close to 2,400 Gambian returnees received reintegration assistance as of 24 April 2019. 90 per cent of assisted Gambians opt to establish their own microbusiness, mainly in retail (40 per cent), construction (31 per cent) and transport (13 per cent).

The EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration is funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and covers 26 African countries. The project aims to contribute to migration governance and to support the sustainable reintegration of returning migrants through an integrated approach, which addresses economic, social, and psychological dimensions and fosters the inclusion of communities in the process.

For more information, please contact Miko Alazas at IOM The Gambia; Tel: +220 330 3168, Email: aalazas@iom.int.