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IOM Provides Voluntary Return Home to Stranded Migrants in Libya

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, January 13, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Three years after the fall of the former regime, the Libyan people find themselves no closer to realizing their aspirations for a better future. Security conditions continue to deteriorate and life remains hard, particularly for migrants.

According to IOM Libya Chief of Mission Othman Belbeisi, an estimated 150,000 migrant workers remain stranded in the country, but some progress is being made in helping the most vulnerable to return home voluntarily.

Last year, 354 migrants – representing 13 different nationalities – were able to leave Libya with IOM's assistance. The largest groups came from Sudan, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

“We now have approximately 340 more migrants in the pipeline – plus potentially another 300 or so from Senegal. They include 168 from Burkina Faso, 50 from Togo and 21 from Nigeria,” said Belbeisi.

In the past few weeks, departures, assisted by local partners, have included 27 Kenyan victims of human trafficking, he noted.

Identifying migrants in need of repatriation has not been difficult. Finding ways to get people who have lost their passports and other official documents to safety is much harder. “Libya's borders with Tunisia and Egypt remain practically closed to undocumented migrants,” observed Belbeisi.

One of the consequences has been a flood of migrants trying to leave Libya and reach Italy in unseaworthy, overcrowded boats – a route that IOM estimates cost around 3,200 migrants their lives in 2014.

IOM is also assisting migrants and displaced Libyan nationals with essential non-food relief items to help them cope with cold winter conditions. It has just finished distributing some 1,900 kits, including mattresses, blankets and cooking utensils, to displaced families and migrants in detention centres.

The distributions took place in Tripoli, Obari, Misrata and Bani Walid, and were funded by the European Union and the Federal Republic of Germany.