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IOM Organizes Departure of Stranded Senegalese from Libya

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, February 27, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- In what is hoped will be the first of many evacuations of stranded third country nationals in the coming weeks, IOM today organized the successful departure of 133 Senegalese men from the Karareem reception center in Misrata, Libya, and their flight home from Tunisia.

The evacuees are part of a group of 401 Senegalese IOM plans to return to their homeland over the next week, and perhaps the first of thousands who will be able to leave Libya safely after months of waiting.

For this operation, IOM worked in close cooperation with the Tunisian authorities, and with Senegal's Tunis embassy to secure travel documents for all 401 stranded migrants. A charter airline contracted by IOM will bring the men home in three separate flights out of Djerba, Tunisia, with the first expected to arrive in Dakar this evening (27/2.)

The group of 133 departed Misrata on Thursday afternoon in three buses in a convoy that also included an ambulance and a two-vehicle police escort. The drive to Libya's border with Tunisia took about six hours, with the convoy arriving shortly before midnight. The men spent the next nine hours in their buses until they cleared Tunisia's passport control this morning.

“There was a bit of a delay at the border this morning, but now the men are on their way to the plane and expect to be home tonight. We are pleased things went so well,” said IOM Libya Chief of Mission Othman Belbeisi.

IOM coordinated the operation with Libya's Ministry of Interior, the Libyan Red Crescent, ICRC and Libya's Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM). Funding was provided by IOM's European Union-funded “START” project: “Stabilizing at risk communities and enhancing migration management to enable smooth transition in Egypt Libya and Tunisia.” START has invested nearly EUR 10 million in the region since 2012.

Additional funding came from a Norwegian government-funded IOM project: "Return and reintegration assistance for migrants stranded in Egypt and Libya", which contributed NKR 4.1 million (EUR 478,000).

IOM has helped almost 200,000 stranded migrants to leave Libya since violence erupted there in 2011. It is a difficult process, explains Belbeisi, not just because the continuing violence hinders the organization's presence on the ground. Many stranded migrants also no longer have their original travel documents, he notes.

Over a million Egyptian nationals are believed to reside in Libya and many may wish to return to Egypt. As many as 300,000 other foreign nationals from Africa, Asia and the Middle East may also be in need of assistance.

“Over the past month, we have seen clear signals that the situation in Libya is unraveling,” IOM Director General William Lacy Swing said this week. “We must stand ready to assist thousands of extremely vulnerable people who need our help,” he added.