IOM Facilitates Voluntary Return of Burkinabe Migrants from Libya

By International Office of Migration (IOM)

IOM yesterday (17/12) helped 178 stranded Burkinabe migrants, including 2 women and 2 children, to return home to Burkina Faso from Libya. Some had spent months in immigration detention centres.

The repatriation, in close cooperation with the Libyan authorities, the Burkina Faso Embassy in Tripoli and the IOM office in Burkina Faso, was on board a charter flight that departed Tripoli's Mitiga Airport and arrived in Ouagadougou the same afternoon.

Before departure, all migrants overnighted in the embassy, where IOM Libya staff provided food, drink and hygiene kits. A mobile patrol from the Tripoli Security Committee escorted the buses to Mitiga airport.

Almost all of these migrants had entered Libya via Niger, paying smugglers between USD 800 and USD 1,300 for a trip that lasted anywhere from two weeks to a month.

Massoud, a 33-year-old farmer said: "I paid USD 300 to smugglers in Qatrun to take me (north) to Sabha. On arrival, I was imprisoned by a local militia group and only released after I paid them a ransom of USD 477.”

During their stay in Libya, migrants said they faced tough conditions just to survive, not only because of the lack of paying jobs, but mainly due to widespread insecurity and crime. Being constantly at risk of being robbed or taken a hostage for ransom was the hardest part, many said.

Esaa, another young migrant, told IOM that he and his friends were attacked by an armed group seven months ago. They took everything they had and kidnapped his friend — Abu Bakr — whom he has not heard from since.

Idriss, a 25-year-old farmer, was beaten and tortured by unknown gunmen until he lost consciousness. He said he entered a militia base next to his friend's home by mistake. Since then he has suffered from partial amnesia and lack of sleep due to recurring nightmares almost every night.

Salma, who worked as a housemaid and is a mother of four children, said: "I left my three children back in Burkina Faso and came together with my husband to find work in Libya. But he had to return home because of illness. I was left behind, alone with my son Yassin, who is now 2 years old. He needs surgery urgently, which I do not have the money for. The family that I used to work for left for good. I was alone in their house without a job, so I had to leave. I rented a room for us with what remained from my savings."

Jamila, another returnee, told IOM that she found herself alone after her father's death. She worked as a housemaid for very little money. In the end her life became almost unbearable, which is why she wanted to return home, she said.

Burkina Faso's Ambassador to Libya Abraham Traroe said: "Young Burkinabe abroad who paint a rosy picture of their life in Libya, mentioning only the positive side of the story are a big problem. They encourage others to go to Libya, mainly through irregular ways. Then they discover the reality. But by then they are already trapped.”

IOM Libya Chief of Mission Othman Belbeisi said: “Under the current circumstances in Libya, we can only provide assistance to migrants if fully supported by their respective embassies. We need their help to get travel documents and to take care of the migrants on the day before their departure. We rely on our partners and they rely on us.”

The funds for the charter were provided by the European Union and the Italian Ministry of Interior as part of an IOM project: “Prevention and management of irregular migration flows from the SAHara Desert to the MEDiterrarean Sea (SAHMED)”.

The charter was the second of a series of repatriation flights that IOM is planning to organize in the coming months to Senegal, Nigeria, Mali, and Burkina Faso.