The International Organization for Migration says it has repatriated 150 Somali migrants stranded in Libya this past week. Most had been held in government-run detention centers for months under abysmal conditions.
The returning Somali migrants account for only a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees living in precarious conditions in Libya.
The International Organization for Migration believes as many as one million people, most from Arab and African countries, have made the dangerous journey to Libya as the gateway to Europe and a better life.
But, the reality upon arrival is quite different. IOM says migrants in Libya are exposed to many risks, including smuggling, trafficking, kidnapping, abuse, detention and torture. IOM spokesman Joel Millman says the organization’s voluntary repatriation program has thousands of migrants of different nationalities from this dire fate.
“We believe that these flights and other activities that IOM is doing in Libya is assisting in getting people home and that is reducing the risk and the actual fatalities of some of the world’s most vulnerable migrants from this route across the Mediterranean,” he said.
Data show nearly 30,000 Somali migrants and refugees have left Libya by sea for Italy since 2014.
Millman says this latest voluntary humanitarian return of migrants from Libya to Somalia was the fourth and the largest. He says it also was the first chartered, non-stop flight from the Libyan capital Tripoli to Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.
He says IOM plans to return around 300 other vulnerable Somali migrants in Libya back to Mogadishu in the coming weeks. Upon return, he says the migrants are given psychological counseling and some assistance to help them reintegrate into their home communities.