127 Gambians Flown Home As Libya Resumes Evacuation
A group of Gambian migrants stranded in Libya have been repatriated, the United Nations’ migration agency said Friday, the first such evacuation flight in months.
“127 Gambian migrants were assisted to voluntarily return to The Gambia yesterday after IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return program received clearance to resume humanitarian flights from #Libya,” the International Organization for Migration said in a tweet.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it had received permission from the Government of National Unity (GNU) to resume humanitarian flights, noting that it had deported the first batch of migrants to the Gambia who were awaiting their return home through the Voluntary Humanitarian Return Program.
Of the deported 127 migrants, the organization explained that it has seven females and 120 males, including five children from Misrata Airport to the Gambian capital, Banjul on the first flight since August 8, 2021, at which time the Ministry of Interior has suspended all humanitarian flights.
The UNHCR on Friday welcomed the resumption of humanitarian evacuation flights but warned that “it is not enough”.
“This is a positive development for some of the most vulnerable refugees, who have been waiting anxiously for many months to depart,” its regional envoy Vincent Cochetel said in a statement.
“But we also need to be realistic: resettlement or evacuation flights will only benefit a limited number of people.”
Rocked by a decade of lawlessness and war, Libya has become a key conduit for migrants, mainly from African countries south of the Sahara, seeking to reach Europe by sea.
But many end up becoming stranded in Libya, where they face grave abuses, according to international rights groups and UN agencies.
The resumption of humanitarian flights came as Tripoli hosted an international conference to seek support for stability in Libya.
The UN’s vice-head for political affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, used the conference to urge authorities to speed up repatriations and release migrants in detention.
Libyan authorities faced international outcry earlier this month after carrying out sweeping raids described by Doctors without Borders as “violent mass arrests” that left at least one person dead.
Days later, guards had shot dead 6 migrants at the Al-Mabani detention facility in Tripoli, while at least 24 others were wounded, the IOM said.
Some 2 000 migrants escaped in the chaos.
The Libyan interior ministry said a “stampede” had left an “irregular migrant” dead and wounded others as well as several police officers.
The United Nations has in the past offered flights for migrants voluntarily seeking repatriation.
Its refugee agency, the UNHCR, organized one such flight to Rwanda in July with 133 asylum seekers on board – the only one authorized by Libyan authorities this year.
The UNHCR urged the Libyan government to “immediately address the dire situation of asylum seekers and refugees in a humane and rights-based manner.”
More than 1 000 vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers are currently prioritized for humanitarian flights and awaiting their resumption, it said.
© Agence France-Presse