IOM assists over 3,000 Nigerians stranded in Libya return home safely

Nigerians returnees arrive in Lagos airport. Photographer: Stylia Kampani / 2022

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has assisted the safe return of over 3,000 Nigerian migrants from Libya since January 2022. 126 Nigerians arrived today afternoon in Lagos in the 13th charter flight from Libya for this year.

The voluntary humanitarian flight with 62 women, 46 men, 8 children and 10 infants aboard departed from Tripoli, Thursday morning (13.10) and landed safely at Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos at 4 p.m.

The challenging security situation in the country has left many migrants stranded in Libya. “I traveled to Libya to start working there, but life was challenging due to the conflict. The availability of jobs was extremely scarce,” said the 36-year-old Emmanuel. “I am glad to head home finally and see my family again,” he added.

“The Voluntary Humanitarian Return flights contribute to achieving safe, orderly and dignified migration. It safeguards the human rights of migrants, upholds international principles and standards, and contributes to preserving the integrity of migrants,” said Victor Lutenco, Senior Migration Management Programme Coordinator and Head of IOM Lagos Sub-office.

Prior to departure, the returnees underwent health checks including COVID-19 tests and received hygiene kits containing face masks and other protective gear. IOM also provided them with pre-departure counselling services, protection screening, transportation assistance and targeted assistance to migrants with specific situations of vulnerability such as pregnant women, unaccompanied migrant children, victims of trafficking and migrants with medical conditions.

Upon arrival, the returnees are assisted with food and refreshments, and a mobile phone to contact their families and remain in touch with IOM as they receive reintegration support, while vulnerable individuals are provided with non-food items such as clothes, shoes and other essential items.

“The EU, together with IOM, remains committed to sustainable reintegration of returning migrants as well as to strengthening national mechanisms and relevant actors in the reintegration sphere for the benefit of all returnees,” noted Eleni Zerzelidou, International Aid/Cooperation Officer for Migration Drugs and Organised Crime.

The returnees will be hosted for the first seven days at IOM’s new Migrant Transit Centre in Lagos. The centre has been fully operational since May 2022 and offers multiple services. With the capacity to host up to 400 migrants, the centre offers services including direct medical assistance, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), counselling, fresh meals and a safe, clean, and secure location to rest.

During the stay, IOM also provides business skills training to help them to kickstart income-generating activities as part of their reintegration assistance.

IOM, LASEMA and National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCRFMI) run the transit centre collaboratively, with diverse responsibilities for each entity.

So far over 28,000 Nigerians have been assisted to voluntarily return home between April 2017 and September 2022. The partnership between the European Union under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration has been instrumental in helping give Nigerians a new perspective back home.

Libya has long been an important transit and destination country for migrants arriving from different parts of Africa. IOM’s latest DTM report indicates that Nigerian migrants make up 5 per cent of migrants in Libya, the country’s fifth largest migrant population. According to IOM data, Libya followed by Niger and Mali are the primary transit countries for Nigerian migrants.

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