On Thursday June 16, at Murtala International Airport, Lagos, 162 stranded Nigerians migrants, including 28 women and 3 children, returned home to Nigeria from Libya with the assistance of International Organization for Migration (IOM) Libya.
Of the 162 deportees, 146 spent months in the immigration detention centres, which are Abu Saleem, Qarapoly and al Zawia detentions centres.
The repatriation, in close co-operation with the Libyan authorities, the Nigerian Embassy in Tripoli and the IOM mission in Nigeria, was on board a booked flight that departed Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport and arrived in Abuja the same afternoon. The recovered migrants were received by IOM Nigeria at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport and were provided with cash grants upon arrival. Of the group, 20 will be provided with some extra support.
Before leaving, all migrants were provided with hygiene kits, clothes and shoes. A mobile patrol from the Libyan Directorate of Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM) escorted the buses to Mitiga airport.
The circumstances of this group were similar to the other migrants who were previously recovered by IOM from Libya. Almost all the migrants traveling on this charter were detained after they were intercepted at sea, trying to get to Europe.
19 year old Omar, told IOM of his story.
“I made it to Libya six months ago, and I settled in Garaboli city, 60 km east of Tripoli, with the intention of travelling to Italy, where I was arrested by a militia member together with other migrants. He threatened to send us to prison if we refused to work for him. We worked at his farm, for no money at all. When we tried to escape he asked us to pay 500 dinars (USD 360) for our release. Then he put us in a room and shot at us with his gun. I was shot in the leg. He then threw gasoline on us and set us on fire. I was severely burned. I managed to escape from the farm and I was eventually taken to the hospital by police who found me lying on the side of the road.”
38 year old Adama, who is a father of three, living with his mother, borrowed USD 5,000. He called it
“price of salvation trip”
. He arrived in Libya five months ago and spent three months in the detention center. He said
“It does not matter which country, any country in Europe is a paradise for me and worthy of any risk to reach, even if the price is my life.”
A 25-year-old paraplegic, Abdul said his physical condition did not prevent him from working as an auto mechanic in Nigeria, after dropping out of school, to help his parents and his brothers. Though, he lost his job and struggled to survive, thus he was easily convinced when his friends in Italy convinced him that there would be plenty of opportunities for him under Italian disability laws. His journey was much harder than other migrants because of his condition. When he arrived in Libya, he was forced to work for two months in an electronic repair shop owned by a brother of one of the smugglers in Sabha (South Libya) to pay for his passage to Tripoli. Upon his arrival in Tripoli last February, he tried to find work to raise money for his passage on the boat. He was arrested just two weeks after he arrived.
“I chose the humanitarian repatriation although I’m sure that the situation at home is much worse. I have to face my family with empty hands after all that they spent to get me here in the first place. I hope the organization (IOM) will help in securing income same as it helped me to secure my return to my country.”
39 year old mother of two, Aicha, arrived in Libya five months ago via the desert. She left her two children with her husband in search of a better life. She said,
“It was a long and hard trip where my life was threatened twice when I fell down from the truck between Agadez (Niger) and Al Qatrun (Libya) because of the huge number of migrants that were on the back of the truck. After my arrival in Tripoli, I found work as a maid in one of the connection houses which is more like houses of prostitution. Eventually, I had to escape and began to think seriously about the return. Luckily I heard from a friend that IOM organizes voluntary repatriation so I registered with the embassy.”
Despite it all, these migrants consider themselves lucky to have escaped death trying to cross the Mediterranean, which this year has claimed the lives of 2,438 migrants and refugees on the central Mediterranean route.
The fund for this charter was provided by the Swiss Secretariat of Migration, under the project
“Provision of Humanitarian Repatriation and Reintegration for Stranded Migrants in Libya”.