The African Union (AU) has supported 5,200 migrants to return home safely from Libya since November 2017, the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) Mission in Libya, has said.
Othman Belbeisi, Chief of IOM Mission in Libya, said thousands of migrants had also returned home safely from the war-ravaged country since 2017 through a UN-supported programme.
“We are continuing to assist migrants inside Libyan detention centres, while increasing efforts to reach stranded migrants outside of detention.
“Since the expansion of our Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) operation, the number of migrants in official detention centres have dropped from an estimated 20,000 people in October 2017 to 4,000 people today, a five-fold decrease”.
He said since January 2017, some 23,302 migrants had repatriated through the VHR programme, which consists of the European Union (EU), AU and Libyan Government.
He said IOM in Libya was also working with the authorities to register migrants, provide lifesaving assistance in the form of health care and essential aid items, psychosocial support, improve consular services and projects promoting community stabilisation.
He said nearly half of voluntary returns executed by IOM from Libya were part of the larger EU-IOM Joint Initiative on Migrant Protection and Reintegration initiative that supported reintegration for returnees in countries of origin.
According to him, the initiative is active in Libya as well as 26 countries in North Africa, the Sahel and the Lake Chad region, and the Horn of Africa.
IOM Regional Director for the EU, Eugenio Ambrosi, said the VHR operation’s scale of protection needs and number of returns had overtaken initial planning and pose challenges for countries of origin.
Mr. Ambrosi said: “We are embarking on a completely new approach to reintegration and we believe in it.
“It will take some time to build, and in cooperation with authorities in countries of origin and the local communities, we are already seeing promising developments.”
He said with partners, IOM had been scaling up activities to meet the surge in returnees and ensure assistance upon their arrival, and in the longer-term – to readjust to their communities.
Mr. Ambrosi said the programme also offered re-integration assistance for those returning from EU States.