The International Organization for Migration has begun the voluntary repatriation of thousands of West African migrants being held in detention centers in Libya under abusive conditions.
IOM plans to repatriate a total of 15,000 African migrants by the end of the year. Most come from Nigeria, Guinea, Mali and Senegal.
The government of Niger has agreed to act as a country of transit for the migrants. Those who arrive at the airport in Niamey are registered by the International Organization for Migration and transported to their homes of origin.
An IOM charter flight carrying 504 Nigerians, including women and young children, arrived in Niamey on Thursday. IOM plans seven additional daily charter flights from Tripoli, each carrying about 500 Nigerian migrants.
The organization says another chartered flight arrived in Guinea's capital on Thursday, carrying 167 of the country's nationals.
Returning in great distress
Agency spokesman Leonard Doyle says people are returning home in great distress after having endured months of torture, overcrowding and other forms of ill-treatment in the Libyan detention centers.
Doyle tells VOA it is very difficult to stop African migrants from trying to reach Europe. He criticizes Facebook and other social media for allowing criminals to spread lies and entice young people to make this sometimes-fatal journey.
“We really, once again, request, ask social media companies to step it up and behave in a responsible way when people are being lured to their death, to their torture," Doyle said. "Their families are being emasculated. The torture sessions are sent back to their families over WhatsApp, which I understand is also a Facebook tool.”
Doyle says Facebook is interested in pushing its market share in Africa, which has a potential client base of one billion.
But, he says this should not be done in ways that are detrimental to young, vulnerable populations across West Africa and elsewhere who in seeking a better life often become victims of gross violations of human rights.