GENEVA - The International Organization for Migration has repatriated 118 Ghanaian migrants who had been stranded in Libya for five months because of the ongoing conflict and COVID-19 restrictions in the country. The migrants who arrived in Ghana’s capital, Accra, on Thursday on a chartered flight included seven women and five children – two of them infants.
IOM spokeswoman Safa Msehli told VOA the migrants had been working in Libya for many years and had no plans to return home. But she said conditions in the capital, Tripoli, throughout the five-month period had become increasingly difficult.
“Due to the severity of the conflict, as well as the COVID-19 situation mobility restrictions, they found themselves out of jobs, out of income, and had been stranded in the city and decided to go home,” she said.
Msehli said some of the migrants lost their homes and were out on the street. She said the IOM provided them with shelter while the agency’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Program was placed on a temporary hold.
The IOM says all the migrants were medically screened for the coronavirus before departure and received protective personal equipment, psychosocial assistance and help in resuming their lives back home. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease.
Msehli said voluntary returns are a lifeline for migrants stranded in Libya. She said more flights are planned to catch up with the backlog of migrants who have applied for assistance to return home.
“We know that at least 2,300 people have registered for the program to return to their countries of origin. Some of them will be returning in September to Bangladesh. We did have a flight to Mali next week but that has been postponed due to the security and political situation,” Msehli said.
A military coup this past week ousted Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
The IOM repatriated nearly 9,800 migrants to 34 countries of origin across Africa and Asia last year. The repatriations were voluntary.