IOM Resumes Repatriation Flights for Migrants Stranded in Libya

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The International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced on Thursday that it has resumed humanitarian flights from Libya, and has safely repatriated 127 stranded Gambian migrants.

The Gambian migrants were among thousands waiting to go home through IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme.

Thursday’s flight successfully returned the 117 men, five women, and five children from Libya’s Misrata airport to the Gambian capital of Banjul.

The flight marks the first since 8 August, when all humanitarian flights were suspended by the Libyan Ministry of Interior.

“More than 10,000 migrants in Libya have requested IOM’s VHR assistance and have been waiting for months to return home,” said Federico Soda, IOM Libya Chief of Mission.

“It is extremely significant that the Libyan government has lifted the suspension because IOM’s VHR programme is critical for migrants who want to leave Libya and return home in a safe, legal, and dignified manner and rebuild their lives,” he added.

The return process is also supported by the countries of origin, with whom the pre-departure work in Libya is closely coordinated.

Libya has long been the primary transit and destination country for migrants arriving from various parts of Africa. Many become stranded in the country with limited options to return home.

According to the IOM, more than 53,000 African migrants have returned from Libya since 2015, through the VHR programme.

The VHR programme is funded by the European Union under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration and through the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Migration Fund.