GENEVA, Switzerland, March 20, 2015/African Press Organization (APO)/ — It took nearly 24 hours to bring the last of three planeloads of Senegalese migrants from Libya today. But with the arrival of this last group in Dakar Friday morning, IOM completed its mission begun on 27 February.
The last group of 130 migrants brings to 401 the total number of Senegalese nationals evacuated from Libya by IOM in a complicated operation involving securing assistance from the Libyan Red Crescent and Libya’s Directorate for Combating Illegal Migration (DCIM). Collaborating as well was the Government of Tunisia, which provided assistance to the IOM team at the country’s border.
“Thanks to the good cooperation of Libyan and Tunisian authorities, IOM successfully organized the third charter flight to Dakar as part of the humanitarian evacuation of stranded migrants out of Libya,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM Libya Chief of Mission, who added: “This wouldn’t have been achieved without the commitment of IOM colleagues and the good coordination with the Senegalese embassy in Tunis.”
The passengers, all male, included 13 minors who had been detained in Libya late last year. Most of the 401 men assisted by IOM were working informally in Tripoli until the middle of last December, when they were seized in a pre-dawn raid on a compound of buildings where more than 1,000 sub-Saharan migrants were living.
Many of these detainees later told IOM that Libyan police had robbed them of whatever savings they had amassed from working in construction and other day jobs, and that their mobile telephones were confiscated.
From Tripoli the detainees were taken to a holding facility in Misrata, where one of the Senegalese migrants managed to contact IOM with a mobile phone he had hidden when he was arrested. That started a chain of events that led to IOM securing the aid of Senegal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which helped secure travel documents for the detainees who volunteered to return to their country.
The first flight left the airport at Djerba, Tunisia, on 27 February, following a 24-hour journey from Misrata to the Libya-Tunisia border, then a long wait while authorities from both countries reviewed the travel documents of the evacuees. A second flight filled with evacuees arrived in Dakar on 5 March.
Yesterday’s evacuation began at dawn in Misrata, but was delayed because of road blocks in Libya. IOM also brought evacuees out from centers in Tripoli and Guwea, in addition to the one in Misrata, and the city of Sebha. Ultimately the group from Sebha could not reach the evacuation caravan in time. Those Senegalese will be evacuated at a later date, IOM’s Belbeisi said.
The three evacuations were made possible thanks to the generous support of the European Union (EU) and the Government of Norway. IOM’s EU-funded START project, “Stabilizing at risk communities and enhancing migration management to enable smooth transition in Egypt Libya and Tunisia”, has invested nearly EUR 10 million in the region since 2012. The Norwegian government-funded project, “Return and reintegration assistance for migrants stranded in Egypt and Libya” started in December 2013 and has contributed NOK 4.1 million (EUR 478,000) to IOM return assistance from Libya and Egypt.
Since the beginning of 2014, IOM has assisted a total of 658 third country nationals who requested voluntary repatriation from Libya. Besides the three evacuations of Senegalese, another 4,176 third country nationals remain in the IOM pipeline.
Among other nationalities assisted by IOM to date include Sudanese (85), Sri Lankans (75), Pakistanis (41), Nigerians (36), Yemenis (34), Kenyans (31) and Ethiopians (21).