EYEAFRICA TV: Mogadishu, SOMALIA: At least 150 Somali migrants are reported to have voluntarily returned to their home country on Thursday with transportation organized by the United Nations following several months of confinement in detention centers in Libya.
The returnees had been rounded up by Libyan authorities as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, with most of them held in government-run detention centers in the North African country for months.
Thursday’s special chartered flight was provided by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in collaboration with the Libyan and Somali governments and with funding from the European Union.
IOM has tracked more than 660,000 migrants in Libya, where they are exposed to numerous risks, including smuggling, trafficking, kidnapping, abuse, detention and torture. The true number of migrants there could be closer to one million people.
Working with the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), IOM and UNHCR will oversee their resettlement and reintegration in the country.
“UNHCR are providing cash-based transfers immediately for the next six months, as well as other support, and IOM is looking towards more needs-based reintegration support over the long-term, including vocational training, health, business support, psychosocial – whatever they need, we are trying to help them towards a sustainable reintegration,” said Mark Lewis, an official with the IOM Somalia Support Office.
Those present to receive the returnees included Somalia’s Ambassador to the Benelux and the European Union, Dr. Ali Said Faqi.
Mr. Lewis said the FGS had responded to the returnees’ pleas for help, after undergoing harrowing experiences, which included detention in Libya and treacherous journeys through Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, with many losing travelling companions to exhaustion and disease along the way.
Dr. Ali Said Faqi, Somali Ambassador to the Benelux and the European Union said, “We are very happy that we could help these boys because they went through a very difficult time there in Libya. The smugglers requested a lot of money, they get kidnapped and they got beaten.”
Upon arrival, the returnees had their paperwork processed and were examined by doctors to ascertain their health condition.
Mahad Abdullahi Hassan, one of the returnees, said “I cannot find the right words to explain the anguish I went through in Libya. It was a difficult situation and I was held in detention for a long time. Finally, I have been freed and I have returned to my home country.”
Also, today’s return is the fourth and largest voluntary humanitarian return of migrants from Libya to Somalia; IOM carried out the first in February of this year. So far in 2018, IOM has helped 7,414 migrants return to their home countries from Libya, in addition to 19,371 IOM helped voluntary return last year. All migrants, who IOM helps return from Libya, are offered reintegration assistance, based on their vulnerability.
According to IOM, Somalia continues to be characterized by migration flows, with internal displacement and irregular migration constituting major challenges – every year, the thousands of Somalis who make hazardous journeys along regional migration routes are exposed to severe protection risks.