By Ndey Sowe
In the evening of 21st January 2020, twenty four Gambian migrants stranded in Libya returned home safely through the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s voluntary humanitarian program to return stranded migrants.
According to Miko Alazas, Communications Officer at the IOM, two female minors were among the returnees; that the twenty four first joined a total of eighty eight stranded migrants on a Chartered flight from Tripoli to Bamako which included Malians and Guineans and proceeded onward to Banjul; that in the same evening, five Gambians stranded in Morocco were also assisted to return home.
“The returnees were provided temporary accommodation, meals and non-food items such as kits containing essential supplies like hygiene material,” he said; that the following day, they were issued arrival assistance cards for use as temporary identification; that the returnees underwent preliminary medical and psychosocial screening.
Alazas further said that after taking part in an orientation session on the process of receiving reintegration assistance, each of them received “pocket money” in Gambian Dalasi worth EUR 65, to cover basic needs; that over the coming weeks, the IOM will be working closely with Government and development partners to ensure the returnees’ economic, social and psychosocial reintegration in society; that they will commence counseling sessions to tailor reintegration assistance to their specific needs, interests and skills based on the available opportunities in the country.
He noted that this assistance may consist of support to set up or strengthen small businesses, support their pursuance to education or vocational training, support them for job insertion or referrals to other services, or other forms of support such as housing or psyco-social counseling. He said the returnees have the option to team up for collective or community based projects.
Fumiko Nagano, IOM’s Chief of Mission in the Gambia said even though the number of Gambians stranded in Libya has decreased considerably since 2017, they deem it crucial to offer assistance to those who wish to return home and do not have the means to do so particularly in light of the deteriorating situation in Libya.
According Miko, IOM has assisted over 5,000 returnees including over 3,000 from Libya through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration; that IOM continues to facilitate voluntary return from other countries including over 500 returnees to Niger in 2019.
He said the Joint Initiative is funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and covers twenty six African countries; that the project aims to contribute to migration governance and to support the sustainable reintegration of returning migrants through an integrated approach which addresses economic, social, and psycho-logical dimensions by fostering inclusion of communities in the process.