By Ndey Sowe
On Wednesday, 20 April 2022, the Executive of Voluntary Migrant Returnees from Libya, paid a courtesy call on the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Mamadou Tangara, at his office in Banjul, to introduce the new association, its executive members as well as their objectives to the Minister.
The Gambian Association in Libya and the International Organisation for Migration supported the repatriation of hundreds of Gambian migrants who voluntarily returned from Libya as a result of hardships and maltreatment in the North African county.
After the return of the last two batches in November 2021, the voluntary returnees converged in February 2022 to select an executive that will represent their welfare and interest and consequently, the executive sought to meet the Minister of Foreign Affairs to share their ordeals and of those currently languishing in Libya’s prisons and detention centres.
The meeting was very emotional as the eight executive members took turns to narrate their heart-breaking stories filled with imprisonment, detention, trafficking, kidnaping, rape and other maltreatments.
The group said the association was formed to support each other in order to easily reintegrate and settle and to also be a mouthpiece for their colleagues suffering in Libya, while endeavouring to deter others from venturing into this horrendous journey.
The migrant returnees seek support from the government to facilitate opportunities for them as most of them already have skills that can be utilized with support from Government, NGOs and other partners, in a bid to support themselves and their families.
The association also sought support from the Government in terms of diplomatic representation in Libya, requesting for at least a Liaison Officer from the Gambian Association in Tripoli, to ease documentation which facilitates the association to have access to various prisons and detention centres where Gambians are languishing.
The Minister expressed pleasure in receiving the members and pledged the Government’s support by appointing a Liaison Officer very soon. He also directed the Director of Diaspora and Migration to start engaging the Nigerian Government, so that the Nigerian Embassy in Tripoli can represent Gambians and provide them with humanitarian assistance. He urged the association to register with the Ministry of Justice so that they can be recognised and attract support from other areas. The Minister also supported the association with a cash donation of fifty thousand dalasi (D50, 000).
This is the first-time migrant returnees organised themselves to form an association to promote their welfare and reintegration in Gambian society, after their excruciating attempts to seek greener pasture to no avail.