Panafrican News Agency

EU-IOM joint initiative supports return of 127 Gambians from Libya; assists 151 returnees

Banjul, Gambia (PANA) - The  International Organization for Migration  (IOM) has assisted the return of 127 Gambian migrants stranded in Libya through its Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme.

A statement made available to PANA here Monday said this was made possible through the EU-IOM joint initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, funded by the European Union.

The statement said after receiving clearance from the government of National Unity in Libya, this marked the first humanitarian flight since 8 August 2021 when all humanitarian flights were suspended by Libya’s Ministry of Interior.

The statement added that the returnees included five children, seven women, and 16 with medical needs.

According to the statement, prior to departure, the migrants underwent health checks and were provided with pre-departure transportation assistance, counselling services and protection screening.

“They also received personal protective equipment and took COVID-19 PCR tests before boarding. Upon arrival, the returnees received temporary accommodation, food, hygiene items, medical and psychosocial support, and pocket allowance.

"They also participated in an orientation on the process of receiving reintegration assistance,” the statement noted.

“Since 2017, the EU has supported the voluntary return of over 3,000 Gambians stranded in Libya. This support shows the European Union’s enduring commitment to protect migrants' human rights and dignity,”  said the European Union Ambassador to the Republic of The Gambia, Corrado Pampaloni.

He further said that upon request by the Government of The Gambia, on 16, 17 and 21 October, another group of Gambians, who were returned from Mauritania, received post-arrival assistance at the Amdalai border Gambia border town.

“In total, 151 Gambians who were rescued off the Mauritanian coast received post-arrival assistance, which entailed the provision of hygiene and non-food items, medical and psychosocial support and pocket allowance,” he revealed.

He added: “The  Joint Initiative also provided humanitarian assistance to West African migrants stranded in The Gambia.

A group of 18 Conakry Guineans, two Burkinabe, one Senegalese and one Sierra Leonean was referred to IOM by the Gambia Immigration Department (GID) in Basse Upper River Region and was assisted to return home between 23 and 25 October, after receiving support in the form of shelter, food, hygiene items, medical assistance, counseling and processing of travel documents.

He stated that a group of 16 Bissau Guineans, which included three women and one minor, was similarly referred to IOM by GID in Basse and received the same emergency assistance.

The migrants will be assisted to return home as soon as a risk assessment is completed.

“The past few days have highlighted IOM’s commitment to protecting vulnerable migrants, including Gambians abroad who wish to return home and migrants stranded in The Gambia.

"Our partnership with the European Union enables us to respond swiftly to address migrants’ most pressing needs and identify solutions for their safe and dignified return,” remarked Ms. Fumiko Nagano, IOM Chief of Mission in The Gambia.

-0-PANA MSS/RA 25Oct2021