About 150 Somali migrants in Libya returned home on Wednesday under a voluntary repatriation program organized by the United Nations International Organization for Migration and the European Union.
They had spent several months in detention centres in Libya after being rounded up by Libyan authorities as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
“We are very happy that we could help these boys because these boys go through a very difficult time there in Libya. The smugglers request a lot of money, they get kidnapped, they get beaten. They are exposed to a lot of harassment and abuses, nothing to drink, nothing to eat. So it is really a terrible situation. It is not only for the Somalis, but for all Africans who are there and I wish that this agony, this drama to end as soon as possible,” said the Somali ambassador to the Benelux and the European Union.
“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,” said Mahad Abdullahi Hassan, who was among the returnees.
Upon arrival, they had their paperwork processed and underwent a medical examination to ascertain their health condition.
The IOM repatriation program has so far returned more than 25,000 people to their home countries.
“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,” said Mark Lewis, an official at the IOM.
Several of these migrants left to flee fighting at home, in the hope that they could find jobs and a better life abroad.
They are the first group of 300 Somalis in Libya to make voluntary returns home.