The body responsible for combating illegal immigration in Libya, in coordination with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), organized the return of over 320 illegal Nigerians to their country on Tuesday January 30, AFP is reporting.
War-torn Libya has become as a key departure point on North Africa’s Mediterranean coast for migrants, mainly from other parts of Africa, risking dangerous sea voyages in hopes of reaching Europe.
Libya’s rival administrations last year agreed on a Tripoli-based anti-immigration body tasked with coordinating deportations of foreigners who are in the country illegally. “We carried out on Tuesday the expulsion of 163 irregular migrants of Nigerian nationality from the Mitiga airport, including 107 women, 51 men and five children,” said the migration agency’s head of security, Mohamad Baredaa.
In a move coordinated with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Baredaa added that “160 Nigerians will be sent back to their country from Benina airport in Benghazi” later on Tuesday.
AFP reports that the first group at Tripoli’s Mitiga airport on Tuesday, were given a laissez-passer before boarding shuttles to the plane. According to the IOM, there are more than 700,000 migrants in Libya.
More than a decade of violence and instability since the 2011 overthrow and killing of dictator Muammar Qadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising helped turn the country into a fertile ground for human traffickers. Smugglers and traffickers have long been accused of abuses.
In 2015, the UN-affiliated organisation established a “voluntary humanitarian return” scheme, arranging and financing travel for migrants and asylum seekers in Libya wishing to leave for their respective origin countries. Last year, 9,370 people left under the programme, down from 11,200 in 2022, according to IOM figures.