62,422 Ghanaians stranded in Libya

BY: Daily Graphic
Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway
Ms Shirley Ayorkor Botchway

As of March 2018, 62,422 Ghanaians were identified in different cities and detention centres in Libya, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix has revealed.

That number, it said, ranks Ghanaians in Libya fifth after Egyptian, Nigerien, Chadian and Sudanese nationals out of 38 different nationalities in that country.

Since June 2017, a total of 706 (661 men, 45 women) Ghanaians stranded in Libya have been assisted to return home voluntarily with the majority of the returnees, 70 per cent, being returned from various detention centres in Libya, while the rest are from the cities.

“The number of Ghanaians returning from detention situations in Libya still remains high, highlighting the need for continued interventions to ensure their protection,” the IOM Chief of Mission in Ghana, Ms Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, said in a statement.

She noted that the priority of the organisation “is to ensure the safe and dignified voluntary humanitarian return home for all Ghanaians in need in Libya. At the same time, we need to mobilise all possible resources, financial and in-kind, to make those returns sustainable for migrants and their communities."

Returnees

Last Tuesday, IOM, the UN migration agency, in partnership with the Government of Ghana and the airport authorities, facilitated the return of 148 Ghanaians home by means of a charter flight from Libya.

The group, which included four women and two children, arrived at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra in what it said was the fourth charter flight organised by IOM through the European Union (EU)-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.

Traditionally, it said, the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and Greater Accra regions were the main areas of origin for Ghanaian returnees.

It, however, indicated that the Western Region had become the second most popular region in terms of the number of returnees, 18 per cent, in recent months.

IOM Ghana’s return and reintegration support from transit countries such as Libya, Niger and Mali is part of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in Ghana, begun in June 2017.

It is funded through the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) and is implemented by IOM in collaboration with the Government of Ghana.

The IOM says given the continued insecurity and maltreatment of migrants, particularly in detention centres, it will continue to provide the option of voluntary humanitarian return to Ghanaians and other migrants in Libya and other transit countries, and continue to coordinate with the Government of Ghana to ensure smooth processing and registration upon arrival and subsequent reintegration into their communities of origin.

Return formalities

As part of its Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme from Libya and other transit areas, the IOM conducts pre-departure interviews and medical examinations for all those who decide to return home, and facilitates the acquisition of travel documents.

Upon their arrival, all returnees are screened by Port Health officials, registered by the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) and inspected by the Ghana Police Service’s Bureau of National Investigations and Criminal Investigations Department.

They are subsequently registered by the IOM, given food and water, as well as pocket money for immediate needs. The IOM also provides migrants with buses to local transport hubs.

Returnees will have the opportunity to benefit from reintegration assistance which can consist of counselling, referrals to services (including psychosocial and medical) and other support — as needed and depending on the services available in the country.

The innovative integrated approach to reintegration assistance was rolled out by the IOM in West and Central African Region under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative combines support for returning migrants and their home communities.

It aims to mitigate possible tensions by involving local communities in the reintegration projects and raising awareness to address the potential stigma of returning home.

As such, projects can be community-based, collective or individual for vulnerable migrants.