Working in close coordination with the Government of Bangladesh, International Organization for Migration (IOM) facilitated the safe return of 160 Bangladeshi migrants stranded in Libya under its Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme on 5 May.
The flight carrying the returnees left Benghazi, Libya on 4 May and landed at Dhaka’s Hazarat Shajalal International Airport (HSIA) the following day. The returnees including 159 men and one woman were stranded in Libya due to the COVID-19 pandemic and protracted political instability. IOM assisted with the safe return of these migrants in coordination with the Embassy of Bangladesh in Libya. The body of one Bangladeshi national who died in Libya was also repatriated on this flight.
Prior to departure, the returnees underwent health checks, were offered pre-departure transportation assistance, counselling services and screened for underlying protection vulnerabilities by IOM. Given the current COVID- 19 situation, all returnees were also provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and took a COVID-test (PCR) prior to departure.
In Dhaka, Government officials and IOM Bangladesh staff received and supported the migrants at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. At the airport, the returnees each received cash for transportation from IOM to help them get home.
Added to this, the returnees will each receive a reintegration grant from IOM. Reintegration support is particularly important for migrants who, in some cases, have experienced physical and psychological trauma while stranded in Libya.
According to one of the returnees, “Life in Libya was very dangerous as hostilities continued there. I decided to return to my country as I could not earn enough money. It was very difficult to stay over there. I am grateful to IOM and the Government of Bangladesh for arranging my flight home. I am very happy that I will see my family after years.”
Giorgi Gigauri, IOM Bangladesh’s Chief of Mission said, “Stranded Bangladeshi migrants find themselves in precarious conditions in Libya, and COVID-19 has exacerbated their vulnerabilities. It is our number one priority to provide these returnees with a safe and dignified way to get home, and to support reintegration into their communities. To do this, we continue to work closely and constructively with the Government of Bangladesh, and I thank them for their ongoing efforts.”
IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Programme can be life-saving for migrants stranded or in detention, especially in conflict-ridden countries. Since 2015, a total of 2,942 Bangladeshi migrants have returned from Libya through the Programme, which is a part of the larger EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.
The programme facilitates orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration management through the development of rights-based and development-focused policies and processes on protection and sustainable reintegration. The necessity of the VHR programme was magnified in 2020, when 30migrants—including 26 Bangladeshis—were shot and killed in a smuggling warehouses in the Libyan town of Mizdah.
The flight was made possible with support from the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative, supported by the European Union.