The dream of many immigrants in Libya is not Europe

by Giuseppe Terranova - 2017.10.03
The dream of many immigrants in Libya is not Europe
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In the army of immigrants blocked by Libyans, there is a component that few know of and no-one speaks about. Consisting of those who don’t dream of Europe and dream only of returning home but don’t have the means to do so. They number thousands, coming for the most part from sub-Sahara Africa. Having worked for years in the Libyan building and petroleum sectors, after the death of Gheddafi they were left bereft of skills. We asked Eugenio Ambrosi, Regional Director for Europe of the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) that works in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to help these people exit from the Libyan dead end, to shed light on this invisible population who never make the headlines.

What is the situation in Libya now?

The country is unstable, fragile and insecure. It is mainly the immigrants, internal displaced people and many everyday Libyan citizens who are paying the price for this. We work on a daily basis with the United Nations and the local authorities to guarantee them assistance and protection. The main challenge in this stage is to make Southern Libya more stable.

Is it the case that in Libya many immigrants dream of returning to their country rather than moving to Europe, but do not have the economic means to do so?

Undoubtedly. So much so that the IOM programme for voluntary repatriation has been extended to respond to the mountain of requests by immigrants to organise and sustain the cost of the return journey from Libya to the country of origin. They often have to address bureaucratic as well as economic difficulties. Many immigrants, particularly those living in rural Libyan areas, are in fact not able to get into contact with their Embassy in Libya to obtain the documents that they need for repatriation. This is behind the IOM’s recent decision to start an “On-line Consulate” that we hope can speed up the issuing procedure for travel documents.

How many immigrants have been involved to date in you repatriation programme?

From the beginning of 2017, we have helped 8,100 people coming from 24 countries. The goal is to reach 12,000 by the end of 2017. For this reason, we have decided to extend our programme to voluntary repatriations.

What changed for the IOM after the Summit on Immigration in Paris on the 28 August 2017 that brought together European and African leaders?

It offered significant political support to a complexity of activities and initiatives that the IOM has already put in place thanks to generous funding from the EU and the countries that are part of it. However, this is not all. To this, we should add, as stated in the conclusion of the Summit, the promise of support to the work of the IOM in Libya to build dignified infrastructure for refugees and immigrants and look into forms of assistance other than detention in the traditional holding centres.

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