In Tripoli, migrants wait at the airport to be sent home by the IOM in 2017 | Photo: Imago
In Tripoli, migrants wait at the airport to be sent home by the IOM in 2017 | Photo: Imago

More than 16,000 migrants were returned home from Libya in 2018 under a voluntary return program run by the UN's migration agency, the IOM. Many of them had tried - and failed - to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

"16,753 irregular migrants were able to return to their countries of origin last year," the IOM program coordinator Jomaa Ben Hassan told the AFP news agency.

The migrants were from 32 countries in Africa and Asia.

Over 4,000 UNHCR evacuations

Several thousand more people have also been helped to leave Libya and resettle through a separate program run by the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR. The agency says 4,080 refugees and asylum seekers were evacuated from Libya for resettlement - including some initially to transit countries – in the period between September 2017 and January 2019.

In a statement earlier this week, the UNHCR said it had registered 56,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Libya.

Libya remains major departure point

There were at least 663,445 migrants in Libya at the end of 2018, according to the IOM’s Data Tracking Matrix. 94 percent originated from African countries

Since the overthrow of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, Libya has become the main departure point from Africa for migrants heading to Europe.

Thousands of people have crossed Libya's southern border in recent years and traveled on to the Mediterranean coast.

Many of them have been abused and sold into slavery in Libya. International organizations, including the UNHCR, have repeatedly denounced the mistreatment of migrants in Libya.

 

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