A group of 91 migrants was returned from Libya to Niger by UN migration agency IOM and Libyan authorities on Wednesday. Most of them were women and children.
The migrants were repatriated via a humanitarian flight that left Misrata, Libya, for Niger on Wednesday (November 3), according to reports from news agency AFP.
Lieutenant Colonel Hussein Amin al-Terki, an official responsible for returns of irregular migrants through Misrata airport, told AFP that the group included 60 children, 25 women and six men.
More than 10,000 migrants waiting
The UN migration agency IOM runs a voluntary returns program for migrants in Libya. The wait list for repatriations is long -- the coronavirus pandemic and fighting have repeatedly halted return flights. In late October, Federico Soda, IOM Libya Chief of Mission, said that "more than 10,000 migrants in Libya have requested IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance and have been waiting for months to return home."
Voluntary return flights were put on hold on August 8 due to a suspension by the Libyan interior ministry. At the end of October, IOM announced it was resuming flights after having received clearance from the Government of National Unity. A group of 127 stranded migrants from The Gambia were returned in a flight on October 21, and another flight returned a group of 134 Bangladeshi migrants on October 26.
Migrants face exploitation, abuse
There are more than 600,000 migrants living in Libya, according to IOM. Many face dire living conditions, exploitation and human rights abuses.
In early October, Libyan armed forces detained more than 5,000 migrants, including hundreds of children and pregnant women. One migrant was killed and at least 15 others injured during the raids, according to UN officials. A few days later, six migrants were killed after guards opened fire at an overcrowded detention facility.
Several hundreds of migrants have since been staging a sit-in outside the Tripoli office of the UN's refugee agency UNHCR, demanding to be evacuated.