Libyan authorities, in a collaborative effort between rival administrations, have sent 248 undocumented migrants to Niger and Chad.
The joint operation aims to address the issue of human trafficking that has turned Libya into a hub for migrants seeking to reach Europe.
Trafficking gangs often exploit migrants, extorting money from them during their perilous journeys. Divided between rival authorities since the fall of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, Libya struggles with the influx of migrants.
The recent deportations involved 120 Nigeriens returning to Niamey, coordinated with the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Additionally, 128 migrants were set to be taken to the Chad border in collaboration with Libya’s eastern-based authorities. Moussa al-Koni, vice president of the Libyan presidential council, emphasized the need for cooperation to combat criminal trafficking networks, stating it’s a collective effort to enable people to live in dignity in their home countries.
“We have all paid a big price because of these groups that try to profit not only off nationals of Niger and Chad, but also of more distant countries in Africa and Asia, by smuggling them into Europe.”
To tackle these “criminal networks of traffickers” in Libya, Chad and Niger, cooperation is needed between “the countries of departure or transit and the destination countries“, Koni said.
“This is a collective effort that would let these people stay in their countries and live there in dignity.”
According to IOM figures, more than 700,000 migrants — mostly from Niger and Egypt — were present on Libyan territory between May and June of this year.
Imed Trabelsi, Libya’s Interior Minister, and Othman Belbeisi, the IOM’s regional representative, met to explore mechanisms facilitating the repatriation of irregular migrants.
The move aims to address the challenges posed by human trafficking and establish collaborative solutions involving countries of departure, transit, and destination.
In July, Libyan authorities repatriated 161 Nigerians, officials said, part of a UN-backed voluntary return scheme as some North African countries see a spike in irregular migration.
“The group, including 75 women and six children, received food and drinks from International Organization for Migration staff at Mitiga airport in Tripoli before boarding the plane,” AFP correspondents said.
Trabelsi, of the UN-recognised government based in the war-torn country’s west, met the migrants before their departure.
“We cannot bear the burden of clandestine migration alone” without international support, he told reporters at the airport.
He said that out of the group, “102 were intercepted at the border as they were trying to” cross between Libya and Tunisia.
The North African neighbours on August 10 agreed to share responsibility for providing shelter for hundreds of migrants stranded at their border, ending a month-long crisis triggered by mass expulsions of migrants by Tunis.