3 The International Organization for Migration (IOM), through its Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) program, facilitated the safe return of 32 Somali migrants in November 2021.
5 “Currently, there are almost 6,000 Somali migrants in Libya, many of whom are still stranded.” said Federico Soda, Head of Mission, IOM Libya. “The VHR program is a lifeline for these migrants who choose to return home and rebuild their lives.”
6 Ten returnees arrived in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, and 22 in Hargeisa, on November 18 and 23, respectively. Upon arrival in the country, the 32 returnees were met by IOM Somalia staff and provided post-arrival assistance, including medical, psychosocial and basic counseling support, as well as transportation to their communities of origin.
7 Returnees are also entitled to in-kind support for reintegration, which may consist of social, psychosocial and economic assistance. Returned migrant children qualify for assistance that allows them to return to school. Livelihood support can also extend to children’s families.
8 The VHR program is funded by the Joint EU-IOM Initiative for the Protection and Reintegration of Migrants (the Joint EU-IOM Initiative) and through the Migration Fund of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since 2015, the initiative has supported the safe return of more than 53,000 migrants from Libya to various countries in Europe and Asia. To date, 638 Somalis have returned from Libya through the program.
9 Mariam Yassin, Special Envoy for the Rights of Children and Migrants in the Office of the Federal Prime Minister of Somalia, welcomed the group of 10 returnees at Aden Adde International Airport in Mogadishu. “It was an overwhelming experience for all of us to see you back home. However, there are so many young men and women stranded in Libya and much more needs to be done in terms of prevention. Every migrant has the right to return home safely and with dignity, ”he said.
10 Mohamed Abdi Hussein, 22, was one of ten returnees. He had left Mogadishu with the intention of reaching Europe. The journey took him through Ethiopia, then Sudan, and into the Libyan desert, where smugglers demanded that his parents transfer more money or else they would kill him.
11 Soon after, “they told us that they would take us on a boat and that we would arrive in Europe.” But that was not to be. “After months in the desert, they took us to a house in Tripoli. Then all of a sudden they hid from us and I never saw them again, ”Mohamed said.
12 Left to his own devices, Mohamed said he decided to continue his journey. “I tried to join a group of Somali immigrants who were sailing on a boat to Italy. The boatmen took $ 1,000 from me. When the ship was about to sail, the Libyan Coast Guard detained us and took us to prison. ”
13 Among those at Hargeisa International Airport was Hamda Mohamed, a 21-year-old who returned with her two young children. Fighting back tears, she said: “What I am crying is nothing but the joy of being back in my country. I can’t put my feelings into words. “
14 Hamda added: “Many migrants pay a lot of money to smugglers and yet they die in the desert or at sea without reaching their goal. So my advice to young people is never to try to embark on such a miserable journey. “
15 About the joint EU-IOM initiative
16 Launched in December 2016 with the support of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the program brings together 26 African countries from the Sahel region and Lake Chad, the Horn of Africa and North Africa, together with the European Union and the International Organization for Migration, around the goal of ensuring that migration is safer, better informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.
17 IOM’s return assistance is based on a rights-based approach that focuses on the well-being of individual returnees and their communities throughout the return and reintegration process. The Organization’s approach places people and the protection of their rights at the center of all efforts.