160 migrants return from war-torn Libya
One hundred and sixty Bangladeshi migrant workers, including a woman, returned home yesterday from war-torn Libya under a repatriation programme arranged by the Bangladesh mission there.
International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which facilitated the latest repatriation, says at least 2,942 Bangladeshi migrants have returned home from the North African country under its Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme since 2015.
A special flight of Buraq Air carrying the 160 migrant workers touched down at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka around 10:15am, said Fakhrul Alam, assistant director of Probashi Kalyan Desk at the airport.
The chartered flight also carried the body of a migrant worker. Fakhrul, however, could not immediately confirm the identity of the deceased.
According to a Facebook post of the Bangladesh embassy in Tripoli, the Buraq Air flight left Libya's Benina International Airport around 7:00pm (local time) on Tuesday.
The migrant workers had been stranded due to the pandemic and also the protracted political situation in Libya. They were repatriated from Benghazi.
In a statement, IOM Bangladesh said prior to their departure, the returnees underwent health checks, were offered pre-departure transportation assistance, counselling services and screened for underlying protection vulnerabilities.
Given the current pandemic situation, all returnees were also provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and they took Covid-19 testing prior to departure, reads the statement.
Upon return, the migrants each received cash for transportation from IOM. Each of them will receive reintegration grant from the organisation in future, the statement adds.
Reintegration support is particularly important for migrants who, in some cases, have experienced physical and psychological trauma while being stranded in Libya, IOM said.
Stranded Bangladeshi migrants find themselves in precarious conditions in Libya, and Covid-19 has exacerbated their vulnerabilities, said IOM Bangladesh Chief of Mission Giorgi Gigauri.
"It is our number one priority to provide these returnees with a safe and dignified way to get home, and to support their reintegration into their communities," he said.
There are about 25,000 Bangladeshis in Libya, according to officials at the Bangladesh embassy in Tripoli.
Libya was plunged into chaos when a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed, according to media reports.
The country has since split between rival east and west-based administrations, each backed by armed groups and foreign governments.