Dozens of Sierra Leonean migrants due for repatriation from Libya are said to have escaped, according to an official of the International Organization for Migration.
As at Wednesday when the batch of migrants were to depart from the Tripoli airport, there were only 60 of the 170 who had initially agreed return home. The aircraft carrying the 60 others has since landed in Freetown.
The news of their escape comes as a surprise as many migrants who have been held in detention centers by the Libyan government and militia groups have decried the conditions under which they are being kept, some going as far as describe the conditions as ‘worse than hell.’
In November, the world joined Africa in expressing outrage at the operation of slave markets in the north African country, where black migrants predominantly from sub-Saharan Africa were being sold for about $400.
Different governments has moved to locate and repatriate their nationals whiles United Nations and its partner agencies are also playing a role. The African Union for its part has also said it will help repatriate some 20,000 stranded migrants.
A recent African Union – European Union summit held in Abidjan had youth empowerment as its theme but the migrant crisis was prominent in talks. The A.U., E.U. and U.N. agreed to set up a task force to stop migrants abuse in the restive north African country.
Libya descended into chaos following the 2011 ouster of its leader at the time Muammar Gaddafi. French forces backed by NATO aided rebel groups to overthrow Gaddafi. Ever since the country has been divided by rival political groups.
The issue of migration via the country has spiked following Gaddafi’s exit. Several initiatives have been undertaken to halt the rampant migration which has led to unprecedented deaths in the Mediterranean according to aid groups working in the region.