The deputy permanent secretary at Gambia’s foreign affairs ministry, Ebrima Jobe, has told journalists at that the security situation in Libya makes it difficult for countries to access their citizens jailed in the North African country.
Officials of many African nations, whose citizens are stranded in war-torn Libya faced difficulties to send their officials to help secure the release of their citizens, provide them with legal aid and repatriate them.
“There is conflict in Libya and that makes it difficult for countries to send a delegation there,” Jobe said.
Giuseppe Loprete, the head of IOM mission in Niger, a desert country bordering Libya, told Turkey News Agency that migrants they have an encounter with narrate stories of abuses, exploitation, false promises and violence.
From 2016 to March 2017, the IOM has facilitated the voluntary return of 6500 migrants from Libya and Algeria to Senegal, Guinea Conakry and Gambia, among others.
“In many cases, these journeys last for months and smugglers are always asking for money to continue. Migrants are forced to call their families, which send them money, otherwise, migrants are abandoned in the desert or remain in detention, especially in Libya,” according to Loprete.
Many migrants of different nationalities – including Gambia – reported stories of exploitation, racket and including slavery by the smugglers also from different nationalities.
Criminal networks are well developed and migrants are victims of this system. They pay to travel, then they pay to eat and remain in transit, then pay again to be released if they are lucky.
Gambia is among the top 10 countries for arrivals to Italian shores. According to the official figures of the Italian Ministry of Interior, 11,929 Gambians arrived in Italy in 2016 and 2,232 in March 2017 alone.
In Libya, IOM and the UN estimate that 250,000 migrants are present, most of them without resources to reach Tripoli or to go back – so stranded and most probably in need of urgent help.
While IOM has no information on people detained in jails, based on these figures it is likely that thousands of Gambians are currently in Libya, in various locations and likely in need of help to return home safely.