International Donors Visit UN Migration Agency Sites in Libya, Niger

Humanitarian Emergencies

Tripoli/Niamey – Yesterday (15/03), international donors completed a visit to witness activities carried out by IOM, the UN Migration Agency, in Libya and Niger. A total of 17 Government donors from European countries and the United States participated in the visit to these two important countries on the Central Mediterranean migration route.

In Libya, donors visited detention centres where IOM distributes humanitarian aid and provides support for the improvement of living conditions, while also providing protection assistance and offering voluntary humanitarian return support.

IOM advocates for alternatives to detention and for the reopening of IOM’s shelter for vulnerable migrants, which closed in 2011. Donors also visited Tripoli’s main port where they met with the Libyan Coast Guard and saw efforts related to a rescue operation, including IOM-supported primary health check-ups and protection screenings.

The donor group also held consultations with the Mixed Migration Working Group, which is comprised of UN agencies and NGOs and is co-led by IOM and UNHCR, the Refugee Agency. It aims to ensure effective coordination of protection and assistance to migrants and refugees in Libya, including in detention centres, in urban areas, along the mixed migration routes from southern to northern Libya, and in rescue-at sea-situations.

In Niger, the donor group visited IOM’s migrant transit centres and participated in focus group discussions with migrants who recounted their ordeals while journeying to Libya or Algeria. The delegation also visited one of IOM’s reintegration projects, a kindergarten managed by a Nigerien returnee from Belgium, in Niger’s capital, Niamey.

The delegation met with Government officials, traditional authorities, the UN Country Team and agencies, and other diplomatic representatives during the three-day visit, throughout which an ongoing discussion took place about scaling up the reintegration of migrants.

IOM has six transit centres in Niger where migrants have access to various services, including basic assistance and support for obtaining identity documents. The centres are open and the accommodation is voluntary. All migrants arriving at the centres are registered, profiled and informed of their rights by IOM staff. Their stay in the centres is usually short (one to two weeks), enabling migrants to make their return plans, communicate with their families and secure travel documents and transport tickets to their community of origin.

More than 7,000 migrants last year voluntarily returned to their countries of origin with help from IOM’s mission in Niger. This February, IOM Niger assisted more than 1,300 migrants to return home.

Despite a drastic reduction in the number of irregular migrant arrivals in Italy – the per-day average dropped from 2,142 in 2015 to 163 in 2018 – over the past four years, the Mediterranean remains one of the deadliest migration corridors in the world. The dangers of this perilous journey start long before Libya.

In the first quarter of 2018, IOM has helped around 4,000 migrants – the same ones languishing in detention centres, typically survivors of harrowing voyages at sea – return home to more than two dozen countries. That is in addition to the 19,370 men, women and children IOM flew safely home from Libya last year.

IOM’s main priority in Libya and for the Central Mediterranean route is saving lives.

A recent statement from William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General, called for six urgent and concrete actions to better protect migrants on the route: end the arbitrary detention of migrants; improve registration to help better determine the size of the vulnerable population and what their needs are; support Libyans, as migrants are not the only ones affected by the security situation in Libya; help the Libyan authorities develop their migration management structures; prosecute smugglers and traffickers; and, most importantly, create more safe and legal pathways for people to migrate safely to Europe. Read more here.

For more information, please contact Olivia Headon, IOM HQ at Tel: +41794035365, Email: