They arrived at the Yaounde Nsimalen Airport, Tuesday night amidst tears of joy.
It was a long wait, but the dream of some stranded Cameroonian migrants from the Republic of Libya came to a reality on November 21, 2017, when a Libyan Airlines plane touched down at the Yaounde Nsimalen International Airport at about 10:45 p.m. On board were some 250 Cameroonians amongst whom 58 women, nine of them pregnant and also nine children. As the migrants walked out of the aircraft, all dressed in similar blue and white tracksuits and tennis, some of them sang songs of joy for a long-awaited freedom from torture and slavery in Libya. On hand to receive the migrants was a host of workers from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Ministries of Public Health, Social Affairs, External Relations and the General Delegation of National Security (DGSN). The main boarding hall of the Yaounde Nsimalen Airport was immediately transformed into an emergency unit to administer urgent vaccination (yellow fever) on these migrants as well as provide immediate healthcare and physiological counselling for those in need. All dressed in medical gowns, gloves and mouth mask, the emergency health team which was made-up of over 30 health workers amongst them doctors, nurses, psychologists, police officers and epidemiologists began an instant one-on-one consultation with the migrants. An emergency ambulance was on stand-by to transport those who required intense medical attention into specific hospitals in the city of Yaounde. It was a pathetic scene for many observers as some of the migrants looking unusually slim walked through the corridors of the airport. Some of the migrants could barely move as they looked sick and weary. Others lamented that the liberation operation had taken so long as they have suffered for so long and felt abandoned by the government. One of the migrants, Felix Wandji Tchakounte wept as he narrated his ordeal alongside many other Cameroonians some of whom died in the desert from Agadez in Niger to Libya. Another migrant, Joel Marcel Chewe, although in tears rejoiced to have arrived Cameroon alive. He said they all left Cameroon in search of greener pastures in Europe passing through Libya. Joel Marcel Chewe says it was a nightmare as he and many other migrants were transported from one prison to another in torture. Anguish is all Chewe and his friends knew as they were beaten each moment with no food or healthcare. The repatriation of these migrants is initiated by the government of Cameroon and the IMO. It is within a three-year European Union sponsored project for the protection and reintegration of vulnerable migrants. The migrants will receive a sum of FCFA 65,000 each for reintegration into their families. Tuesday's migrant return is the second in a series. Last week, some 40 migrants returned from Libya. So far, the project targets 850 Cameroonian migrants and statistics from IMO indicate that there are over 1,700 Cameroonian migrants in Libya.