8 June 2018

North Africa: IOM Repatriates 130 Stranded Liberian Migrants From North Africa

Ria, Margibi — Nuku Tolbert is excited about returning home after three months of captivity in Libya, where she was tortured and ill-treated

Explaining her ordeal to reporters at the Roberts International Airport after disembarking a chartered flight, she said recalling her experience in the North Africa country brings back to her mental pain and agony.

"Really, there was a lot of experience outside there and there is nowhere like home. Sometimes we were caught from home or on the street and treated badly," Madam Tolbert said.

"I was thinking how to come back home, but I just give God the glory for IOM who took me from Abadez and brought me on a free flight back home safely."

Abadez is in Niger and was used by the International Organization for Migration as a pickup point for Liberian migrants to bring them home.

Tolbert will now reunite with her family members in Fendell outside Monrovia.

She was among 130 stranded Liberian migrants that the IOM helped to return home.

Many of them became stranded while traveling from North Africa to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.

The returnees were reportedly taken from Algeria, Mali, Libya, and Tunisia amongst other countries to a desert, where they experienced desolation.

They were later taken to Niger for preparation to return home.

When they touched down at RIA on Thursday, 130 were presented packages, which the IOM said, was intended to help support their repatriation process.

Kabla Amihere, Chief of Mission of the IOM, told reporters that the decision of migrants to return to their country was best-suited move.

Speaking when the returnees arrived at the RIA on Thursday, Amihere assured that they will be supported by the IOM to enhance their reintegration back into the Liberian society.

"We welcome them and think they have made the right decision because irregular migration does not help any country. This is not the end of their lives; it is a new beginning and they will be supported to reintegrate into society," Amihere stated.

Those who have volunteered to return, according to the IOM, will be supported through feeding and lodging.

Alex Larma is one of the returnees who said he suffered discrimination and racism in the desert of Algeria.

He lamented how he and several other Liberians and dark-color Africans were ill-treated and mugged before taken into captivity.

"If you are good looking, hardworking and obedient, in some other countries, you can survive, but the other way around is difficult because these guys are too much racist. They treated us badly and tortured people because of color, discrimination, and other difficulties," Larma said.

"They bring you in car and put you in the desert land called 'Tamala-seh' and leave you there to walk 25 Kilometers. Anybody who does not see their family member, just know that person is dead or suffering in Libya or Algeria."

He said everything he worked for was taken away and afterward, they were sent to the desert and left there to suffer.

"I know God will bless the people called IOM because we don't have anything to give them and today we are alive," he said.

Some returnees added that they have returned with diverse professional skills including construction, arts, and machinery.

Larma, who spent 13 years in exile, said an undisclosed number of migrants died while in captivity.

He hopes that life will once again erase the memory of tragedy he faced in exile when he moves in with his family in the Duala Community on the Bushrold Island.

Matthew Fayiah, another returnee who left Liberia during the regime of ex-president Charles Taylor, spent several years in Morocco.

As a result of a long stay out of the country, Fayiah says he's open to accepting any job now that he's back home.

He is now going to Gardnerville to reunite with his family.

The IOM confirmed Thursday that several Liberians are still stranded in exile and need assistance to return home.

"There are stranded Liberians in Gambia, Algeria, Morocco, Mali and as far as South Korea and if they voluntarily decided to return home, they must be supported upon their return," said Amihere.

Montserrado County Representative Lawrence Morris promised to work along with the IOM to ensure that the migration process is supported by the government.

"We will still be working on other modalities along with IOM, to strengthen this process and try to galvanize support because there are other migrants scattered about the world over and we have to work closely with them in ensuring that this program is funded," said Honorable Morris, who heads the House Committee on repatriation resettlement and reintegration.

"We want to thank God that our people are still alive and can come back home safely and next to that we have to appreciate IOM for their intervention in helping to ensure that those migrants that are out there are taken care of. There are programs that they are still working on to ensure that our people come back."

Representative Morris stressed that economic constraints are a factor triggering the massive migration of Liberians.

The lawmaker wants economic empowerment for the returnees through small skill training programs and encourages the returnees to get involved with initiatives that would help improve their lives.

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