Tripoli/Accra– Over 150 Ghanaians were provided with Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance from Libya by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on 24 November. This the charter flight is the first since the reopening of the Kotoka International Airport (KIA), in Accra following COVID-19 related border closures. 

Upon arrival, migrants were tested for COVID-19 and provided with onward transportation cash assistance for their immediate needs, including travel to their home communities. The most vulnerable received medical and psychosocial assistance. 

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic poses additional challenges to vulnerable migrants, a more coordinated and efficient support system with Government and partners needed to make sure no migrant is left behind in the COVID-19 response,” said Abibatou Wane-Fall, IOM Ghana’s Chief of Mission. 

Out of the more than 584,500 migrants identified in Libya by IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), over 27,200 are Ghanaians. Libya accounts for 63.5 percent of the returns to Ghana under the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. Other major countries of return include Niger, Mali and Mauritania. 

“Before going to Libya, I was working as a taxi driver. I thought life in Ghana was difficult. I was very wrong. I regret embarking on this journey. My friends who remained behind are doing well, whereas I am worse off. I urge young Ghanaians to stay and work in Ghana as there are opportunities in the country,” said Kwame who returned with the charter.

Upon return, migrants are eligible for reintegration support, which includes counselling, referral to existing programmes and services (trainings, medical and psychosocial assistance), or in-kind support, as necessary. Additionally, they can become part of collective or community-based projects to set up a business with other returnees or community members. 

The recently launched Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Reintegration of Returnees in Ghana provides important guidance, including on handling returns and supporting returnees in their reintegration process.

As part of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, IOM Ghana also works with the Government and partners to raise awareness about the risks of irregular migration among communities, promote safe migration, and counter stigmatization and discrimination. 

Over 300 awareness-raising sessions have been organized in communities and schools across the country, while radio and TV broadcasts with similar messages have reached around 1.1 million Ghanaians nationwide. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, IOM has revamped its awareness raising efforts to include COVID-19 prevention messages in its community outreach sessions.

Since 2017, IOM has assisted more than 1,500 Ghanaians with their voluntarily return home. So far, over 480 returnees have completed their reintegration process; 1,400 have participated in reintegration counselling, and almost 1,500 have received mental health and psychosocial assistance.