GENEVA - The International Organization for Migration reports it has repatriated 127 African and Asian migrants stranded in Libya under difficult, brutal conditions.
Tripoli's Mitiga International airport was shut down last Sunday after being hit by missiles. For safety reasons, IOM's chartered plane with 127 migrants aboard took off earlier this week from Misrata, about a two-hour drive east of the Libyan capital.
From there, the passengers, which included women and children, flew to Istanbul and then onwards to their home countries. Missions from 15 countries in Africa and Asia, including Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Bangladesh and Egypt were involved in the complex, risky operation.
IOM spokeswoman, Safa Msehli told VOA stranded migrants is a reference to those those who either are held in Libyan detention centers or are living freely in urban areas across the country.
"In detention centers across Libya we have close to 5,000 migrants that are still detained. In Libya alone, according to IOM Libya's DTM (Displacement Tracking Matrix), there are over 600,000 migrants, a lot of whom - not only due to the current context of war - but a lot of whom have arrived in Libya and remain without a solution," Msehli said.
Libya's detention centers are notorious as places where refugees and migrants are subject to horrific forms of abuse, including torture and rape, as well as the lack of sufficient food and medical care. Migrants and refugees in urban areas are vulnerable to exploitation, trafficking and kidnapping for ransom.
Despite all the difficulties, IOM has succeeded in returning more than 7,200 stranded migrants to their countries of origin this year.
Upon their return, Msehli said the migrants receive a reintegration package that helps them resume their lives, continue their education or start a small business.