Tripoli (AFP) – Libyan authorities on Thursday repatriated 135 Nigerian migrants, including women and children, who had made failed attempts to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, an official said.
“We are organising… the voluntary repatriation of 135 clandestine Nigerian migrants who were rescued offshore by the coastguard,” said Hosni Abu Ayanah of the Libyan government agency tackling illegal migration.
The first group of 75 men and 10 women gathered Thursday in downtown Tripoli to board buses with metal grills towards the capital’s Mitiga airport.
Others were set to depart from other migrant detention centres.
The Libyan authorities have coordinated with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to run special flights to repatriate migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa.
Ever since the rule of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, thousands of people have crossed Libya’s 5,000-kilometre (3,000-mile) southern border to make perilous bids to reach Europe in often unseaworthy boats.
Following the 2011 NATO-backed revolt that toppled and killed Kadhafi, people traffickers have exploited the chaos rocking Libya to transport ever more migrants towards Italy, 300 kilometres away.
Those who fail often end up stuck in Libya in dire conditions and opt to be repatriated.