The summit in Abidjan ended with the commitment made by the European Union, the African Union and the U.N. to empty the Libyan detention centers by repatriating the migrants who are being held captive. This task will be accomplished by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which in 2016 facilitated the return of 2,775 immigrants from Libya to their countries of origin. “This year, we have already done more than 13,600 repatriations, and I think we will reach 16-17,000 by the end of December,” says Federico Soda, director of the IOM’s Office of Coordination for the Mediterranean.
Repatriations are already being accomplished, so what is actually new in the plan announced in Abidjan?
The novelty lies not in the plan itself, but in the political will that developed following CNN’s report on migrants being sold as slaves. We have been denouncing that state of affairs ever since April, but the impact of those images finally led to a reaction by some international bodies, including the African Union. We at the IOM are able to transfer around 3-4,000 people per month. If we get more resources, either from the Libyan government or from the African countries, we will be able to free many more migrants from a situation like that in the detention centers, not only unacceptable and dangerous, but one to which these people often have no alternative, since many cannot escape, as they don’t have either the papers or the financial means to do it.