62 Liberian Migrants Stranded in Niger In Dire Strait, Call on Government, IMO For Repatriation
Monrovia – Scores of Liberians stranded in Niamey, Niger in a camp operated by the International Organization for Immigration (IOM) are decrying the poor living condition after almost four months and are now calling on the Liberian government to repatriate them.
Many of those stranded in Niamey are men who told FrontPageAfrica via social media that they were deported from Algeria, Morocco, or Libya. All of them were deported when the novel Coronavirus began spreading across the continent, causing many governments to shut international borders to curb the spread of COVID-19.
They are migrants who were obviously prepared to risk their lives by crossing the Mediterranean Sea in small boats to Europe. It is risky voyage many young Africans endeavor to find better life in Europe.
In April this year, the IOM reported that “16,724 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through almost four months of 2020 – a 16 per cent increase from the 14,381” in 2019 while 256 deaths were recorded on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes in April alone.
Despite these dreadful stats, the stranded Liberians in Niger said they were hopeful of reaching either Spain, Italy, or Greece to seek greener pasture. But their journeys were cut short when they were arrested by police and “deported to the desert of Niger” – the IOM camp.
Alieu Bility is regarded as the leader for the stranded Liberian migrants in the IOM camp. He said when they were arrested, they were forced to leave all their belongings behind. This has made living in the camps unbearable for them, he said.
“The situation on the IMO camp here in Niger is very bad-off ; we don’t have good food, no drinking water, we don’t have good place to sleep in the camp,” said Bility, who was a resident of Thinkers Village, Paynesville before daring to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.
“If we even go to the hospital here for medical checkup, they won’t check you…We are in the desert and the sun here is very hot; we are struggling to get food and drinking water. At least the way they say the airport is opening on the 21 of June, the government should help us to move from here.”
The Roberts International Airport is expected to reopen on June 21 as the government relaxes COVID-19 restrictions, but there seem to be no sign from the government about repatriating those stranded in the desert.
Bility and his compatriots have not officially contacted the Liberian government, but he claimed that the government is obviously aware of their situation because the IOM in Monrovia has reported the situation to the authorities.
They claimed nationals of Mali, Guinea, Cameroun, and Senegal among others, who were also in the camp, were repatriated by their respective governments before the coronavirus pandemic heightened.
“This is why we are appealing to the government of Liberia to please help us and find solution for us to return home because we are suffering for now and so we want to go back home,” said Francis Boimah, who was a resident of Peace Island in Congo Town before setting on his journey.
Boimah claimed that when he was taken to the camp, the IOM assured him of bringing him back to Liberia.
However, the “IOM have been slowed and are not responding to our concerns”, added Bility
“Even the IOM correspondent in Liberia do not have time for us, for almost four months now, they do not even call us or tell us anything about taking us back home.
“The situation on the IMO camp here in Niger is very bad-off ; we don’t have good food, no drinking water, we don’t have good place to sleep in the camp,” said Bility, who was a resident of Thinkers Village, Paynesville before daring to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.”– Alieu Bility, head of the stranded Liberians in Niger
“When we go to the IOM office here, they don’t tell us when we will go back home and up till now the Liberian government cannot say anything about us. The IMO people here are telling us that the government is not ready because they are telling the government, but the government is not saying anything. So, we are asking them to please help us to come home because we are suffering here.”
Tamba Siafa is the IOM focal person in Liberia for the stranded Liberian migrants, when FPA contacted him via cell phone his line was switch-off.
Meanwhile, Festus Logan, Director of The Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC), said the commission has been working with the IOM to bring back home over 1,000 Liberians who were stranded in exile.
However, he said to repatriate migrants, the commission and other agencies must investigate and determine if those seeking return to country are “truly Liberians and we do this to help us determine who they are”.
When asked about the 62 stranded migrants in Niger, Mr. Logan said the LRRC “don’t have enough information on them” and that he will contact the Liberia Immigration Service to get further clarity.