The Libyan government took steps to crack down on illegal immigration on Tuesday by sanctioning deportation flights for hundreds of Nigerian nationals living unlawfully in the country.
More than 320 illegal migrants were expected to be on board flights from Tripoli and Benghazi back to Nigeria, an immigration official told AFP.
“We carried out on Tuesday the expulsion of 163 irregular migrants of Nigerian nationality from the Mitiga airport, including 107 women, 51 men, and five children,” said Mohamad Baredaa, the head of security at Libya’s migration agency.
Additionally, “160 Nigerians will also be sent back to their country from Benina airport in Benghazi,” Baredaa stated.
Tens of thousands of Nigerians have been sent back to their home country by the Libyan authorities since 2017 with assistance from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The Libyan capital of Tripoli has long been a hot spot for migrants from across the African continent who plan to travel clandestinely to Europe, but many Nigerians also stayed in the country and worked illegally, sending their wages to their families back home.
Many became stranded in the country during the Libyan civil war and the subsequent Covid-19 pandemic when employment opportunities dried up.
Under a voluntary return scheme operated by the IOM, more than 20,000 Nigerian migrants were flown home between 2017 and 2022, while a further 9,370 people left under the program last year.