A total of 143 Ghanaians who travelled to Libya in pursuit of better opportunities were voluntarily brought back home on Thursday night via a chartered flight.
Comprising 137 men, six women, and five children, 21 of them had moderate medical conditions, including two who were wheelchair-bound and one suffering from blindness.
This brings to total 5,142 Ghanaians who have willingly returned since 2017 under the International Organisation for Migration’s (IOM) Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance Programme.
Last year, the IOM, supported by the Migrant Protection, Return, and Reintegration Programme for Sub-Saharan Africa (MPRR-SSA), funded by the European Union, facilitated the safe return of 629 Ghanaians: 555 men, 58 women, and 16 children, via four chartered flights from Libya.
These voluntary returns are often due to unfulfilled dreams.
Upon their arrival at the Kotota International Airport, the latest returnees were welcomed by the IOM and government partners, including the IOM team led by the IOM Ghana Chief of Mission, Ms Fatou Diallo Ndiaye; the Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, Evans Opoku Bobie.
A wave of nostalgia and excitement swept through some of the migrants as they cheered on musician Kofi Kinaata, an IOM Ghana Goodwill Ambassador, who was present to welcome them back home.
In her address, Ms Ndiaye urged them to view their return as a fresh start, not a failure, assuring that IOM and its partners would provide robust support to aid their reintegration, help them restart their lives, and address the underlying factors of irregular migration.
“It is not a wrong decision to come back. We should be proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself for returning despite all the investment and challenges you have faced,” she said.
Emphasising the pivotal role of the youth in the country’s growth, Ms Ndiaye encouraged them to leverage their competences for the development of Ghana and the families for whom they travelled.
Mr Bobie extended a warm welcome on behalf of the government and assured them of support to explore various economic opportunities, such as the ‘You Start’ programme, to get back on their feet and meet their socioeconomic needs.
“It doesn’t matter how you got there. What matters now is that you’re back home safely. The government is not against migration but encourages regular, safe, and orderly migration due to the benefits it brings to the country,” he said.
For Kofi Kinaata, he emphasised that their lives were worth more than any risky journey for money, and now that they were back in one piece, they have the opportunity to make a successful life.
In an interview, a 2022 returnee (name withheld) appealed to the government to address unemployment as it was the underlying cause of irregular migration.
After the brief welcome ceremony, the returned migrants received psychological first aid and underwent mental health screenings to assess the need for further assistance and possible referrals.
They were also given essential items such as food, water, hygiene kits, and cash for immediate needs, as well as transportation to the main areas of return, including Dormaa, Kintampo, Kumasi, and within Accra.
Additionally, the IOM and partners will support the migrants in developing comprehensive reintegration plans that address economic, social, and psychosocial needs.