Tripoli, 25 November:
More than 200 Gambians have arrived home following their deportation from Libya, according to a local newspaper in the tiny West African State.
It is understood that the Gambians were caught by Libyan police along with other illegal migrants attempting to make the perilous sea journey from Libya to Europe.
A total of 226 young people were received at Gambia’s Kerr Ayib border post on Wednesday and taken to a local health centre for medical tests.
The deportation was facilitated by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) together with the Gambia Immigration Department.
The deportees are said to have been collected from the Libya-Niger border and transported home over a two-day journey.
According to an official at the Gambian Immigration Department, the individuals were not in fact deported but were returnees who wanted to return home safely.
However, Gambian officials are now advising those considering similar ventures abroad to consider investing their money “in other productive areas”.
Local religious leaders in the Gambia have also been urged to explain the dangers of illegal immigration in their sermons and to discourage others from making further attempts.
Libya’s relative proximity to countries such as Malta and Italy, combined with the paucity of its borders, have made it a favoured transit point for thousands of illegal immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa seeking to make their way to Europe.
Often packed into overcrowded boats, hundreds of refugees perish attempting to make the voyage across the Mediterranean every year. Others fall victims of crime once in Libya, whilst many others are arrested and sent to prisons and other detention centres where they frequently languish, with little or no consular representation, for indefinite periods of time.