This policy brief analyses the situation of migrants who have returned home to several West African countries as a result of the conflict in Libya. It provides an understanding of the factors that led to migration to Libya, in the first place; the migrants’ journey to Libya and their efforts to make a new life; the hasty return home; and the current needs of returnees and context to which they are returning. It draws on several assessments carried out by IOM (in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ghana (with UNDP), Mali, Niger and Senegal) at the height of the crisis and provides a unique perspective on the thoughts and minds of returnees, their families and their communities. What emerges is a very human story – gratitude for the many lives that were saved through a rapid and sophisticated international response, but also a sense of despair about the future. Returnees have the ideas, skills and desire to make new lives for themselves in their home communities, but they are in need of technical and financial support to help make this reintegration a reality. Wider destabilization to the countries of the region is a potent threat if these issues are not addressed.
The assessment data provide a clear and consistent picture of the returnee situation in all six countries. The efficiency of the repatriation operation carried out by IOM, the international community, governments and NGOs, in response to the most immediate danger, saved the lives of thousands of migrant workers and prevented the Libyan crisis from spilling over into other countries and turning into a much larger humanitarian catastrophe. However, reintegration and other short to long term challenges do remain. Recommendations regarding reintegration and community stabilization; migration management and capacity building; and sustainable development are put forth.