Johannesburg – The African Union Commission (AUC) chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has said that the AU and member states will repatriate more than 15 000 migrants stranded in Libya by the end of the year.
AU deputy chairperson Kwesi Quartey confirmed the repatriation efforts on his Twitter account on Tuesday.
Mahamat’s remarks were made at a summit of European and African leaders last week following footage showing African refugees being sold as farmhands for as little as $400 (about R5400) in Libya’s capital Tripoli as international outrage mounted.
The International Organisation on Migration (IOM) has identified more than 423 000 African migrants in the North African country, many of whom are held in squalid camps and subjected to inhumane treatment, including murder, rape and torture.
Libya is used as a transit point by desperate African refugees trying to reach Europe in hope of a better future.
In addition to their mistreatment in Libya, hundreds have drowned in the Mediterranean after overcrowded human trafficker boats in poor condition overturn as the vessels attempt to reach Europe.
To facilitate the repatriation, which is being coordinated with the IOM, the AU is to issue emergency travel documentation in addition to taking other steps.
There has been no confirmation on which countries’ migrants will be sent home.
The African and European leaders last week drew up an emergency evacuation plan for migrants, agreeing to airlift at least 3 800 stranded in one of more than 40 detention centres in Libya, AP reported.
Morocco, France, and Germany will provide the air carriers, according to Gambian senior foreign affairs official Ebrima Jobe.
At the end of November, approximately 200 Gambians were repatriated while between 4 000 and 5 000 are still in Libyan camps, Jobe said as he slammed “African brothers” who act as middlemen for the smugglers.
“Our criminal justice system should without delay initiate the prosecution of all those Africans involved,” he said.
The Ivory Coast and Cameroon are several other African countries that are now also involved in the repatriation efforts.