In one relief flight late this week to the Nigerian capital of Abuja, as many as 30 percent were women and children - among them infants, said an official at from the Nigeria Emergency Management Authority (NEMA), who was greeting a new batch of arrivals at Abuja International Airport.
"I even saw a few women breastfeeding their babies," said the official who asked not to be identified.
He added: "We have even seen some women arriving on their own. They were in Libya doing artisan work or the like."
Last week, a senior official from Ghana said that most of the returnees arriving from Libya to Accra were "undocumented and illegal immigrants."
Asked if some of the migrants were asylum-seekers, the official shrugged his shoulders.
The NEMA officials echoed comments of authorities in other Sub-Saharan countries that many are arriving without passports or any sort of documentation. Exiting migrants say their documents and back pay have been retained by their employers or taken as they fled the chaos.
With travel rebounding after a prolonged recession, there are few assets available for deployment for the massive repatriation efforts. NEMA has been chartering Egypt Air aircraft but using commercial jets from as far away as Kabul, the official said.
Asked what the arriving women and children need most, the NEMA official said basic items such as milk and blankets. Upon arrival in Abuja the migrants are immediately transported to their places of origin. "As much as possible we try not to keep them here in Abuja," the official said. Those who must stay are accommodated in a UN camp near the airport.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) is flying in emergencies supplies to countries bordering Libya. Initial supplies include hygiene kits, nutrition items and recreation and psycho-social relief items.
UNICEF said that while numbers of families crossing the border into Tunisia are reported as relatively low to date, it is concerned that within Libya, children and women have been severely affected by the unrest.
As HUMNEWS reported yesterday, the massive influx of migrant workers to struggling African nations is creating new strains. Nigeria, Niger, Tunisia and Egypt - among others - are either recovering from prolonged economic downturns or from revolutions that have disrupted normal economic recovery such as tourism.
For Egypt, which had an estimated 1.5 million migrant workers in Libya, the sudden halt in remittances will place a huge strain on already vulnerable families. Even if each migrant sent $100-a--month back to their Egyptian families, that adds up to about $150m a month or $1.8bn-a-year.
The NEMA official said the country still had some ways to go before it could suspend the relief operation as there were stranded Nigerians in Tunisia as well as Egypt.
According to one published report, late last week concerned families of Nigerians still stranded in Libya, stormed the Corporate Headquarters of NEMA to express their fears over the fate of their beloved ones not yet evacuated from Tripoli.
According to a report today in Al Masry Al Youm ( الرئيسية) of Egypt, human rights advocates warn that poor, Sub-Saharan African countries may be unable to provide sufficient support to their expatriate populations and are leaning on European countries to help evacuate vulnerable migrants to safety. The newspaper says the African Union has come in for criticism for its silence on the plight of African migrant workers in Libya.
- HUMNEWS Staff