Story
27 Apr 2021

Libya – Narrations of migrants' time in Libya usually dwell on the treacherous journeys they take and barely touch on the lives of family members they have left behind in their countries of origin.

Husam Madani’s story is among the rare experiences of those with no choice but to wait to hear from loved ones who have migrated - except that the 26-year-old did not wait indefinitely.

When he stopped hearing from his father, he took the unusual step of travelling from Sudan to Libya to find him. "My father had left for Libya 17 years before then to work in trading, and we hadn't seen him since," said Husam.

To get to Libya, Husam travelled through Chad with a group of Sudanese youth. "The journey wasn't easy, yet I reached my father in Libya," he said. But according to relatives, he spent months tracking his father.

Sudan presents a complex and diverse migration profile as a source, transit, and destination country at the centre of multiple migration routes, and is host to several migrant populations. Sudanese nationals are among the largest populations of irregular migrants in Libya. Some join those intending to travel to Europe.

In February 2021, IOM identified 575,874 migrants from over 41 countries in Libya. More than two-thirds were from neighbouring countries: Niger (21%), Egypt (18%), Chad (15%) and Sudan (15%).

The majority of Sudanese migrants (13%) work in construction or in similar sectors as labourers without specific skills. This is followed by those works in sales (8%) and far mechanics (6%).

For Husam and his father, it was all happiness when the two eventually reunited. "We stayed in the oasis town of Waddan. I was unemployed, and we were dependent financially on my father's already low income."

As a result, the situation was not sustainable and the two considered returning to Sudan. But they could not have afford it without external assistance. This is when fellow Sudanese told them about the voluntary return support offered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa. They finally arrived at Khartoum International Airport in April 2021.

"I'm very happy that I was able to return to Sudan with my father, and I can't wait to get back to our family in El-Obeid," said Husam, making reference to North Kurdufan state.

Emotions were high when Madani senior, a father of six, finally reached his hometown. "Our family was full of joy and happiness when they saw him, they couldn't believe it until they hugged him."

According to research carried out by IOM, only one in three migrants interviewed in Libya in 2019 and 2020 reported to have sent remittances to their country of origin from Libya.

Migrants in the country generally face various challenges that prevent them from successfully sending remittances such as lack of secure livelihoods, difficult employment circumstances, inadequate earnings for those employed, and difficulties faced in sending remittances due to lack of reliable money transfer services.

About EU-IOM Joint Initiative

Launched in December 2016 and funded by the European Union (EU) Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, the EU, and IOM around the goal of ensuring migration is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities.

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For more information please contact IOM Regional Office in Nairobi: Julia Hartlieb, email: jhartlieb@iom.int and Wilson Johwa, email: wjohwa@iom.int