Malians recount prison ordeal in Libya
BAMAKO - Dozens of Malian migrants kept locked up in Libyan jails after failing to make it onto boats bound for Europe have arrived home, with some reporting maltreatment by authorities in the unstable north African nation.
The group of 159 Malians including several children arrived in Bamako on Thursday night on a flight chartered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), according to an AFP journalist at the scene.
Around 40 were detained in Libya's notoriously grim jails for living in the country illegally, according to regional civil protection director Bakary Daou, and had requested deportation.
"Given the difficulties that they encountered in Libya, they accepted coming back to the country voluntarily," Daou said.
The government would work with the IOM to ensure they were safely returned to their loved ones, Daou added.
Racist attacks and maltreatment were the norm, the returnees said, confirming they were attempting to reach Europe through the well-trodden smuggling route taken by many west Africans through Niger and Libya.
AFP correspondents saw at least three unaccompanied minors and several clearly unwell people among the group.
"In all of Libya's prisons, they hit people and treat them badly, especially black Africans," said Ibrahim Bidane Sy, a migrant who spent three months in one jail.
"I was in prison without communicating with my family or friends... luckily the IOM helped me to get out," he added.
The operation was the second planned mass deportation of Malians from Libya this year.
Earlier this month Algeria, Libya's neighbour, deported 260 Malians who also alleged brutality by the police and authorities.
African migrants have been regularly expelled by the thousands since Libya's descent into chaos.
It is the focal point for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe, and was previously home to thousands of Africans working as labourers or domestic servants.
After receiving medical treatment by the Malian authorities, the migrants were due to return home to their families on Friday.