A group of 87 irregular migrants left stranded on Sunday on the Tunisian coast near Zarzis by a people smuggler have asked IOM for air tickets back to their home countries.
The group, which includes women and children, are mostly Nigerian. Other countries of origin include the Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Egypt, Morocco and Bangladesh.
The migrants are now staying in a Red Crescent shelter in the Tunisian capital Tunis, pending the issuance of travel documents by their embassies and their voluntary return home.
Most of the migrants told IOM that they had lived in Libya for some time before paying the smuggler – reportedly a Tunisian – to take them to Italy
Another 34 Eritreans and 16 Malians from the same boat, which was carrying 154 people and sailed from the Libyan capital Tripoli, have asked for asylum in Tunisia.
The remaining 17 migrants from the boat, who have not yet decided whether they want to apply for asylum or sign up with IOM for assisted voluntary return to their home countries, remain at the National Guard centre in Benguarden, where they were taken following their arrest on Sunday night.
IOM is working with the Tunisian authorities, the Tunisian Red Crescent and UNHCR to find better accommodation for them pending a decision on their future. It is also providing food, water, medical care, hygiene items and counselling.
IOM’s assisted voluntary return programme in Tunisia is supported by governments and other donors seeking to mitigate the impact of the 2011 Libyan crisis on migrants and their families.