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Libya: Returning Home to Start a New Life

Tripoli — I had the chance of meeting Kone* — an Ivorian woman and pharmacist — while working to secure the last details of the charter flight she was about to board home.

It was a long day for Kone, a slow but exciting wait for her flight. Still, she seemed composed. She was delighted to share a few words that she has been keeping inside, and I, could not keep myself from stealing a few moments to listen to her.

IOM staff Rima checks on migrants flying back home to Gambia, April 2018
She described her life in simple words. She was discreet, yet, I could hear the complexities of her journey resonating out loud very clearly. Kone decided to migrate to Tunisia because she could not find the job she trained for in Abidjan.

“I worked as a housemaid for a Tunisian family in Tunis for the past five years. Last June, my brother called me from Libya, asking me to come and look for a better job there, so I left for Tripoli,” she said.

Migrant woman narrates her story to Rima, 2018
Kone had no idea what to do once in Libya, but she was assured by her brother that there were better opportunities awaiting her. Soon after her arrival to Tripoli, she left one morning to the market to buy some groceries.

“I took a taxi on my way back home and I noticed the driver was carelessly driving on the highway, I asked him to slow down but he would not listen to me. All of a sudden, everything went black and I woke up the next day only to find both of my legs and hips fractured. I was lying in the central hospital of Tripoli.’’
She recalled this bad experience that seemed to have left a mark on her life [and on her body].

Then, she went on, “Back then, all I could think of was my future, but now I just want my health back. I am grateful that my brother is standing by me, supporting me,” she added.
Kone’s brother contacted their embassy who referred her to IOM for further assistance. Kone has been undergoing medical treatment for several weeks and IOM had transferred her to a private clinic where she underwent all the necessary treatments including bone surgical operations and physiotherapy.

Rima listens to personal accounts of migrants before their departure home to Gambia, April 2018
Today, she is grateful that her fractured hips and legs have been fixed and she can now sit on her own again. She decided to go home, as she described her experience as being a very painful one that she would like to put behind her.

IOM’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Programme was her step to finding comfort once again. She is hopeful she would continue her medical follow up and physiotherapy in Abidjan with IOM’s continued assistance and follow-up so she can start walking again.

Kone* waits to board the charter flight to her home in Ivory Coast, October 2018
She finally expressed her plans to use her reintegration assistance to open a shop selling traditional brightly colored dresses called Pagnes.

Her final words to me before she moved to catch her flight were, “I am thankful for IOM’s support and wish to work in my own shop selling Pagnes for women.’’
But for now, I know that Kone is being admitted into a clinic for her treatment in Abidjan, and I know she will continue to receive support from and follow-up by IOM office in Ivory Coast to get back on track with her life.

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