Sudanese migrants return from Libya to uncertainty
KHARTOUM — The first UN planeload of Sudanese fleeing Libya arrived in Khartoum on Saturday under a humanitarian evacuation scheme to repatriate the huge wave of migrants displaced by the conflict.
"The work was good until the protests started. (Libyan leader Moamer) Kadhafi was arming everyone and it just got really dangerous," said Hamid Abdullah, who lived in Tripoli for three years, where he worked in a bakery.
The 38-year-old, from El-Geneina in West Darfur, was on the first of five flights from Tunisia organised by the UN refugee agency, or UNHCR, and the International Organisation for Migration over the coming two days.
Up to 2,500 people need to be evacuated daily from camps across the Libyan borders with Tunisia and Egypt, the agencies said on Thursday, in what they described as one of the biggest humanitarian evacuations in history.
Around 300,000 people are thought to have fled Libya since clashes broke out in mid-February between anti-regime forces and Kadhafi loyalists.
Sudanese officials said more than 15,000 have returned to Sudan in the past two weeks, both by air and overland via Egypt.
Many of those on the flight to Khartoum were from Sudan's war-torn western region.
Issa, 45, from the South Darfur capital Nyala, said he moved to Tripoli a year ago.
"First we fled the fighting in Darfur and now we have had to flee Libya. It's been very difficult for the people of Darfur," he said.
In addition to the security concerns for those going back to Darfur, some of the returnees face more pressing challenges.
Naim al-Badawi lived in Libya for eight years, but he left behind everything he owned when the crisis there forced him to flee.
"I have no money and no idea how I'm going to get home," said the 27-year-old from Wad Medani, a town 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of Khartoum, who stepped off the plane with just a blanket.
The Sudanese migrants returning from Libya will also have to confront mounting economic hardship in their home country, including skyrocketing food prices and highly uncertain job prospects.
The Khartoum government, which is struggling to cope with its huge foreign debt and a growing imports bill, pushed through a raft of austerity measures in January to try and bolster weak state finances