ABIDJAN – Ivory Coast has joined several of its West African neighbours in repatriating citizens from Libya amid reports of migrants being sold as slaves.

The North African nation is the main gateway to Europe, where the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates around 20,000 people are being detained.

One flight touched down in Abidjan earlier this week, with another expected on Wednesday evening.

“To work and have a better life,” says one woman being repatriated.

Thirty-five-year-old Adelie had not imagined coming back on a chartered flight from Libya when she set off with her husband and two young children to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.

After being attacked by rebels in Libya, they sought refuge with authorities but were separated instead.

Charles Raudot de Chateney from the European Union delegation that has sponsored the repatriation, says that this is exactly why they have intervened.

“I must say when I see all these people, especially woman and kids here in the airport with nothing, I think it’s worth it and basically we are in a humanitarian crisis.”

Adelie’s not from Abidjan, but the IOM’s Marina Schramm says people in her case will be given temporary relief.

“We have provided for shelters to take them up but it’s not one centre where everybody goes, it’s going to be several locations, NGO-run shelters.”

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