The International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced that its first repatriation flight from Libya had been carried out, after the Voluntary Humanitarian Return Programme (VHR) had been put on pause for five months.

The flight brought 118 Ghanaians - including seven women, three children, and two newborns - back home, after being stranded due to the pandemic.

According to IOM, all of the passengers underwent a health screening prior to boarding the flight and they were given personal protective equipment including face masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. The migrants also received psychosocial support.

In a statement, IOM said it will continue to provide support during a 14-day quarantine period in Ghana and later, reintegration assistance.

IOM spokesperson Safa Msehli said conflict and COVID-19 have severely impacted the livelihoods of migrants in Libya. She said that her agency had received many new requests for help from migrants who want to go back home in recent months.

Other voluntary repatriation flights are planned, but a flight scheduled for next week to Mali had to be postponed, IOM said.

The VHR program began in 2015. According to IOM, the program has helped 1,466 migrants return home from Libya in the first quarter of 2020. In 2019, the program assisted 9,800 people in their return to 34 countries of origin in Africa and Asia.