• Moayad Zaghdani
  • Mouaid Duffani

Libya – In 2021, Owehidi – a father of three – set out from Bangladesh to Libya, seeking to secure a better income to help his family. He eventually settled in the city of Derna where he worked as a butcher. He was warmly welcomed into the tightly knit and mutually supportive community of Bangladeshi migrant workers. 

Owehidi makes a call to his family, sharing a few precious moments before his journey from Benina International Airport begins. Photo: Moayad Zaghdani/IOM 2023.

He was thrilled with this new beginning, seeing it as a step towards a more prosperous life for his family.  

"I missed my children a lot. Even though technology has come a long way, and I could always see their pictures or talk to them on video calls, I still missed them," Owehidi said. “It was hard to see them grow up from so far away." 

IOM staff assess the impact and urgent needs in the wake of Storm Daniel. Photo: IOM 2023/Mouaid Tariq

On September 10, 2023, Storm Daniel hit northeastern Libya, causing catastrophic flooding and leaving thousands dead.  

Derna, with a population of over 100,000, was the hardest hit by the storm, with almost half its population becoming displaced. 

Owehidi described the ordeal as a “never-ending nightmare.” He lost three close friends to the flood. 

He also lost his home and livelihood and was overwhelmed by fear and insecurity. The disaster prompted him to reassess his life and make the decision to return home which he did on 21 December 2023, along with other 138 migrants, many of whom had also been affected by the storm. 

Bangladeshi migrants board their flight back to Dhaka from Benina International Airport, a return to roots and reunion. Photo: Mouaid Duffani/IOM Libya 2023

The International Organization for Migration's (IOM) Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme is a crucial lifeline for stranded migrants like Owehidi. VHR flights offer a safe and dignified way to return home, facilitating recovery from trauma and helping people rebuild their lives. 

IOM's voluntary humanitarian return (VHR) assistance in Libya is supported by the EU-funded Migrant Protection, Return and Reintegration in North Africa (MPRR-NA) programme, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). 

This story was written by Moayad Zaghdani and Mouaid Duffani, IOM Libya.