Switzerland is to provide $2.9 million (SFr3.1 million) to help resettle Chadians who had been working for many years in Libya, and returned home during and after the uprising that overthrew Moammar Gaddafi in 2011.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) signed an agreement with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Geneva on Tuesday. The money will go to support people now living in three remote regions close to Chad’s northern borders with Libya, Niger and Sudan.
It will be used over a period of two years to help the returnees reintegrate socially and economically.
“The SDC contribution is the first of its kind to fund a project which uses community infrastructure projects to facilitate a reintegration process,” the IOM said on its website.
The Swiss aid is “really significant”, because the area in question is one of the most deprived in the country, and the returnees have come home empty-handed, IOM media spokesman Jumbe Omari Jumbe told swissinfo.ch.
He explained that although they were welcomed in the beginning, there had subsequently been some friction because of the scarcity of resources. One flashpoint has been in markets, where women returnees started selling goods in competition with locals.
Employment is one of the problems facing the returnees: in Libya the men had mainly been semi-skilled workers in agriculture or construction, but in such a poor area of Chad there is no similar opportunity for them. This has led to widespread depression because they are unable to provide for their families, Jumbe said.
Although most of the returnees have family in Chad, children born in Libya – some of whom are now young adults – have no experience of the country. Furthermore, schooling in Libya was in Arabic, whereas in Chad it is in French, adding another challenge to integration.
The IOM says overall about 130,000 Chadians have returned from Libya since 2011.
Jumbe said that some donors who contributed funding to repatriate the returnees felt that they had “done their job,” and that few were helping with the resettlement. Switzerland is the only country funding projects in the north, although the United States and Germany are contributing to IOM projects elsewhere in Chad.
“IOM is grateful to the Swiss government for the funds,” said Qasim Sufi, the organisation’s chief of mission in Chad, quoted on the website.
“[The returnees’] plight did not end with their return and most still face numerous challenges.”