TRIPOLI, May 31 -- The Libyan authorities deported 221 illegal immigrants from African and Asian countries as part of the immigration department's voluntary return program, according to a statement issued on Wednesday. The department said in the statement that 163 Somali nationals had left for their home country on an airplane of local airliner Al-Buraq. The deportation was in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), it added. "This is the first direct flight to leave Tripoli's M'etiga international airport to the Somali capital Mogadishu," it said. In addition, 30 migrants from Bangladesh and 28 from Pakistan were sent to their countries of origin, according to the statement. Libya has become a preferred point of departure for immigrants hoping to reach Europe after domestic conflicts erupted in the North African country in 2011. The voluntary return program is carried out by the IOM in Libya to help illegal immigrants stranded in Libya return to their countries of origin. Some 20,000 illegal immigrants returned home via the program in 2017.