Deaths, scary tales from Libya as ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion thrives

De­spite mas­sive cam­paigns against ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion and the repa­tri­a­tion of thou­sands of Nige­ri­ans stranded in Libya, there seems to be no end in sight to the deaths, de­struc­tion, hard­ship and de­hu­man­iza­tion faced by Nige­ri­ans in the North African count

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Ab­dul­la­teef Aliyu, La­gos

Re­cent feel­ers from Libya point to the fact that there is more to be done by the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment and its part­ners to help many Nige­ri­ans who are still stranded there. The tales from the coun­try are scary. Young Nige­ri­ans in­clud­ing women, chil­dren and in­fants have been left in the lurch, suf­fer­ing from head to toe with dim chances of sur­vival.

The In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM), the United Na­tions Mi­gra­tion agency in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Euro­pean Union (EU) has been on the forefront of res­cu­ing Africans, es­pe­cially Nige­ri­ans lan­guish­ing in pains and an­guish in Libya.

Through its As­sisted Vol­un­tary Re­turnees’ scheme, the IOM has fa­cil­i­tated the repa­tri­a­tion of over 10,200 stranded Nige­ri­ans from Libya be­tween April 2017 and Novem­ber 2018. In ad­di­tion, fol­low­ing the rages ac­com­pa­nied by vi­ral videos over mal­treat­ment of Nige­ri­ans in Libya, the Nige­rian gov­ern­ment also res­cued over 5,000 Nige­ri­ans who were pro­vided camps in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

This im­plies that within two years, over 15,000 Nige­ri­ans have been res­cued from Libya through the joint ef­forts of IOM and the fed­eral gov­ern­ment.

How­ever, de­spite these ef­forts, respite ap­pears elu­sive. More deaths of Nige­ri­ans are be­ing recorded on a daily ba­sis in Libya. The per­ils, de­hu­man­iza­tion and mal­treat­ment of Nige­ri­ans re­main the or­der of the day go­ing by ac­counts re­lated by re­turnees.

More per­ilous is the jour­ney it­self through the desert as young Nige­ri­ans con­tinue to re­buff the sev­eral warn­ings by gov­ern­ment and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions not to em­bark on ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion. As con­firmed by most re­turnees, the jour­ney through the desert is hellish and tor­tu­ous.

Shock­ingly, Nige­rian youths will not cease to em­bark on the jour­ney with dim chances of sur­vival.

From sev­eral ac­counts, many youths have been brain­washed into be­liev­ing that their sur­vival lies in mi­grat­ing to Libya with the ul­ti­mate tar­get of land­ing in Europe through the Mediter­ranean Sea.

On a daily ba­sis, hun­dreds of mi­grants per­ish on the coast of Libya in sev­eral failed at­tempts to cross. Those not trapped in the sea are ei­ther lan­guish­ing in de­ten­tion camps or locked up in end­less per­pet­ual servi­tude.

The Mi­gra­tion En­light­en­ment Project Nige­ria (MEPN), the group cam­paign­ing to pro­mote greater aware­ness of the risks and dan­gers of ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion, said there was the need for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to de­mand the list of Nige­rian de­tainees from the Libyan gov­ern­ment in Tripoli.

Though it com­mended the ef­forts of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to bring back the stranded Nige­ri­ans, it ex­pressed con­cern that thou­sands are still held cap­tive in camps al­legedly run by smug­glers.

Ken­neth Gbandi, the Co-Project Project Di­rec­tor / Chair­man, Nige­ri­ans in Di­as­pora Or­ga­ni­za­tion Europe (NIDOE) and Co-Project Di­rec­tor, Femi Awoniyi, said the case of a group of Nige­rian re­turnees who were held cap­tive in­side a gov­ern­ment-run de­ten­tion cen­tre in the Libyan town of Zawiya in­di­cates that many Nige­ri­ans could still be in forcible cus­tody in the North African coun­try.

Ac­cord­ing to the group, the video record­ing made by one of the mi­grants sent to the in­ter­na­tional me­dia in July 2018 led to IOM’s ef­forts that freed the Nige­ri­ans who have since re­turned home.

“The MEPN be­lieves that many Nige­ri­ans could still be held in Libya not only in of­fi­cial de­ten­tion cen­tres but also in camps run by smug­gling gangs and mili­tias,” it said.

The group there­fore called on the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to de­mand from Tripoli a list of Nige­ri­ans be­ing de­tained in its fa­cil­i­ties and re­lease them im­me­di­ately so that they can re­turn home.

It said the case of the mi­grants should serve as a les­son to young Nige­ri­ans and de­ter them from em­bark­ing on the dan­ger­ous jour­ney.

It called on young Nige­ri­ans to seek le­gal ways of mi­grat­ing as many have lost their lives in the process.

The IOM Chief of Mis­sion in Nige­ria, Mr. Frantz Ce­lestin, said in La­gos painted an alarm­ing rate which mi­grants per­ish on the Mediter­ranean Sea.

Ce­lestin who was rep­re­sented by Mrs. El­iz­a­beth Poage, IOM’s Na­tional Project Of­fi­cer, said the num­ber of deaths and those who are cur­rently sub­jected to ex­ploita­tion and abuse were alarm­ing.

“Cur­rent statis­tics show that the num­ber of mi­grants from West Africa in mi­gra­tion flows through the Cen­tral Mediter­ranean route has in­creased de­spite the dif­fi­cult con­di­tions of mak­ing the jour­ney ir­reg­u­larly.

“It is wor­thy to note that thou­sands of Nige­rian mi­grants are stranded in Libya, liv­ing in ter­ri­ble con­di­tions, with many de­sirous of the op­por­tu­nity to re­turn home,” he said.

Ce­lestin lamented that many mi­grants have em­barked on ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion with lit­tle or no ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion about the le­gal mi­gra­tion process and the risks in­her­ent in the jour­ney.

“Per­mit me to say that most of these mi­grants em­barked on this per­ilous jour­ney be­cause they re­ceived lit­tle or no in­for­ma­tion about the le­gal mi­gra­tion process, the risks in­her­ent in ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion, the liv­ing and work­ing con­di­tions and the sup­port and re­dress ser­vices avail­able at des­ti­na­tion coun­tries.

“In the ab­sence of ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion on le­gal mi­gra­tion pro­ce­dures and re­quire­ments, risks of ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion, job ad­vi­sories and gen­eral in­for­ma­tion and sup­port on wel­fare and so­cial pro­tec­tion, po­ten­tial and re­turn­ing mi­grants are bound to fall vic­tim of fraud­u­lent mi­gra­tion bro­kers/ re­cruit­ment agen­cies who usu­ally cap­i­talise on the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of their vic­tims’ de­sire or am­bi­tion for ex­ploita­tion.

“It is against this back­ground that IOM has within the frame­work of this project sup­ported the gov­ern­ment of Nige­ria to de­velop sev­eral ini­tia­tives to ef­fec­tively man­age mi­gra­tion in a more ef­fi­cient and co­her­ent man­ner,” he said.

This is why it is im­per­a­tive to deepen aware­ness cam­paign and in­for­ma­tion shar­ing on the de­mer­its of ir­reg­u­lar mi­gra­tion with spe­cific em­pha­sis on the dan­gers and risks.

Look­ing at var­i­ous ac­counts by re­turnees, it is crys­tal clear that most of them em­barked on the jour­neys with lit­tle or no in­for­ma­tion about the fate that awaited them. They were mostly de­ceived, ca­joled and brain­washed into em­bark­ing on the per­ilous jour­ney with as­sur­ances of bet­ter liv­ing.

One Ami­nat Sun­day from Ifo Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Area of Ogun State who was re­cently repa­tri­ated from Libya said though she was mo­ti­vated to em­bark on the jour­ney in or­der to ease her fam­ily’s fi­nan­cial bur­den, she came back re­gret­ting her ac­tion.

Photo: NET Il­le­gal mi­grants res­cued by the Libyan coast­guard in the Mediter­ranean Sea off the Libyan coast, ar­rive at the naval base in the cap­i­tal Tripoli.

Some il­le­gal mi­grants with a Libyan se­cu­rity of­fi­cer Photo: NET

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