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
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.
Some illegal migrants with a Libyan security officer Photo: NET