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9 Jan 2018

1,030 stranded Nigerians evacuated from Libya in two days

The Federal Government said yesterday it evacuated 1,030 stranded Nigerian migrants from Libya between Sunday and yesterday.

Director-General of National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Alhaji Mustapha Maihaja stated this at a joint news conference by the Federal Government delegation to Libya.

Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama led a delegation on fact-finding mission to Libya to secure the release of Nigerian migrants stranded in that country.

On the delegation were: Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora and Muhammad Babandede, Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service.

Others were Julie Okah-Donli, Director General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Sadiya Umar-Faruq, Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees.

Maihaja told reporters that the returnees were — 485 — who came back on Sunday and 545 who came back on Monday, noting that they were part of the 5,037 stranded Nigerians identified for evacuation back home.

He stated a reception centre approved by President Muhammadu Buhari had been set up in Port Harcourt, Rivers for the returnees.

According to him, the returnees on arrival will be formally received and profiled before being transported to their various states.

He said that the reception centre was organised in such a way that the Ministry of Health provided facilities to look after those with health-related problems.

He explained that those who were critically ill were taken to University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital for treatment.

He added that the returnees would be profiled through the Immigration, Directorate of State Service and other agencies, emphasising that those with criminal tendencies and ISIS inclination would be taken  care of by relevant agencies.

Maihaja said the delegation had 21 days to complete its operation.

The Foreign Affairs Minister also said the delegation was in Libya to engage with Libyan Government at the highest level to facilitate the evacuation of the stranded Nigerian migrants from the North African country.

Onyeama said the Nigerian mission in Libya was coordinating the identification of the Nigerian migrants with the support of International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

According to him, they are being joined by a technical team comprising representatives from NEMA, Immigration and other relevant Nigerian government agencies.

The minister said that the political and security challenges in that country made it difficult to secure the evacuation of some Nigerians back home.

He added that “there are different centres of power in that country. The central government recognised by the UN and AU do not have full control of the territories controlled by rebels.”

He pointed out that there were over 50 detention camps in Libya, many of them under the control of rebels and militia groups.

The minister said that the young Nigerians being trafficked were shattered and battered and seen as commodity to be traded for economic gains.

He said the Libyan Government blamed the criminal elements for the human trafficking business, noting that the president was keen at dissociating the ordinary Libyan people from the narrative.

He noted that there were complaints about how some migrants in detention camps were being exploited by government officials for economic gains.

He said Nigerians who were residing in Libya legally complained of harassment by Libyan Government officials who they said destroyed their passports and other residency papers.

Babandede said: “I want to state that in 2017 alone we received in to the country deportees specifically from Libya, 5908.

“So if you add to the number we received on Jan7  which was 485 from Libya it  will give you 6,393 deportees we received Libya.

“The ratio of those deported on Jan. 7 is very interesting, the male is 398, female 84, children 3.

According to him a total of 3,498 men, 2,684 female and minors 211 were deported from Libya in 2017 which shows the ratio between male and female is almost balance.

He said of the 485 returnees over the weekend, 398 are male, female 84 and children 3.

He said a grand total of 16,387 persons were repatriated to Nigeria across the globe in 2017.

He said: “I don’t want us to look at it as if it only in Libya the deportees are coming from, like from Saudi Arabia we have a total deportees of 3836 deportees in 2017 made up of male 395, female 2,331, children 1,110 .

The NAPTIP Director General said the agency would profile the returnees to identify those who were real victims of trafficking.

Okah-Donli said “the returnees would be counseled by trained personnel and those with medical condition would be treated at the agency’s facilities.”

She said the rehabilitation period would last for six months during which the returnees would be trained on different skills acquisition and empowered with tools.

“We will monitor them for about two years to ensure that they don’t re-embark on the treacherous journey,” she added.

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