A migrant expert and resource person at the EU-IOM reintegration training in Nigeria, Osita Osemene has expressed shock at the rate at which Nigerians still try to leave the country illegally despite efforts to by the Nigerian government’s efforts to curb it.
He said: “It is regrettable that despite campaign efforts by the Nigerian government, international bodies and local agencies to curb irregular migration, Nigerians are still taking the risk.”
He however, advised that the tempo of campaigns against irregular migration should be sustained, expressing hope that in no distant time, there would be success stories.
He said this in reaction to a recent report that no fewer than 50 Nigerian migrants, who were heading to Italy were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea. The rescued Nigerian migrants were said to be among hundreds of other African migrants that were intercepted and jointly rescued on the Mediterranean Sea by the Libyan coastguards and an international charity organisation, Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
They were reportedly rescued by a ship belonging to MSF, 21 miles away from the coast, west of Tripoli. It was reported that the ship delivered the 110 migrants, consisting of 18 women and one child to Italy.
More than half of the migrants on the boat, according to report, were Nigerians, while the rest were from other sub-Saharan African countries, including two Palestinians. The Libyan coastguard vessels also intercepted two of the migrant boats. Spokesman of the coastguard, Ayoub Qassem said the first vessel that was intercepted was an inflatable dinghy, which had broken down, conveying 125 people on board off Zawiya, just west of the capital, Tripoli. “The second boat was turned back off Garabulli, east of Tripoli, and had 112 people on board. The migrants and their smugglers were trying to take advantage of calm seas as they launched a flurry of boats towards Italy,” he stated.
Another coastguard in Zuwara, a former Libyan smuggling hub west of Zawiya, was reported to have said that they had foiled a departure during the night and arrested some migrants while others escaped with smugglers. “Libya is the main departure point for migrants attempting to reach Europe by sea. More than 600,000 migrants have crossed the central Mediterranean to Italy over the past four years as human smugglers took advantage of a security vacuum in Libya. Since last summer, the rate of departures dropped significantly after smugglers in the Libyan town of Sabratha struck a deal with the Tripoli government to halt their activities and were then pushed out of the town by rival armed groups,” he said.
The report also said that Libya’s EU-backed coastguard has equally stepped up interceptions, often cutting migrant boats off before they could reach international vessels that would take them to Europe.