Coastguards Picks Up 948 African Migrants

Officials and an eyewitness have revealed that Libyan coastguards rescued 948 African migrants on inflatable boats in several operations and also recovered 10 bodies on Sunday.

“The coastguards picked up illegal migrants in different groups. The first group is 97 on one inflatable boat and the second group is 361 migrants on two inflatable boats,” Naval forces spokesman Ayoub Qassem told Reuters.

“The second group was taken to Khums town,” Qassem said, adding that the two groups included 110 women and 70 children.

A witness watching the arrival of another coastguard ship at Tripoli’s Abu Sittah naval base said a third group included 490 migrants picked up off Qarabulli town.

Among them were 75 women and 20 children.

The operations bring the number, since June 20, of mainly African migrants trying to head to Italy but brought back to Libya to almost 2,000.

The western coast of Libya is the main departure point for thousands of migrants fleeing wars and poverty and trying to reach Europe.

The number of crossings has dropped sharply since July 2017 when an armed group expelled human traffickers from a smuggling hub after an Italy-backed deal.

Libya plunged into chaos following the NATO-backed uprising that toppled Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, with many armed groups and two administrations vying for power.

Most migrants try to head across the Mediterranean toward Italy, hoping they will be picked up by ships run by aid groups and taken there, although many drown before they are rescued. Earlier this month, Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini vowed to no longer let charity ships offload rescued migrants in Italy, leaving one ship stranded at sea for several days with more than 600 migrants until Spain offered them safe harbour.

Italy criticised Malta on Sunday over its refusal to take in a Dutch-flagged aid vessel with more than 230 migrants on board.

3 Pilots Lost Lives to Crash

A pilot and two co-pilots, all three of them Libyan, were killed Sunday when their cargo plane crashed in southern Libya, a military source said.
The plane crashed minutes after taking off from the Al-Sharara oil field, the source said on condition of anonymity.

“It had arrived from Tripoli to bring supplies to the (oil) field staff and left empty,” the source told AFP.

“The captain and his two co-pilots died in the crash.”

One member of the crew survived the wreck but was “seriously injured”, the source said.

The cause of the crash at Al-Sharara, one of Libya’s biggest oil fields in the south of the country, was unknown.

UN Warns Against Ongoing Violence In Libya

The United Nations has warned against violence in Libya’s southern city of Sabha, appealing to all parties involved to work towards a ceasefire agreement.

The mission warned that the buildup of armed forces in the south risks further escalation and calls on all parties to work toward a ceasefire agreement, advance dialogue and reconciliation efforts, and refrain from rhetoric that may inflame the situation.

The mission commended the efforts of national and local leaders to solve the conflict peacefully.

Located some 800 km southwest of the capital Tripoli, Sabha has lately been witnessing violent clashes between rival tribes, which have forced hundreds of people to flee their homes.

According to Sabha Medical Centre, the clashes have killed and injured dozens of civilians.

UN-backed Prime Minister Fayez Serraj recently announced the formation of a military force to secure southern Libya.

On March 9, Libya’s eastern-based army ordered nationals from neighbouring African countries in southern Libya to leave or they would be removed by force.

The information officer of the army led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar said in a statement that “The General Command of the Armed Forces of Libya calls on African brothers from neighbouring countries not to be dragged behind the lawless militias and be exploited to destabilise the south”.

Haftar Said: “March 17 is “the deadline for their departure from the Libyan territory. After the date, they will be removed by force.”

The army also called on tribal elders and leaders in southern Libya to “stop social support for all those who help in any way protect or house African nationals, leading to destabilisation of southern Libya”.

It made the appeal after fighting between rival tribes in southern Libya reportedly caused casualties and displaced hundreds of people.

The Sabha medical centre said that recent tribal clashes in the city of Sabha, located some 800 km southwest of capital Tripoli, have killed 10 civilians and injured 30 others.

Immigrants from neighbouring Chad and Niger have been accused of involvement in the tribal conflicts in Sabha.
Hamed Al-Khiali, head of the municipal council of Sabha, said i February that the local airport was occupied by “an armed group that has nothing to do with Libya”.

Al-Khiali said the armed group carried the flags of African countries.

Recently in Tripoli, the UN-backed government announced measures to support its forces in Sabha to fight the so-called “mercenaries”.


1,490 Stranded Nigerians Evacuated From Libya

The Federal Government yesterday evacuated at least 1,490 stranded Nigerians from Libya to the country through the Port Harcourt International Airport in Rivers State.

The evacuation was in three batches with the first flight airlifting 484 victims, the second flight arrived with 446 and the third came in with 560 persons. It was learnt that besides yesterday’s arrival of 560 returnees, more flights were expected to join Max Air to facilitate the evacuation process as ordered by the Federal Government.

Public Relations Officer of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Sani Datti, said Medview Airline would soon join Max Air in airlifting more Nigerians until the 5, 037 target was met. However, the Federal Government has urged states that are yet to pick up their returnees to do so without further delay in the interest of their citizens.

It commended states that have been responding positively in coming to pick their returnees. The Federal Government had, after inaugurating the Libya Evacuation Committee headed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, gave it 38 days to evacuate all Nigerians stranded in Libya.

Meanwhile, the Edo State government yesterday commended the Federal Government, International Organisation on Migration (IOM), European Union (UN) on their role in the return and rehabilitation of Nigerian victims of trafficking, especially those of Edo extraction.

Senior Special Assistant to Governor Godwin Obaseki on Anti-Human Trafficking, Solomon Okoduwa, also commended Onyeama and the Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to President Muhammadu Buhari on the Diaspora, Abike Dabibri and urged the National Agency for the Prohibition and Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to tow the same line.

Okoduwa said over 70 per cent of the deported Nigerians were from the South-South region, with Edo leading in the number of victims.On government’s efforts towards empowering the youths, he said: “Recently, government approved N100 million seed grant and 150 hectares of farmlands to some recently trained returnees to engage them in various skills as they have become more vulnerable.”

Similarly, Yobe State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Ahmed Goniri, has said the 29 repatriated indigenes of the state from Libya would be reunited with their families before being released into the society with government support.

Goniri gave the assurance yesterday in Damaturu, the state capital, while briefing journalists on the re-integration and support of the returnees to their communities across the state.


100 Migrants Missing After Boat Accident

The Libyan Navy on Wednesday said as many as 100 migrants have gone missing after their boat sank off the coast of Libya.

The Libyan coastguard rescued 17 people from the boat that sank off the town of al-Khoms east of the Libyan capital Tripoli. The survivors clung to the wreckage of the vessel until they were saved.

“Unfortunately, there are a large number of missing people ranging from 90 to 100 illegal migrants from the boat,’’ the navy said in a statement.

According to the navy, the Libyan coastguard saved a total of 279 shipwrecked migrants in three incidents, including those from the al-Khoms boat.


The International Organisation for Migration estimated that 2,832 migrants died in 2017 trying to reach Italy from North Africa, down from 4,581 in 2016.



Human Trafficking Is The Only Lucrative Business In Libya- Returnee

As another set of Nigerian migrants evacuated from Libya arrived the Port Harcourt International Airport on Sunday, several new information has been revealed by the returnees.

Narrating her experience to The Guardian, Six-month pregnant Lewisa Comfort, 23, said: “The Nigerians who collected money and took us to Libya usually betrayed us. They did sell Nigerian ladies to Arab men for about N200,000 and the Arab men would use the girls as sex machines and for house cleaning jobs and with all these, we would only be given one dry bread to eat per day without water.

“If you were sold to a black man, it was a continuous sale, because the black men kept selling and re-selling the individual, just to make money. Human trafficking is the only lucrative business in Libya.

“The situation there is very bad, so pathetic that it is not an experience one would wish his worst enemy. The desert experience is worse than the sea experience. In my set, 14 Hilux vans carrying 27 passengers each left Nigeria but only 10 people survived. More than 1,000 died.”

Comfort further revealed that some of them paid as much as N800,000 to cross over to Italy. She said when they arrived in Libya, some of them were arrested, while some were sold out. Others were moved from prison to prison with severe torture. “No water or food,” she said. She said the hellish experience forced most of them to fast and pray, seeking divine intervention for rescue.

“When we were going through all these experiences, we decided to turn our hunger into fasting and prayers .We fasted and prayed for three days and we saw ourselves as one; there was unity (of mind) among all of us in Libya.

“It was on the third day when our fasting ended we heard the cheering news that our President Muhammadu Buhari, has sent some delegations to come and evacuate us out from Libya and we were very happy, we are so glad that finally, we are back to our country and we have our freedom.”

She advised those nursing the idea to travel out of the country through illegal means to have a rethink, warning that it is better to learn skills and work with freedom in Nigeria than to be a slave in a foreign country.

She lamented that she left the country due to frustration, saying the educational system in Nigeria is very costly with no jobs at the end.
“As a graduate, I was earning N8, 000 monthly where I was teaching and before the month ran halfway, the money would have been exhausted. At a point, I was tired and decided to go look for greener pastures.”

Lewisa also urged the Federal Government to create the enabling environment that would help people learn skills, trade, work and become useful to society.


Obaseki Appoints SSA On Human Trafficking, Illegal Migration

Gov. Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has appointed a Benin-based human rights activist, Mr Solomon Okoduwa as Senior Special Assistant (SSA) on Human Trafficking and Illegal Migration.

Okoduwa, who has been at the forefront on piblic enlightenment on the dangers of illegal migration and benefits of getting engaged back home in Nigeria and Edo in particular, is the President of Initiative for Youth Awareness on Migration, Immigration, Development and Reintegration (IYAMIDR). He was also a member of the state committee against human trafficking.

Following the reported repatriation of over 5000 Nigerians from Libya, where illegal immigrants went through experiences described by one victim as “worse than hell”, Edo State has witnessed an unprecedented number of returnees.

The State Attorney General and Commissioner for justice, Prof. Yinka Omorogbe on Thursday disclosed that 1,439 returnees had been received by the government from late October to date.

Omorogbe said that after documentation of the returnees, they were allowed to return to their home while others are accommodated by government for reintegration.

The Commissioner said that the state government pay monthly stipend to the returnees, adding that the returnees would later be engaged in an empowerment programme in January.

Edo State is identified as a major contributor of male and female immigrants who try desperate and even fatal ways to get into Europe, usually via Libya. The horrendous experiences of such illegal immigrants again dominated public discourse following a report by CNN, which showed how full bodied Africans were being sold as slaves through auctions.

Another 249 Nigerians Return From Libya

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the European Union (EU) on Thursday facilitated the return of another 249 Nigerian returnees from Libya.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the returnees arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at about 9.47pm aboard an Afriqiyah Airbus A330-300 with Registration Number 5A-ONR.

They were received by the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Alhaji Mustapha Maihajja.

Maihajja, who was represented by the South West Zonal Coordinator of NEMA, Alhaji Suleiman Yakubu, implored the returnees to be champions of positive change by supporting the campaign against irregular migration.

He said they should be able to enlighten other Nigerian youths on the dangers of seeking greener pastures outside the country through illegal means based on their experiences in Libya.

“You should let them know that you are always second citizens outside your country and your rights can be violated without opportunity for you to seek redress at all,” Maihajja said.

No fewer than 3,000 Nigerians have voluntarily returned from Libya through the IOM supported programme in the last few months.

NAN reports that 387  had, on Tuesday, returned from the volatile North African country where they had been stranded enroute Europe.

Many return with gory tales of their experiences in the country.

As at the time of filing this report, another batch of Nigerians was being expected from Libya, as their aircraft was said to be on the way from Tripoli.


250 Nigerians Expected From Libya

The Federal Government has disclosed that 250 Nigerians will be repatriated from Libya on Tuesday (tomorrow), noting that 3,000 citizens had been brought back so far.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the returnees would arrive Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos by 7pm.

The Charge d’Affairs, Nigerian mission in Libya, Iliya Fachano said this while addressing members of the #Ourmumudondo coalition which staged a protest at the ministry on Monday in Abuja, demanding an end to slavery in the Arab nation.

Fachano explained that embassy officials visited the detention camps weekly where illegal migrants mostly from African countries were held.

He added that those identified as Nigerians were given emergency travel certificates to enable them to return to Nigeria on chartered aircraft financed by the International Organisation for Migration.

He said, “The IOM informs the mission once Nigerians are identified among the illegal migrants, we then visit the detention camps, register them and give them emergency travel certificate, then schedule a
date for their return.

“The mission repatriates immigrant Nigerians weekly, tomorrow being December 5, 2017, 250 Nigerian migrants will arrive Lagos by 7pm.”

The diplomat said the exercise is carried out regularly, adding that after immigrants are scheduled for a flight, their names contained in a manifest is sent to Nigeria.

He added, “They are not only Nigerians there, there are other nationalities like Ghanaian, Gambians; so the Nigerian embassy visits that place to identify its own people.

“So far we have registered about 2,000 Nigerians now, the 250 will return tomorrow because no plane has the capacity to take all the detained people at once. And all the detained people are not only Nigerians.”

The CDA said the moment the immigrants were brought back to the country, the National Emergency Management Agency would receive and ensure they are resettled.

“Migration is not an issue, it only becomes an issue if it is illegal. Our duty as government is to protect both Nigerians that run foul of the law and those here in the country; Government is responsible for everybody, we don’t say because you’re detained by this person we won’t bring you back,” Fachano stated.

Speaking earlier, the coalition demanded an emergency meeting of African Union to discuss the human trafficking issues in Libya which they insisted should not be left to the European Union to address.

A member, Ariyo Atoye, berated President Muhammadu Buhari for not doing enough to address the root cause of illegal migration which he traced to the economic situation in the country.

The protesters, led by musician and activist, Charlie Boy, sealed their mouths with duct tapes and chained their hands to depict the sufferings of many Nigerians and Africans in Libya.

Breaking: FG Provides Emergency Numbers For Nigerians In Libya

Following the jarring report by CNN about how Africans were being sold as slaves in Libya, The Federal Government has provided emergency numbers and email addresses for distressed Nigerians in Libya who may wish to contact the nation’s mission in Tripoli for assistance.

This is in addition to the evacuation service rendered to Nigerians who were stranded in the troubled state, a major gateway to Europe.

The spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Tope Elias-Fatile, in a statement on Sunday in Abuja, explained that the numbers are available 24 hours to render assistance to any Nigerian in need.
The numbers are, +218910144487, +218925099384 and +218917953365. The email addresses for contacting the Embassy or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja are: [email protected] and [email protected]

Italy Buries 26 Nigerian Girls Who Drowned At Sea

Twenty six Nigerian girls who died in the Mediterranean while crossing into Italy from Libya, were given a mass funeral and burial.

A Roman Catholic bishop and a Muslim imam both said prayers at the simple ceremony in the southern city of Salerno, with 26 wooden coffins laid out on a stone dais. A single white rose was placed on the lid of each. Just two of the women were identified.

A reporter with the Associated Press revealed on Twitter that “In response to those who asked, I did not see any official Nigerian representative at the ceremony today.”

Reactions from the comments thread revealed displeasure by many Nigerians to that revelation.

At the ceremony, “It is very likely that these girls were victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation,” said Federico Soda, director UN migration agency IOM for the Mediterranean.

A recent IOM report had estimated that 80 percent of Nigerian girls arriving in Italy by sea might be trafficking victims.

The 26 bodies were retrieved from the sea on Nov. 3 by a Spanish rescue ship, while some 64 people were unaccounted for and feared lost, bringing the total dead to around 90, said Flavio Di Giacomo, an IOM spokesman.

Survivors found on nearby rubber boats said the women were all Nigerian and had left Libya hoping to make it to Italy.

The only two identified were named as Marian Shaka, who was married, and Osato Osaro. Both were pregnant. Some of those who died were believed to have been as young as 14.

Almost 115,000 migrants, mainly African men, have reached Italy so far this year, according to government data released on Friday, against just over 167,000 in the same period last year.

IOM said at least 2,925 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean from Jan 1.-Nov. 5 against 4,302 last year.