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Migrants in a detention camp near Tripoli. According to the Libyan government, there are more than 30,000 migrants detained in its facilities / Photo: UNHCR

MEPN tasks Nigerian government on consular support for irregular migrants

The Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN) has called on the Nigerian government to “significantly increase consular support” to Nigerian irregular migrants in the transit and destination countries.

The Germany-based group made the call in a press statement, released on Monday 26 November, arguing that stranded migrants, especially in transit, are left totally at the mercy of the very traffickers who took them to their precarious situation.

“According to international organisations, the ensuing desperation make most migrants take reckless risks to escape their seemingly hopeless situation in the transit countries, where they are exposed to exploitation and often horrendous human rights abuse,” the MEPN said in a statement signed by its co-directors, Kenneth Gbandi and Femi Awoniyi.

“This explains why many migrants still take the suicidal risk of boarding rickety boats in their bid to cross the Mediterranean to safety in Europe, which is why migrants continue to die daily in the Mediterranean Sea. This year, more than 2,000 migrants, many of whom are Nigerians, have drowned.”

More than 15,000 migrants have been returned to Nigeria since the beginning of last year, but the group believes that thousands of Nigerians are still stranded in different transit countries, especially in Libya, Morocco and Egypt.

The MEPN pointed to the fact that the number of people held in deplorable conditions in Libyan detention camps had risen dramatically this year.

Libya’s Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Taher Siala recently admitted that its detention facilities still held many sub-Saharan migrants whom the country did not know what to do with them.

Siala estimated that around 30,000 irregular migrants were currently held in detention centres in Libya “and around 750,000 outside”. Tripoli was working with the EU to send the migrants to their home countries, he said. “But unfortunately, some of these countries – many West African countries – refuse to take them back,” Siala claimed.

The MEPN therefore reiterated its call to the Nigerian government to demand access to its nationals detained in Libya and make renewed effort in collaboration with international organisations to repatriate them back home.

“The time has come for ECOWAS member states to collaborate on a common contingency plan that will enable the bloc‘s citizens in distress in North African countries to get assistance from any member state’s embassy or consulate. Such collaboration will reinforce the protection of ECOWAS’s citizens and will be a strong sign of Community solidarity,” the group said.

“In view of the suffering of irregular migrants and the dangers that most are exposed to in the different transit countries in which they’re presently stranded, the time for Nigeria and ECOWAS to act is now,” the MEPN, which is currently carrying out a campaign to promote a greater awareness of the risks and dangers of irregular migration in Nigeria, said.

Sola Jolaoso

* The Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN) is currently carrying out a campaign to promote a greater awareness of the risks and dangers of irregular migration in Nigeria. More on the MEPN at http://lookb4uleave.info/