The Federal Government of Nigeria has appointed local airlines to repatriate Nigerians stranded in Libya.
Following the global outrage that greeted the CNN footage showing African migrants being auctioned as slaves in Libya last November, President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to bring back Nigerians still in the North African country.
He thereafter constituted a 17-man fact-finding committee headed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama to aid the evacuation process.
Med-View Airline and Max Air have now been commissioned to carry out the repatriation of 5,037 Nigerians from the North African country.
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have signed the papers of the agreement with the two airlines on behalf of the federal government in Abuja . The exercise it was gathered is scheduled to commence almost immediately.
Isiaq Na’Allah, Executive Director, Business Development and Commercial, Med-View Airline, assured that the airline was capable of ferrying the stranded Nigerians back to the country with ease.
Na’Allah said: “This kind of responsibility is meant for Nigerian carriers because it’s our responsibility and we have the capacity to carry out this operation. We have demonstrated the capacity that we can do it and we are honoured to have been appointed by the Federal Government through NEMA.”
“It is a known fact that Med-View Airline has been in operations for the past 10 years. We do Hajj operations and we do it successfully and the record is there for everybody to see, that is a factor I think the government considered before we are assigned this national project. We will deliver professionally up to international standard and the government is not making any mistake for entrusting Nigerian carrier to this kind of project.”
Experts say between 700,000 and 1 million migrants are stranded in Libya unable to make the journey to Europe across the Mediterranean. And Nigerians constitute the single largest nationality among the sub-Saharans in the North African country.
The contracts given out to Med-View Airline and Max Air cover 5,037 persons, who have been identified as Nigerians and are willing to return home. However, the number of Nigerians in the country is believed to be far higher.
NEMA announced recently that 6,672 Nigerians voluntarily returned from Libya from 6 January to 28 December 2017. The returnees narrated sad tales of their maltreatment and many were in bad medical conditions.
Migrants trapped in Libya are exposed to grave human rights abuses. Thousands are detained by the government and also by militias and criminal people-smuggling gangs, often in horrible conditions.
The CNN slave report prompted EU and African leaders to agree in November to jointly co-operate towards the repatriation of migrants from Libya to their home countries.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has been carrying out the voluntary repatriation of migrants from Libya for several years.