Nigerian government has given an assurance of protection of its citizens in Libya as well as safe return of Nigerians who are desirous of returning home.
The Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama gave the assurance while briefing journalists on the outcome of the findings by members of the Nigerian Government Delegation to Libya.
Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama had on January 5 this year led a delegation on fact finding mission to secure the release of Nigerian migrants stranded in Libya.
At the conference were other members of the delegation which include Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking Persons, Julie Okah-Donli, Director General of National Emergency Management Agency, Alhaji Mustapha Maihaja.
Others were Sadiya Umar Farouk, Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons and Senior Special Assistant to the President of Foreign Affairs and Disapora, Abike Dabiri Erewa
Mr. Onyeama described the mission to Libya as highly successful with the evacuation of stranded Nigerians in Libya.
He said the team during the visit met with high powered delegation Libyan government officials, International Organisation on Migration and others in other to secure the release of Nigerians from some camp during the visit.
According to Mr. Onyeama, one of the female camps visited, the delegation insisted that only female guards should be in charge of the girls.
A member of the delegation, the Comptroller General of Immigration Service in Nigeria, Mr. Muhammad Babandede said 16, 387 Nigerians were deported from Libya, Saudi Arabia and other countries in 2017.
The immigration boss who further distinguished between returnees who were trafficked and those smuggled however stressed that not all Nigerians in Libya were being held or sold into slavery as been reported.
He explained that a sizable number of Nigerians were living and doing legitimate businesses in Libya.
We don’t want the news that every Nigerian in Libya is in slave camps, or that every Nigerian in Libya is exploited. Also in Libya there were regular migrants who are there legally with all their documents doing their businesses.
Mr. Babandede said the delegation met with the Nigerian community in Libya and had interaction with them during the visit.
There are Nigerians who are working in factories, in oil companies, in construction companies and the minister met them, he said.
He disclosed that some of them have the problem of their passports not being renewed.
The Immigration boss said the service had already sent a team to facilitate the renewal of passports for those who migrated legally as well as other challenges confronting them.
While harping on the need for effective border patrol to check irregular migration, Mr. Babandede called for collaboration with other countries in guiding the nation’s border noting that the ECOWAS protocol on free movement of person allow Nigerians with genuine documents go on hindered as far as Niger Republic.
Our border in reality is more in Niger than in Nigeria because of the ECOWAS free movement.
Mr. Babandede explained that the issue of bother was beyond Nigeria because Nigeria belonged to ECOWAS community which allows free movement for members
We have to look at the angle of bother issue as you are aware Nigeria is a member of ECOWAS community and members are free to move within the community.
I want to say that our bother for ECOWAS is beyond Nigeria with Niger that is why President Mohammadu Buhari called the meeting in June, last year, with the heads of immigration in West Africa where we discussed the need to work together to man our bothers.
Mr. Babandede said people became illegal migrants not because the borders are not controlled but because of greediness while urging illegal migrants to count the cost and risk involved before embarking on such dangerous journeys.
Source: Voice of Nigeria