Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama
BRUSSELS, Belgium– The Federal Republic of Nigeria has indicated that it will speed up the repatriation of its citizens stranded in Libya in the coming weeks.
Libya is accused of exploiting and ill-treating migrants, especially Nigerians and other sub-Sahara Africans, according to the Nigerian foreign minister on his recent visit to Tripoli on Saturday.
Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told a news conference that Nigeria is chartering two aircraft to repatriate 800 of its citizens who wanted to go home over the next few days.
The Nigerian diplomat visited two migrant detention centers in the war-torn Libya where he encountered a number of his Nigerian compatriots.
“The reality is that a large number of these Nigerians here have suffered greatly and have gone through an extremely traumatic experience,” he told reporters.
“The main objective is to get these Nigerians back home as quickly as possible.”
The top Nigerian diplomat said there had been some difficulties in identifying the number of Nigerians in Libya, since many of them are undocumented or in detention centers not under the control of the Libyan authorities.
Following a CNN investigative report on slave trade targeting illegal migrants from West Africa in Libya, Nigeria had since pledged to repatriate 250 migrants a week.
According to several media groups and international organizations, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Nigerians make up the mainstream of undocumented migrants trying to make the hazardous crossing into Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the head of Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency said in December, about 1,300 Nigerian migrants have been brought home from Libya since last November–– which is near twice as many as in the previous month.