By Louis Iba
The Federal Government yesterday brought back 171 Nigerians who entered Libya illegally. They returnees were brought back in a chartered Nourished Airbus 320 aircraft, which touched down at the Cargo/Hajj terminal of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at about 4.18pm.
Sources revealed that the returnees, comprising 112 females and 59 males, including children and infants, voluntarily agreed to return to Nigeria.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs. Abike Dabire-Erewa, who led a government delegation, comprising officials from the interior and foreign affairs ministries, Police, Immigration, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) as well as National Agency for the Protection of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) to receive the returnee Nigerians, explained that following complaints about the maltreatment of Nigerians in Libya, a presidential order was issued that all Nigerians holed up in migrant detention centres in that country must be brought back safely.
She described most of the returnees as desperate Nigerians who felt they could get their economic or financial breakthroughs outside the shores of the country and were, therefore, vulnerable and taken advantage of by some persons who lured them with offers of non-existing lucrative jobs abroad.
Said she: “We got a distress call on how Nigerians were being treated badly in Libya and we had to respond immediately because they are not criminals.
“People in this batch of 171, we brought back, are lucky to be alive. One of them is dead. I had told all of them to cheer up. We will assist them. This form of illegal migration has to be discouraged. The President wants an end to it. We can do this by making sure that NAPTIP laws are strengthened.”
One of the returnees, Ms. Gift Peters, from Delta State, who spoke to journalists, said she was lured to Libya by a Nigerian man who promised to get her a job in Germany.
Peters, who broke down in tears while narrating her ordeal, said she lost some friends with whom she travelled to Libya. “I travelled to Libya about 11 months ago. It was one man who took me there. I never knew I was deceived because he said we were going to Germany. When we entered Libya, this man sold us to someone that had a connection house and that was where they started maltreating us.
“They will beat me and ask some of the girls to urinate for me to drink. When the Libyan people came to arrest us, they opened fire and killed some of us; some of my friends I went to Libya are dead.”
This is the second time in about one week the Federal Government brought back illegal Nigerian migrants from Libya. The first batch was made up of 161 persons: 101 males and 60 females.
Dabiri-Erewa also condemned the xenophobia case in South Africa, saying there were ongoing meetings between Nigeria and South African governments on how to halt the molestation and abuse of Nigerians.
“You can’t lump everybody together as criminals. We don’t want a degeneration in the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa. Meetings are going on between the two countries, even as the South African government has promised to protect Nigerians and Nigerian businesses,” she added.