Reports that over 2,000 Nigerians are held in private prisons in Libya should not come to the country as a surprise. Most of these victims are youths of between 20 and 35 years who left the country in the elusive search for the proverbial “greener pastures”. Of course, Libya and such transit countries are not their final destinations, but the majority end up spending years in miserable conditions in these countries.
For too long, many young Nigerians and their counterparts from mostly developing countries have tried all they could to migrate to European and American cities, believing that the pastures are greener there. They are desperate enough to embark on any journey, and by any means, to achieve their dream of living in Europe or America. They easily fall prey to their fellow countrymen who act as agents and facilitators of such trips, many times, to the land of no return.
Such victims neither take sufficient care, nor pay any attention to the risks of such hazardous adventures, even if they are told. They sell themselves and everything else they can find to raise the funds for the trips, only to end up in gory conditions in the transit countries.
Today, many of our citizens are in official and private jails all over the world on account of their quests for better opportunities that they believe abound in such countries. Credible reports have put the number of Nigerians who have either been deported or assisted to voluntarily return to the country in the last six months alone at over 1,545, most of them from Libya. This is besides the large numbers that are unaccounted for and those who died in the desert and the sea.
The present situation in Libya is particularly pathetic. Having dismantled the regime of Muammar Ghadaffi, the Arab nation has become a fractured country in the hands of tribesmen and warlords without any accepted central authority. Our adventurous countrymen walk with their eyes blinded by desperation and greed into such troubled countries, and are left practically devastated for the rest of their lives. Tales of other returnees from such similar dangerous adventures do not discourage them, believing that their own experiences would be different. Alas, they wake up to reality too late, with tales of sorrow to tell.
Many of the females among them end up as sex slaves, and are unable to pay the ransom for their freedom. Most of them are subjected to various dehumanising conditions and unable to feed and find livable accommodation. Some even end up abandoning their dreams, while others pay for their mistake with their lives. The tales coming out of these transit countries are gruesome and unnerving, but the sad reality is that many otherwise able-bodied citizens in the most productive years of their lives abandon what they believe to be the discomfort of their home countries, in the vain search for an Eldorado.
This is why we advise Nigerians to eschew such misguided trips. For those who are already languishing in private jails in Libya and other such countries, we wholly endorse the call by recent returnees on the Federal Government, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and other similar organisations at home and abroad to join in the effort to bring these fellow citizens back to the country. If the tales emerging from those countries are anything to go by, then our compatriots are practically in chains and in terrible conditions from which they need to be rescued. Citizens of a well endowed country like Nigeria should not be left in such harrowing conditions.
This situation probably informed the decision of the European Union not to grant asylum to Nigerians again. It is necessary for all Nigerians who hope to travel to Europe to seek asylum to note this. Parents and governments are also advised to take heed of this fact. There is no haven out there for Nigerian asylum seekers. If our citizens must migrate to other lands, it should be on well defined terms that are agreeable to both would-be migrants and their host countries.
One incontrovertible reason our youths strive to move abroad is the failure of successive governments to provide them with decent chances of survival and livelihood. We urge governments at all levels to play their constitutional roles of providing an enabling environment for the citizens to actualise their potentials for their own good and that of the country.