253 Nigerian nationals stranded in Libya have been returned back home with the help of the United Nations migration agency International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
An Airbus A333-200 airplane with registration number 5A LAT disembarked 140 women, 102 men and 11 children at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos on Tuesday.
OTHMAN BELBEISI (@OthmanBelbeisi) April 25, 2017
This is the biggest voluntary repatriation of Nigerians from crisis-hit Libya after request from the Nigerian government for help.
They were selling some of us like wood from one guard who will take us to some destination and again sell us to another who will now be our new owner. That will take us again to some distance and say his contract with us has expired and again sell us to another person.
Officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) were at the airport to help the returnees go back to their families.
“We are giving them some stipends. We need to let them realize that the country they left some years ago is not the same country they are meeting today. We have moved ahead and everybody now has equal opportunity to be the best you can be,” NEMA Director General of Engr Mustapha Maihaja told the media.
Local news portal Vanguard spoke to one of the returnees, only identified as Mary, who explained her ordeal in Libya.
“They were selling some of us like wood from one guard who will take us to some destination and again sell us to another who will now be our new owner. That will take us again to some distance and say his contract with us has expired and again sell us to another person,” she said.
In early April, IOM documented reports of slave markets and kidnapping rings on migrant routes in Libya run by traffickers to buy and sell West African migrants.
Mary’s ordeal confirmed the reports which indicated that with the support of Ghanaians and Nigerians who work for traffickers, “sub-Saharan migrants were being sold and bought by Libyans”.
Libyan traffickers running 'slave markets' and kidnapping rings – report https://t.co/fN1RVfHxvQ— africanews (@africanews) April 11, 2017
All the surviving migrants spoken to by IOM gave similar accounts.
The north African country has become a transit zone for thousands of migrants who are keen to escape poverty and war to Europe.
Migrant numbers from Libya to Italy have soared dramatically in 2017 with more than 550 deaths recorded in the Mediterranean this year.