83 migrants feared dead in Libya boat mishap

Libya Navy confirms that only 17 people have been rescued in a boat mishap involving 100 migrants off the coast of the country.

The Navy on Wednesday said coastguard rescued 17 people from the boat that sank off the town of al-Khoms east of the Libyan capital Tripoli.

It said on its Facebook page that the survivors clung to the wreckage of the vessel until they were saved.

“Unfortunately, there are a large number of missing people ranging from 90 to 100 illegal migrants from the boat,’’ the navy said in a statement.

According to the navy, the Libyan coastguard saved a total of 279 shipwrecked migrants in three incidents, including those from the al-Khoms boat.

Libya descended into chaos since the 2011 overthrow of long-time dictator Gaddafi in a NATO-supported armed revolt.

Lawlessness in the North African country has helped it become the main springboard for often deadly migrant journeys bound to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea.

NAN reports that the International Organisation for Migration estimated that 2,832 migrants died in 2017 trying to reach Italy from North Africa, down from 4,581 in 2016.

Some 119,310 people made it alive to Italy in 2017 against 181,436 in 2016.

Meanwhile, Nigeria said it had evacuated 1,030 stranded Nigerian migrants from Libya between Jan. 7 and Jan 8, 2018.

Alhaji Mustapha Maihaja, the Director-General of National Emergency Management Agency, disclosed this at a joint news conference by the Federal Government delegation to Libya.

Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, had on Jan. 5 led a delegation on fact finding mission to Libya to secure the release of Nigerian migrants stranded in that country.

The delegation comprised of Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora and Muhammad Babandede, Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service.

Others were Julie Okah-Donli, Director General of National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons and Sadiya Umar-Faruq, Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees.

Maihaja told newsmen that the returnees were — 485 — who came back on Sunday and 545 who came back of Monday, noting that they were part of the 5,037 stranded Nigerians identified for evacuation back home.

He stated that a reception centre approved by President Muhammadu Buhari had been set up in Port Harcourt, Rivers for the returnees.

According to him, the returnees on arrival will be formally received and profiled before being transported to their various states.

He said that the reception centre was organised in such a way that the Ministry of Health provided facilities to look after those with health-related problems.

He explained that those who were critically ill were taken to University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital for treatment.

He added that the returnees would be profiled through the Immigration, Directorate of State Service and other agencies, emphasising that those with criminal tendencies and ISIS inclination would be taken
care of by relevant agencies.

Maihaja said the delegation had 21 days to complete its operation.

The Foreign Affairs Minister also said the delegation was in Libya to engage with Libyan Government at the highest level to facilitate the evacuation of the stranded Nigerian migrants from the North African country.

Onyeama said the Nigerian mission in Libya was coordinating the identification of the Nigerian migrants with the support of International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

According to him, they are being joined by a technical team comprising representatives from NEMA, Immigration and other relevant Nigerian government agencies.

The minister said that the political and security challenges in that country made it difficult to secure the evacuation of some Nigerians back home.

He added that “there are different centres of power in that country. The central government recognised by the UN and AU do not have full control of the territories controlled by rebels.”

He pointed out that there were over 50 detention camps in Libya, many of them under the control of rebels and militia groups.

The minister said that the young Nigerians being trafficked were shattered and battered and seen as commodity to be traded for economic gains.

He said the Libyan Government blamed the criminal elements for the human trafficking business, noting that the president was keen at dissociating the ordinary Libyan people from the narrative.

He noted that there were complaints about how some migrants in detention camps were being exploited by government officials for economic gains.

He said Nigerians who were residing in Libya legally complained of harassment by Libyan Government officials who they said destroyed their passports and other residency papers.

The NAPTIP Director General said the agency would profile the returnees to identify those who were real victims of trafficking.

Okah-Donli said “the returnees would be counseled by trained personnel and those with medical condition would be treated at the agency’s facilities.”

She said the rehabilitation period would last for six months during which the returnees would be trained on different skills acquisition and empowered with tools.

“We will monitor them for about two years to ensure that they don’t re-embark on the treacherous journey,” she added. (dpa/NAN)

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