‘Over 2,000 Nigerians in Libyan private prisons’

These Nigerians, who are mainly within 20 to 35 years of age, who left the country in search of greener pastures overseas, are being held for no crime but for falling into wrong hands in transit.

• Returnees beg FG, IOM to double evacuation efforts
• Spain deports 23 Nigerians

Nigerians still being held in various private prisons in Libya are in excess of 2,000, The Guardian has learnt. These Nigerians, who are mainly within 20 to 35 years of age, who left the country in search of greener pastures overseas, are being held for no crime but for falling into wrong hands in transit.

Some Libyan returnees, who recently came back into the country, recounted their miserable condition in the war-torn north African country, with an appeal to the Federal Government and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to redouble efforts at repatriating the Nigerians from slavery in Libya.

In the last six months, no fewer than 1,545 Nigerians have either been deported or assisted to voluntarily return from various countries, with the largest contingent being from Libya.

Libyan returnees, about 1,200, recounted the hostilities of citizens and officials of their host country towards blacks and the growing spate of evictions of Nigerians and Ghanaians especially. According to IOM, no fewer than 8,000 Nigerians have been repatriated since 2001 till date.

Emmanuel, who was among those recently repatriated, yesterday told The Guardian that those that returned, courtesy of IOM’s efforts, were the lucky ones as there are a lot more people that are in various private prisons in Libya.

“There is a kind of business Libyans do to get money from the blacks. They hate blacks so much, so they treat us like animals. What they often do is that they have connections with some agents in Nigeria that will promise to take people across the desert to Europe at a fee.

“But after taking them from Nigeria, maybe Kano, across the desert for three days, they will sell them to Libyans for about 300 Dinas (N600,000) each. The buyer will resell for double the amount. The captives are either made to work to pay the ransom, or kept in prison till their families in Nigeria are able to pay.

“I can tell you that there are many Nigerians in their prisons and the condition is terrible. I have been a victim. There are over 2,000 Nigerians because they are so many and they are getting killed by diseases, starvation and torture everyday. Libya is a terrible place to be held. The weather is bad, no good water to drink and in prison, you survive on only a small loaf of bread a day,” he said.

Eloha Erhie, from Delta State, was sold but made to work to pay off 600 Dinas (N1.2 million) to regain her freedom. She said she was lured to Libya by an agent who promised to help her get to Germany. But on getting to Libya, she was duped of N360,000 and subsequently sold for 600 Dinas (N1.2 million).

“It is not a country I would have wished for my enemy. They (Libyans) treat all human beings as animals. They don’t have value for life at all.

“They kidnap freely, white or black. Even a taxi man will kidnap you and take you to prison where you will suffer for nine months out of a year. No good food or water. Whether cold or heat, they are all bad. I’m happy to make it back alive,” she said.

Gift Peters from Edo State narrated how she was kept in prison for eight months for no crime at all. While she was grateful to be back, she begged the Federal Government not to relent in its efforts at repatriating other Nigerians.

“Let them go round. They will get information on where the prisons are. They are many. People are dying every minute. Our government can save their lives,” Peters said.
The Public Information Officer of IOM, Julia Burpee, said theirs were cases of people stranded in Libya and unable to proceed as migrants to Europe.

Burpee said IOM would not relent in its efforts to repatriate voluntary returnees whenever they were found or contacted by the IOM team working in Libya.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Dabiri-Erewa, earlier said that the government was not unaware of Nigerians stranded not only in Libya but in other countries and efforts were being made to safely return them home.

Dabiri-Erewa said: “Most of the people evacuated back home are from Libya. I will call it a rescue mission by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to ensure that Nigerians stranded anywhere, who have issued distress calls from the pathetic situation they found themselves, be returned home.

“So, the return is mainly a rescue mission for Nigerian migrants who have been stranded for years, particularly in Libya, where they have had so many pathetic and harrowing experiences.

“It’s getting tougher now; Germany has about 12,000 Nigerian migrants seeking asylum. And they are likely to be denied and returned. More Nigerians stranded in Libya will be brought back, but this is not going to be endless.

“So, we appeal to all Nigerians stranded in Libya to seize the opportunity before the time frame for the current evacuation by NEMA and IOM ends.” It was learnt that the new set of deportees arrived at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMlA) Lagos, around 6:40 a.m. yesterday.

The new deportees, comprising 21 males and two females, were brought back in a privilege style aircraft with registration number EC-IZO. The Spokesman of the Lagos Airport Police Command, Joseph Alabi, confirmed the development, saying the deportees were received by officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the police.

Alabi said others also on ground to receive them were officials of the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA).
According to him, nine of the deportees, who were deported for drug-related offences, were handed over to the NDLEA.

He added that two others, who were deported for criminal offences, were handed over to the police. Alabi said that the remaining 12 deportees, accused of breaching the country’s immigration rules, were profiled and allowed to go to their respective destinations.

Meanwhile, the Spanish authorities have deported 23 Nigerians for allegedly committing various offences in the European country. The deportees were returning to the country yesterday barely five days after 34 Nigerians were sent home from six European countries over immigration-related offences.



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