No fewer than 2,794 illegal Nigerian migrants who travelled to the war-torn North African country with the hope of finding their way into Europe through the Mediterranean Sea have returned home in the past two years, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
The Coordinator, NEMA Lagos Territorial Office, Alhaji Idris Muhammed, revealed the figure in Lagos on Tuesday when his team received a fresh batch of 132 returnees that arrived Lagos from Libya barely 24 hours after another batch of 180 migrants returned to from the war-torn North African country.
Muhammed said the migrants were assisted back to Nigeria through a flight facilitated by the European Union and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Voluntary Assisted Returnees Programme, which began in April 2017.
According to him, the migrants arrived the Cargo Wing of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos aboard a chartered Buraq Air aircraft with registration number 5A-DMG at about 7.30p.m.
Muhammed said the latest batch of returnees comprised of 58 female adults, two female children and four female infants as well as 59 male adults, five male children and six male infants.
He said the migrants came back from four major cities in Libya – Alkrarim, Misurata, Benghazi and Ghanfoda – where they had been stranded en route Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.
The NEMA coordinator thanked IOM and EU for facilitating the return of the Nigerians and assured them that the Federal Government was ready to work with development partners to create a conducive environment for young Nigerians.
Also speaking, the EU Ambassador to Nigeria, Ketil Karlsen, who witnessed the arrival of the migrants stressed that said migration should be an aspiration but not desperation.
“Migration, mobility and curiosity to know new places are as old as humankind itself and are natural.
“What is not natural is the kind of irregular migrations that leads to wrong purposes and put people’s lives at risk,” he said.
Karlsen praised the excellent tasks of UN Migration Agency in the process of identifying, locating, mobilising and convincing the stranded Nigerians to voluntarily return home.
The envoy further commended IOM for initiating the reintegration attractions like the start-up capitals, vocational training and psychological services that had added value to the returnees.
He said the root cause of irregular migrations must be addressed by the Nigerian authorities.