36,000 Nigerian illegal immigrants land in Italy in 2016, FG worried

EU-Migrant boat

Illegal migrants from Nigeria, account for 21 per cent of the total  171, 299 immigrants that braved the Mediterranean odds to arrive Italy  in 2016.

Figures from the Italian Interior Ministry estimated the record of  Nigerian arrivals at 36,000, with most of them claiming they were  running away from Boko Haram insurgency or Niger Delta crisis.

The estimate was as at November 2016.

The Nigerian government was briefed by Italian authorities on this  development late last year.

Sources said the Nigerian government regarded the high number of  Nigerians seeking asylum abroad as ‘’mind boggling and embarrassing”.

Government is of the view that only a few of the migrants could  genuinely claim they were fleeing from Boko Haram insurgency and Niger  Delta crisis.

“Most Nigerian migrants pictured in this milieu, are motivated by  economic and pecuniary interests”, said a spokesman for  Babachir  David Lawal, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.

From all indications, government may soon begin a campaign to  dissuade the young Nigerian ‘‘opportunity seekers” from embarking on  the “perilous Mediterranean crossings in their bid to emigrate to  Europe”.

“The dangers and rigours of the expeditions entail extreme negative  prospects compared to the vibrant opportunities that Nigeria as a  nation is still blessed with”, said the statement, signed by U.  Onwuanukwo, on behalf of Lawal.

According to Frontex, the European Union border agency, some 181,000  migrants eventually arrived in Italy last year from North Africa, the  highest number ever recorded. It was 20 per cent more than last year.

The largest group of migrants arriving were Nigerians, Eritreans and  Guineans, the agency added.

Nigerians, along with Guineans also formed the bulk of migrants  rescued at sea, especially in November, said Frontex in a report  published on Dec.9.

The flow of Nigerian immigrants to Italy via the Mediterranean  backdoor began in 2008 and declined for five years. From 2013, the  number jumped.

In sorting out the migrants, Italian and European authorities have  been able to distinguish between migrants from war torn states such as  Syria from the hordes of economic refugees from Africa.

“The flow from Syria and Iraq is somewhat contingent while that from  Africa is structural.

Some European citizens support welcoming refugees from Syria while  support for African economic migrants among public opinion is  extremely low,” Mattia Toaldo, senior policy fellow at the European  Council on Foreign Relations said.

Italy meanwhile, has reopened its embassy in Libya to enable its  officials work with Libyan government to stem the flow of immigrants,  through the Libyan route, the most popularly used by Nigerian migrants.

The Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti announced the decision on Monday.

The embassy was closed down in 2015, along with all other Western  embassies as the North African country descended into violence.