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Thousands of migrants rescued off Libya

Written by Maritime First
  • Gov. Fayose signs anti-grazing bill into law to contain Herdsmen attacks

About 6,500 migrants have been rescued off Libya, the Italian coastguard says, in one of the biggest operations of its kind to date.

Some 40 co-ordinated rescue missions took place about 20km (12 miles) off the Libyan town of Sabratha, it added.

Video footage shows migrants, said to be from Eritrea and Somalia, cheering and some swimming to rescue vessels, while others carried babies aboard.

On Sunday more than 1,100 migrants were rescued in the same area.

The instability in Libya has made the country a hub for people-trafficking.

Monday’s operations involved vessels from Italy as well as the EU’s border agency Frontex and the NGOs Proactiva Open Arms and Medecins Sans Frontieres.

The migrants had set off in overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels with enough fuel to reach waiting rescuers, AP reported.

Last year more than 1m migrants – many fleeing the civil war in Syria – arrived in Europe, sparking a crisis as countries struggled to cope with the influx, and creating division in the EU over how best to deal with resettling people.

In March, the EU struck a deal with Turkey to try to stop migrants crossing from Turkey to Greece while Balkan nations closed their borders to migrants, moves that have reduced the number of arrivals using the so-called eastern Mediterranean route.

However, migrants from African countries such as Eritrea and Somalia as well as west African nations such as Nigeria and the Gambia are continuing to attempt the crossing from Libya to Italy.

About 106,000 people have arrived in Italy so far this year while 2,726 have died in the attempt, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The IOM says there are a further 275,000 migrants in Libya waiting to travel.

Overall, about 284,000 migrants have entered Europe so far this year through various transit routes across Africa, Asia or the Middle East.

In the meantime, Ekiti state governor, Mr Ayo Fayose, on Monday signed the “Anti Grazing Bill 2016” recently passed by the House of Assembly.

The bill was sponsored by the executive after the killing of two persons by suspected herdsmen in Oke Ako community in Ikole Local Government Area of the state. The new law criminalises grazing in some places and certain time limit in the state.

Signing the bill, Fayose said that the new law would check cases of incessant attacks or killings of local residents and destruction of farmlands by herdsmen and their cattle. He said that the law would also strengthen security in various communities across the state, adding that anyone that fouled the law stood the risk of being treated as terrorist.

“With the signing into law of this bill today, anyone caught grazing with arms or any weapon in Ekiti would now be charged with terrorism and be made to face the law according to certain sections of it.

“The same goes for those who graze in prohibited areas or go against the time frame of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. allowed for open grazing,’’ the governor said.

Giving an overview of the bill earlier, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Kolawole Oluwawole, said that the assembly gave it accelerated hearing as part of its collaborative efforts towards maintaining peace and order in the state.

According to Oluwawole, the state government was already working with local government authorities to allocate portions of land for grazing in their areas. He explained that grazing must henceforth be from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on daily basis and that the government would allot portions of land to each local government area in that regard.

“Anyone caught grazing on portions of land or any farmland not allotted by government shall be apprehended and made to face the law.

“Any herdsman caught with firearms and any weapons whatsoever during grazing shall be charged with terrorism. “Any cattle confiscated shall be taken to government cattle ranch at Erifun and Iworoko Ekiti community in the state.

“Any farm crop destroyed by the activities of any apprehended herdsman shall be estimated by agricultural officers and the expenses of the estimate shall be borne by the culprit. “Any herdsman who violates any of these rules shall be imprisoned for six months without option of fine,” the speaker said.

BBC with additional report from The Citizen

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