- As Another batch of 165 Nigerians return from Libya
Over thirty people drowned, including seven children, after an overcrowded wooden boat with approximately 750 people on board listed causing hundreds of people to fall in the water on May 24 off the coast of Libya.
“As the distribution of life jackets was completed, a sudden movement of the desperate people on board destabilised the boat causing it to list heavily to one side, causing around 400 people into the water and leaving hundreds still trapped under lock and key in the hull below deck,” Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), an NGO specialized in search and rescue, said.
The MOAS personnel was joined by a Spanish SAR aircraft, an Italian Coast Guard vessel and two merchant ships, in pulling people from the water. Meanwhile, two additional wooden boats had arrived in the area, rapidly increasing the number of people in need of assistance to around 1,500, the NGO added.
According to MOAS, 33 people have died following the incident.
As informed, by late morning all survivors had been rescued from the water, and from the hold of the wooden boat after gaining access by forced entry to the hold. A total of 604 survivors were brought aboard the MOAS ship Phoenix with approximately 81 having been taken on board the tug boat Gagliardo.
“It has been another exhausting and unprecedented few days on the world’s deadliest border crossing. MOAS continues to call for the creation of the safe and legal alternatives this humanitarian crisis so desperately needs so that incidents like this can become a thing of the past,” the NGO said.
In the meantime, another batch of 165 Nigerians on Thursday, voluntarily returned from Libya aboard a chartered Nouvelair aircraft with registration number TS-INA.
The aircraft which the landed the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos at 5.01 p.m remarkably brought in a grateful people thanking the Federal Government for facilitating their return to Nigeria, even as they pleaded with government to assist them in resettling them.
The returnees who comprised of 97 males, 54 females, 11 children and three infants were brought back by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Nigerian Embassy in Libya and were received at the Hajj Camp area of the airport by officers of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), the National Agency for the Protection of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the Police.
Also on ground to receive them were officials of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).
Addressing newsmen, Alhaji Mustapha Maihaja, the Director-General of NEMA, said the agency in collaboration with IOM was working to ensure that Nigerians stranded in Libya were brought back home.
“We are here to ensure that they are well received. We feed and give them money to enable them get back to their respective destinations,” Maihaja said.
The director-general, represented by Mr Suleiman Yakubu, the Zonal Coordinator, South West, NEMA, however advised Nigerian youths to develop the mentality of staying back home and helping to build the country.
“Those of them who have gone and come back will testify that it is better here, especially now that we are in the era of the change mantra.
“A lot of initiatives have been put in place by the present administration to ensure that life is better in Nigeria,’’ he said.
Maihaja added that various state governments, particularly Edo State had initiated skills acquisition schemes to help rehabilitate and reintegrate the returnees into the society.
According to him, a similar scheme which is being put in place by the IOM will take off in July, as the organisation has already informed other stakeholders about the development.
Two of the returnees said they had spent more than seven months in detention in Libya after being sold into slavery by militias.
They were given a stipend of N17, 100 each, and later transported to the Jibowu Park to find their way to their respective destinations.
Additional report from World Maritime News