Over 50 Italy-bound Nigerian migrants rescued

At least 50 Nigerian migrants who were heading to Italy were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea recently, according to Vanguard News. The rescued migrants are reported to be among hundreds of other migrants from Africa who were intercepted and rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard and the international humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders, widely known as MSF.

Vanguard reports that those rescued were helped by a ship belonging to MSF 21 miles off the coast west of Tripoli. The ship has reportedly delivered the 110 migrants, including 18 women and one child to Italy.

More than half of the people on the boat were Nigerians. The rest were from several other countries, including a number from sub-Saharan Africa and two Palestinians. The Libyan Coast Guard vessels also intercepted two other boats with migrants on board.
Ayoub Qassem, spokesperson for the Libyan Coast Guard, said the first vessel that was intercepted was an inflatable dinghy carrying 125 people, which had broken down off Zawiya, west Tripoli. “The second boat was turned back off Garabulli, east of Tripoli, and had 112 people on board. The migrants and their smugglers were trying to take advantage of calm seas as they launched a flurry of boats towards Italy,” Qassem stated.

Another Coast Guard vessel in Zuwara, a former Libyan smuggling hub, was reported to have intercepted a planned departure of migrants during the night. Some migrants were arrested while others escaped with smugglers.

“Libya is the main departure point for migrants attempting to reach Europe by sea. More than 600,000 migrants have crossed the central Mediterranean to Italy over the past four years as human smugglers took advantage of a security vacuum in Libya. Since last summer, the rate of departures dropped significantly after smugglers in the Libyan town of Sabratha struck a deal with the Tripoli government to halt their activities and were then pushed out of the town by rival armed groups,” said Qassem, as quoted by Vanguard News.

The report also stated that Libya’s EU-backed Coast Guard has equally stepped up interceptions, often cutting migrant boats off before they could reach international vessels that plan to take them to Europe.

Commenting on the development, a migrant expert and resource person at a recent EU-IOM reintegration training in Nigeria, Osita Osemene ,expressed shock at the development. Osemene said it was regrettable that despite campaign efforts by the Nigerian government, international bodies and local agencies to curb irregular migration, Nigerians were still taking the risk.

Osemene further advised that the tempo of campaigns against irregular migration should be sustained, expressing hope that there would be success stories in the near future.

TMP – 11/05/2018

Photo Credit: guardian.ng. Rescued migrants on the Mediterranean Sea

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