Yemisi Izuora/Ijeoma Agudosi
The federal government brought back 171 Nigerian immigrants who were stranded in Libya and were subjected to all forms of inhuman treatment.
The returnees who agreed to return to Nigeria voluntarily comprised males, females, children, and infants.
They arrived at the cargo/hajj terminal of the international wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos aboard a chartered Nouvelair Airbus 320 aircraft.
On hand to receive the returnees was the senior special assistant to the president on foreign affairs and diaspora, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa.
Addressing journalists, Dabiri-Erewa said a presidential order was issued that all Nigerians holed up in migrant detention centres in that country must be brought back safely.
She said the directive was given following complaints about the ill-treatment of Nigerians immigrants in Libya
She described most of the returnees as “naïve” and “desperate” Nigerians who felt they could get their economic or financial breakthroughs outside the shores of the country and were, therefore, vulnerable and taken advantage of by some persons who lured them with offers of non-existing lucrative jobs abroad.
“They are men and women that have gone abroad in search of greener pastures but unfortunately, it turned out to be a terrible experience for them.
“They are not criminals; so they don’t need to be ashamed of themselves. The times are tough, things are difficult, but there is no better time and your country is the best place to live.
“We got a distress call on how Nigerians were being treated badly in Libya and we had to respond immediately because they are not criminals.
“This batch of 171 that we brought back is lucky to be alive. One of them is dead. I have told all of them to cheer up. We will assist them. This form of illegal migration has to be discouraged. The President wants an end to it. But we can do this by making sure that National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) laws are strengthened,” she added.
Dabiri-Erewa said some states like Edo had put empowerment programme in place for the returnees as well as an arrangement to reintegrate them into the society.
“But for how long are going to keep evacuating them. So there is going to be another evacuation and then the final one where we will tell every Nigerian stranded in Libya to come back home.
“A lot of them didn’t even know where they were going; there is a lot of ignorance here, a lot of them are being trafficked.
“So the message is that it is not easy out there, but as tough as the country is, you are better off here than being in those places.
“I want to encourage them that as they come back home, a lot of them that want to learn skills especially with states will learn skills,” she added.
One of the returnees, Ms. Gift Peters from Delta State who spoke to journalists said she was lured to Libya by a Nigerian man who promised to get her a job in Germany.
Peters who broke down in tears while speaking said she lost some friends with whom she traveled to Libya.
“I traveled to Libya about 11 months ago. It was one man who took me there; I never knew I was deceived because he said we were going to Germany. When we entered Libya this man sold us to someone that has a connection house and that is where they started maltreating us.
“They will beat me and ask some of the girls to urinate for me to drink. When the Libyan people came to arrest us, they opened fire; some of my friends that I went to Libyan with are dead,” she said.