By Victoria Ojeme
The Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN) has called on the Federal Government to significantly increase consular support to Nigerian irregular migrants in the transit and destination countries to check abuses of their human rights.
A statement by the Co-Directors of MEPN, Kenneth Gbandi and Femi Awoniyi, says migrants stranded, especially in transit, are left totally to the mercy of the very traffickers who took them to their precarious situation.
Nigeria as member of the African Union has obligations to protect the human rights of migrants in accordance with the Common African Position on Humanitarian Effectiveness, as well as the UN General Assembly’s 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants.
Human rights are inherent to all human beings. Importantly, these rights are not tied to one’s citizenship or nationality. More specifically, States are obliged to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of all migrants on their territory or under their effective control, including irregular migrants.
According to international organisations, the ensuing desperation make most migrants take reckless risks to escape their seemingly hopeless situation in the transit countries, where they are exposed to exploitation and often horrendous human rights abuse.
Gbandi and Awoniyi said that this “explains why many migrants still take the suicidal risk of boarding rickety boats in their bid to cross the Mediterranean to safety in Europe, which is why migrants continue to die daily in the Mediterranean Sea. This year, more than 2,000 migrants, many of whom are Nigerians, have drowned.”
The MEPN is currently carrying out a campaign to promote a greater awareness of the risks and dangers of irregular migration in Nigeria.
And despite the more than 15,000 migrants who have been returned to Nigeria since the beginning of last year, thousands of Nigerians are believed to still be stranded outside the country in different transit countries, especially in Libya, Morocco and Egypt.
The number of people held in deplorable conditions in Libyan detention camps has risen dramatically this year, according to international humanitarian organisations.
Libya’s Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Taher Siala recently admitted that its detention facilities still held many sub-Saharan migrants whom the country did not know what to do with.
Siala estimated that around 30,000 irregular migrants were currently held in detention centres in Libya “and around 750,000 outside”. Tripoli was working with the EU to send the migrants to their home countries, he said. “But unfortunately, some of these countries – many West African countries – refuse to take them back,” Siala said.
The MEPN reiterates its call to the Federal Government to demand access to Nigerians detained in Libya and make renewed effort in collaboration with international organisations to repatriate them back home.
According to the Directors of MEPN, Gbandi and Awoniyi, the time has come for ECOWAS member states to collaborate on a common contingency plan that will enable the bloc‘s citizens in distress in North African countries to get assistance from any member state’s embassy or consulate. Such collaboration will reinforce the protection of ECOWAS citizens and will be a strong sign of Community solidarity.
“If irregular migrants are provided the necessary consular protection, more lives could be saved, say experts. In view of the suffering of irregular migrants and the dangers that most are exposed to in the different transit countries in which they’re presently stranded, the time for Nigeria and ECOWAS to act is now,” they said.