More than 200 Nigerian migrants stranded in Libya have been returned to their home country, Nigerian officials said.
The 242 migrants landed at Lagos airport on a Libyan airline flight at around 9pm local time on Tuesday. Among them were women carrying children and at least one man in a wheelchair.
Nigerian authorities say they worked on returning the migrants from Libya in collaboration with the International Organization of Migration. (IOM)
Some of the 242 men and women who returned had been in Libyan detention camps while some of them willingly approached the Nigerian embassy in Libya to return home because of hardship there, authorities said.
Abike Dabiri, SSA to President Buhari said the Nigerian government had been working with the IOM, and the Nigerian Commission for Refugees and Migrants (NCFRMI) and other local agencies for the past year to bring Nigerians back home.
Dabiri told CNN that around 5000 Nigerians have come back from Libya in the past year. She said: “The President has said any Nigerian who wants to come back should be brought back, so IOM has been helping out.”
The NCIFRM said it has been processing on average between eight to 10 flights per month of Nigerians returning from Libya.
There were poignant scenes as the men and women touched down at Lagos Murtala Muhammad airport. One man, visibly moved, knelt down on the tarmac and made the sign of the cross as he got off the plane.
Nikki Laoye, an ambassador for NCFRMI who filmed the arrivals and posted them on her Instagram page, told CNN: “It was quite emotional seeing this. We heard about their ordeal in the desert, some of them were praying to die. No water to drink, thrown into jail and finally given the option to go back to their country.”
“Many of them had traveled illegally through the desert trying to reach Italy via Libya before finding themselves in tight situations, thrown into jail for illegal entry or falling into the hands of wrong people and being sold into slavery/prostitution.”
Laoye said the new arrivals would be profiled and registered by the Nigerian authorities. Some of them were taken to a shelter run by the NCIFRM in Lagos, where they can remain for up to 90 days.
She added that officials from Edo State, where a large number of the migrants are from, were also airside to take them back to the state.