4,271 Nigerians, others die in Mediterranean Sea in 2 years

Over one million persons entered the European countries through the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, with 3,777 of them dying on transit.

Similarly, 341,055 also arrived the EU countries, with 4, 271 Nigerians and others from the West African countries losing their lives in the Mediterranean Sea, Project Coordinator, Patriotic Citizen Initiatives, Mr. Osita Osemene, has disclosed.

He spoke at a recent parley, themed “Migration: Current Trends,” organised by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, in Abuja.

Osemene, whose paper was titled “Assessing the risk of irregular migration along the Central Mediterranean Route: Nigeria as a case country,”   also shared a personal experience with participants during his aborted trip to Europe through same route.

“In 2015, over one million migrants entered the European Union through the Mediterranean Sea, and 3,777 migrants lost their lives in the attempt to do so. As at November 13, 2016, the figure even proved deadlier. In this year (2016), 341,055 migrants arrived European shores and 4,271 migrants lost their lives in the Mediterranean Sea,” Osemene recalled.

Describing his 91 days in the desert while on the failed trip as hell, he said, “there are also reports of worsening exploitation and abuse during migrant journeys, particularly in Libya. The demographics of migrant flows to Europe are also changing, with a greater representation of more vulnerable groups such as women and children.”

He identified reasons migrants rushed into the EU countries to include; “fleeing conflict areas, political instability, violence/persecution, poverty, in search of study or work opportunities, or out of desires to reunite with family members already abroad.

“Faced with limited channels to migrate regularly, migrants and asylum seekers often embark on irregular and dangerous journeys, during which they often become extremely vulnerable.”

On risks related to the migration, Osmene, who is a consultant with the International Organisation for Migrations, he said this can be classified into four categories.

“Those present during the movement from origin to the Sahel (within the Economic Community of west African States); the risks present during the movement from the Sahel to North Africa, the risks associated with North Africa; and the risks at destination,” he said.

While saying the exit from Nigeria “is relatively straightforward for the most part and generally the part of the journey with least  risk, the IOM consultant said, notwithstanding the free movement within the ECOWAS, most migrants move irregularly.

“While the rates of trafficking for women (for sexual exploitation) are high and increasing, there is also a prevalence of migrants being sold in Libya in a context of modern slavery.

“Other risks for women include rape; turning to prostitution in desperation, and the perception by others of Nigerian women being prostitutes. Extortion, death at sea and in the desert are other risks for Nigerians.”

On the risks, the resource person said “the risks in Libya include arbitrary arrest and detention, harassment, bonded labour and labour exploitation.  While in 2014 it was generally understood that militia groups in Libya maintained detention centres to create a market for their smuggling services, the research suggests that such centres are now hotspots for the trafficking of migrants.

“There are generally three main stages to a migrant’s experience in Libya: being held hostage on arrival and asked for ransom; if unable to pay his/her release, the migrant is put to work; sometimes, after working in a situation of slavery, the migrant is taken to the port and put on a boat to Europe.”

Speaking at the event, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on IDPs, Refugees and North-east Initiative, Hon. Sani Zoro, lauded the presentation, and urged that people like Osemene should be saddled with the task of handling the migrant returnees.

While saying that was the first time he would be listening to an ex-migrant relaying his personal experience during the ‘voyage of a sort,’ the lawmaker lamented the frightening number of Nigerians exiting the country for one reason or the other.

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