The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Nigerian Government have reaffirmed their commitment to put measures in place to save the lives of Nigerian citizens migrating to other countries.
William Swing, Director-General, IOM affirmed his organisation’s commitment to tackle the issue of migration when he made a courtesy visit to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama in Abuja on Friday.
Swing said it was important to prevent more migrant deaths adding that the focus should be on preventing people from takings risks and endangering their lives.
“ We calculated, in 2016 that 5,000 lives were lost in the Mediterranean and we have already lost about 2,500 this year so we want to make sure that people are travelling safely and in an orderly manner.
“I think the vast majority of people are moving in a regular and safe and orderly fashion, but for that segment that are not it is a great challenge for us.
“What we have done is to establish a migrant resource, sort of a way station, in Agadez in Niger; we now have support from the European Union to replicate that from Senegal across to Cameroon.
“The idea is not to stop migrants, but to try to save lives by counselling them about the risks of putting their lives in the hands of smugglers and to offer those who want to come home a chance to with some funding to get life started again and for those who have some refugee status claim.”
The IOM representative said the organisation was committed to assisting Nigeria return illegal migrants in Libya and further urged government to assist in identifying its citizens.
“I have been in to the detention centres; there is a lot of suffering going on there and in my last visit we brought back 150 Nigerian women and girls who were happy to come home.
“We have taken out altogether 1800 and want to do more so we can be partners together.
“I am not sure if you do not have some kind of diplomatic representation in Tripoli. My suggestion will be create help in terms of identifying people and providing support.
“Part of the problem is the Libyan Government perhaps does not have all the capacity it needs in this regard,” he noted.
He called on the Federal Government to reach out to the IOM whenever it needed assistance to return Nigerian citizens caught in crisis situation.
He further said that it was pertinent for leaders globally to have more regular dialogue on how best manage to manage migration challenges.
In his response, Onyeama expressed the willingness of the Federal Government to work with the IOM to address the issue of Nigerians in Libya.
The minister said it was an urgent issue that needed to be addressed.
“We need to work together to address the issue of those Nigerians who are there (Libya); we absolutely need to get to that quickly and get out a number who need to get out.
“It is really urgent, and as you have said, in terms of the actual control that the government has over things that happen in the country is very limited indeed; we are dealing almost with a state of anarchy.
“So we will follow up because for us it is an emergency situation we have to address immediately,” he said.
He also reiterated that the Federal Government had put in place “aggressive initiatives” to create jobs among the youths and women who were more vulnerable.
IOM on June 17 in Rome, said that 9,286 Nigerians, made up of men, women and children, arrived Italy by the end of May.
Also, according to the Nigeria Immigration Service, no fewer than 10,000 Nigerians died between January and May while trying to illegally migrate through the Mediterranean Sea and the deserts.