Nigerians In Libya Return Home Rejoicing

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More than 150 Nigerians, some of them in tears, broke out in song as they touched down on home soil, after months stuck in Libya waiting to try to get to Europe.

Four plane-loads of Nigerian migrants have now flown back from Libya in less than two months. Since the start of the year, 660 people in total have been helped to return voluntarily.

That compares with 867 for the whole of last year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which is running the repatriation scheme.

Most of the Nigerians are economic migrants who want to try their luck in Europe and travelled up to the Mediterranean coast via northern neighbour Niger and the treacherous route through the Sahara desert.

But with Libya in turmoil, many found themselves trapped by violence while others were arrested and held by militia even before they had tried to make the sea crossing.

Ozoa, a mechanic, was among the 155 people who arrived back in Nigeria on Thursday. Lying on a stretcher, he didn’t sing or smile.

Last year he managed to get to the port of Zawiya — one of the main departure points for migrants — some 45 kilometres (30 miles) west of Tripoli.

The 30-year-old had a blank look and refused to speak to reporters. He knows he won’t walk again.

Those whose dreams have been shattered in Libya and who have returned to Nigeria may be increasing but they represent only a minority of migrants who have left for good.

Humanitarian agencies fear many will try again in other ways.

In 2016, a total of 37,551 Nigerians managed to get to the Italian coast, according to the IOM, more than those from Eritrea, Ivory Coast and The Gambia.

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