By ANTHONY AWUNOR, Lagos
A group, the Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN) has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to make tougher laws against human trafficking which is now on the increase.
The group which is currently carrying out an information campaign ‘Look Before You Leave!’ to promote an increased public awareness of the risks and dangers of irregular migration gave the advice in a press statement issued yesterday on the death of 26 Nigerian women who drowned in the Mediterranean on November 5, 2017 and the latest CNN video report showing Nigerians being traded as slaves in Libya.
In the statement which was made available to LEADERSHIP, the group pointed out that these tragic events bring to the fore the ongoing humanitarian crisis as they affect sub-Saharan migrants in Libya and the need to enact tougher laws against human trafficking to bring the needless deaths and suffering to an end.
The remains of 26 Nigerian women believed to be irregular migrant were laid to rest in a moving ceremony in the southern Italian city of Salerno on November 17. According to UN refugee agency UNHCR, most of the women were between the ages of 14 and 18, who had obviously been trafficked. On the same day that the women were buried CNN broadcast a report showing sub-Saharans Africans being traded as slaves in Libya, sparking outrage in the global community of people of African descent.
“The MEPN would like to call the attention of government and society to the seemingly endless losses of Nigerian lives caused by irregular migration and the immense suffering of those still trapped in transit. At least 13,000 migrants, many of whom are Nigerians, have drowned while attempting the passage across the central Mediterranean since 2014, according to the UNHCR. Many more are believed to have died en-route,” the group stated.
According to the letter jointly signed by co-project director (MEPN) and chairman, Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE), Kenneth Gbandi and co-project director (MEPN), Femi Awoniyi, the latest events are a wake-up call to our governments to adopt policies to tackle the problem of human trafficking, which is being run by powerful cartels that have connections both in Nigeria and abroad.”
It noted that while unemployment and the desire for greener pastures abroad are some of the motivating factors leading young people to migrate irregularly, human traffickers, employing deception play a major role in the ongoing crisis.
A newly-published study conducted by Rome’s Link Campus University and the War and Peace Studies Centre reveal that about 70 per cent of the migrants, of whom Nigerians constitute the biggest national group, who arrived on Italian shores in 2017 from Libya were victims of human trafficking.
The group further stated that it has become important now, more than ever before to curb the activities of persons engaged in the illicit migration business who have lured many desperate youths into their untimely deaths and caused immense suffering to thousands