By Izuchukwu Ozoemena
Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN), a non-governmental organization based in Germany, says no fewer than 1,443 illegal immigrants have so far perished in the Mediterranean Sea in 2018.
The organization also warned immigrants to be wary of the activities of human traffickers who entice ignorant travellers with improved conditions of living.
In a statement by Kenneth Gbandi and Femi Awoniyi, their project coordinators, MEPN said the quoted figure of 1,443 deaths did not include those who had lost their lives crossing the Sahara Desert or in Libya.
The statement insisted that despite the efforts of the Federal Government to evacuate stranded Nigerians in Libya, thousands of the country’s citizens are still trapped in the transit countries, unable to continue their journey to Europe.
It pointed out that many of the stranded travellers are subjected to forced labour and sexual exploitation while others are exposed to serious human rights abuses in the North African country.
“We have a crisis on our hands," it said. "The rising human costs of irregular migration have necessitated concerted action from governments and voluntary groups."
The group which is currently carrying out a follow-up campaign in major Nigerian cities of Lagos, Ibadan, Benin, Abuja, Enugu and Warri, to raise public awareness on the risks and dangers of irregular migration, called on youths to imbibe a realistic approach to migration.
The statement urged them not to believe the easy promises of traffickers whose only concern is to collect money from their clients without bothering about what happens to them during the perilous journeys.
MEPN urged would-be emigrants to seek reliable information on their desired country of destination and the legality of taking up residence in such a country, as well as the requirements for residence permit, to enable them make a fact-based decision on migrating.
It also implored them to seek positive alternatives to migration before venturing outside the country and charged the Federal Government to still devise better ways of inhibiting the activities of people-smugglers, as “trafficking in persons is a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights".
It declared that human traffickers often operate with impunity, with their crimes receiving late attention, stressing that this must change to dissuade the traffickers from continuing with the illicit act.
The group called for harsher treatment for convicted human traffickers, while appealing to the government not to relent in its efforts to evacuate Nigerians who are still stranded along the irregular migration route.