Refugees rescued
Photo Credit: Ventures Africa

Irked by the recent sad development which saw to the death of 26 Nigerian women who drowned in the Mediterranean on 5 November 2017, anti-illegal migration crusader group, the Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN) has called on Nigeria’s Federal Government to make tougher laws against human trafficking.

In a statement signed by Kenneth Gbandi and ​Femi Awoniyi, Co-Project Directors (MEPN)​, the group said the latest tragedy brings again 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 to an end.

The statement read: “The remains of 26 Nigerian women believed to be irregular migrants were recovered from a Spanish warship in the Italian coast city of Salerno on Sunday 5 November. According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, most of the women were between the ages of 14 and 18, who had obviously been trafficked and are suspected to have been abused.

“The MEPN, while commiserating with the families of these women, would like to call the attention of government and society to the seemingly endless losses of Nigerian lives caused by irregular migration. 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 latest tragedy should wake up 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. While unemployment and the desire to seek 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.

“It has therefore become important now more than ever before to curb the activities of persons engaged in the illicit irregular migration business who have lured many desperate youths into their untimely deaths.

“The activities of human traffickers does not end with deceptively promising their unsuspecting customers an easy passage to Europe but increasingly include taking their hapless clients directly into the trap of kidnappers in the transit countries especially Libya.”

Continuing, the statement said: “There have been several reports this year alone on how thousands of sub-Saharan migrants are held for ransom in abysmal conditions – facing torture, exploitation, and abuse, by criminal networks. Detained migrants are asked to buy their freedom by paying up to $5,000 per person. The victims are compelled with violence to call their relations in Europe and Nigeria to pay the money.

“These ransom monies are paid into the accounts of members of the gangs in Europe and Nigeria. Those who are unable to buy their freedom are subjected to forced labour, sexual slavery and torture. Many victims die in the process.

“It’s now time to enact tougher laws targeting people traffickers as their crime is akin to that of kidnappers in Nigeria. Perpetrators deserve to be sentenced to jail terms without the option of fine.

“We note the current efforts of the Government of Edo State to legislate against human trafficking and praise Governor Godwin Obaseki for his bold initiative.

“However, for any laws to be effective they have to have a national jurisdiction. We therefore appeal to the National Assembly and the Federal Government to make tougher laws against human trafficking in Nigeria.

“Human traffickers, who have no regard for human life, have led too many innocent Nigerians to their untimely death. It’s time to put a stop to the activities of these criminals.”

The Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN) 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.

MEPN was conceived by the African-German Information Center, Hamburg, and The African Courier Verlag, Berlin, and is being implemented in co-operation with the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Germany and the support of Germay’s Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.