The Guardian
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36,000 Nigerians crossed to Italy via Mediterranean Sea in 2016


Africa migrants on their perilous journey across the Mediterranean

Africa migrants on their perilous journey across the Mediterranean

Spanish police speak on trafficked Nigerians forced into prostitution

In a desperate search for a good life, illegal migrants from Nigeria account for 21 per cent of the total 171,299 immigrants that braved the Mediterranean odds to arrive in Italy in 2016.

Figures from the Italian Interior Ministry estimated the record of Nigerian arrivals at 36,000, with most of them claiming they were running away from Boko Haram insurgency. The estimate was as at November 2016 and leads to an average of 109 Nigerians daily arriving via the risky route.

In September 2016, a Nigerian gave birth to a boy on a Mediterranean rescue ship. The baby’s parents, Otas and Faith Oqunbor, had named him Newman Otas. They had been making the dangerous crossing from Libya with their two other children, aged seven and five, and were rescued just 24 hours before the baby was born.


This is coming days after Spanish police recounted some of the harrowing experiences of young Nigerian migrant girls who were forced into prostitution in the country, which it described as “voodoo rituals, near-drowning in the Mediterranean, and abortions.”

Spanish authorities detained nine members of a trafficking group that used illegal migration routes to take girls from Nigeria to Spain. It was headed by three Nigerian women, the police said.

The victims, all poor, were approached “very young” with promises of a good job in Europe. They were submitted to voodoo rituals threatening terrible consequences to them and their families if they disobeyed the organisation, police said, before undertaking a grueling trip to Europe via Niger and Libya.

“They had to go and prostitute themselves every day and couldn’t come back until the early hours of the morning,” police said. One of the victims who fell pregnant aborted straight away and continued to prostitute herself.

The Federal Government was briefed by Italian authorities on this development late last year. Sources said the government regarded the high number of Nigerians seeking asylum abroad as “mind-boggling and embarrassing.”

Government is of the view that only a few of the migrants could genuinely claim they were fleeing from Boko Haram insurgency and Niger Delta crisis.

“Most Nigerian migrants pictured in this milieu are motivated by economic and pecuniary interests,” said a spokesman for Babachir Lawal, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).

From all indications, government may soon begin a campaign to dissuade young Nigerian opportunity seekers from embarking on the “perilous Mediterranean crossings in their bid to emigrate to Europe.

“The dangers and rigours of the expeditions entail extreme negative prospects compared to the vibrant opportunities that Nigeria as a nation is still blessed with,” said the statement, signed by U. Onwuanukwo, on behalf of Lawal.

According to Frontex, the European Union border agency, some 181,000 migrants eventually arrived in Italy last year from North Africa, the highest number ever recorded. It was 20 per cent more than last year.

The largest group of migrants arriving were Nigerians, Eritreans and Guineans, the agency added.

Nigerians, along with Guineans also formed the bulk of migrants rescued at sea, especially in November, said Frontex.

The flow of Nigerian immigrants to Italy via the Mediterranean backdoor began in 2008 and declined for five years. From 2013, the number jumped.

In sorting out the migrants, Italian and European authorities have been able to distinguish between migrants from war torn states such as Syria from the hordes of economic refugees from Africa.

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