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Nigeria flying citizens from Libya amid 'endemic' abuse

Some 5,500 Nigerians trapped in Libya while attempting to reach Europe to be evacuated amid reports of slavery and rape.

 Nigerians

Nigeria is flying out thousands of its citizens from Libya who face grave abuses such as rape and slavery as they attempt to reach Europe through the war-torn North African nation.

Large numbers of Nigerians have been trapped in Libya where they were trying to cross to Italy by sea, but were stopped by local armed factions and the Libyan coastguard.

Nigerian officials on a fact-finding mission to Libya expressed shock at what they saw and heard from victims.

"They talked about various abuses - systematic, endemic, and exploitation of all kinds," said Nigeria's Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama. "There were obviously interests that wanted to keep as many of them there as possible because they were commodities."


READ MORE: Eight refugees die in shipwreck off Libya


Thousands to be evacuated

Citizens of Nigeria, the most-populated country on the African continent, have been the largest group among migrants travelling to Libya to try and cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

Nigeria's government said the rescue flights will continue for as long as necessary, estimating that about 5,500 people would be flown back to their country.

"If I'll die, I want to die in my country. I have suffered so much in the last few months after I left my great country of Nigeria," a migrant waiting to fly back home said, warning others not to make the same mistake he made.

Another said he wanted to go to Italy when he reached Libya. "But now in this situation, I want to go back to my country."

The UN's International Organization for Migration said 171,635 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea during 2017, with nearly 70 percent arriving in Italy. The remainder were divided among Greece, Cyprus and Spain.

This compared with 363,504 arrivals during the same period in 2016, according to the agency.


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