The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Muhammad Babandede, on Monday said 16,387 Nigerians were deported from Libya, Saudi Arabia and other countries in 2017.
Babandede stated this while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the findings by members of a Federal Government Delegation to Libya.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama had on January 5 led a delegation on fact finding mission to secure the release of Nigerian migrants stranded in Libya.
Other members of the delegation which include Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking Persons, Julie Okah-Donli and Director General of National Emergency Management Agency, Alhaji Mustapha Maihaja
Others are: Sadiya Umar-Farouk, Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons.
Babandede said out of the number, 5,908 Nigerians were deported from Libya, 3,836 others were from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and 6,643 from other countries.
He said: “I want to state that in 2017 alone we received 5608 deportees, specifically from Libya.
“So if you add to the number we received on January 7, which was 485 from Libya it will give you 6,393 deportees from Libya alone.”
He said between January 2017 and January 2018, 3,498 men, 2,684 female, 211 minors were deported from Libya.
Babandede said: “I don’t want us to look at it as if it is only in Libya the deportees are coming from. We have deportees from Saudi Arabia.
Surprisingly, we had a total of 3836 deportees in 2017 alone.
“You know Europe has been deporting. The highest number of deportees came from South Africa, Italy and Austria.
“The total number we have from other countries is 6,643, which is greater than the total coming from Libya.
“So grand total of person deported to Nigeria in 2017 is 16,387. We are afraid this might continue or even be higher in 2018.”
He explained further that it was not only Nigerians that were held up in “Libyan slave camps” as being reported.
Babandede explained that there were Nigerians who were victims of traffickers, who were sexually exploited and also there were smuggled persons, who were victims of smugglers.
He said: “There are regular Nigerian migrants in Libya living legally with all their documents and doing their businesses.
“The Minister of foreign affairs met with the Nigerian community in Libya we had interaction meet during the visit.
“We don’t want everyone to think that every Nigerian in Libya is in slave camps, or that every Nigerian in Libya is being exploited.
“There are Nigerians who are working in factories, in oil companies, in construction companies and the minister met them.”
He explained that the issue of bother was beyond Nigeria because Nigeria belonged to ECOWAS community which allows free movement for members.
Babandede said people become illegal migrants not because the border was not controlled but because of greediness and urge to travel at all cost.
He added: “There is greed for people to travel, we need to educate the people, we need to educate parents that Europe is not a paradise.
“We need to tell them of the dangers that lie ahead. The desert is hot; the sea is not a river to cross. The media needs to do more to show how dangerous the desert or the sea is.”