A fresh batch of 174 Nigerians, believed to be stranded in Libya, returned home on Friday, according a national relief agency official. The refugees' repatriation came as part of Nigeria's evacuation of thousands of its nationals from Libya, especially after footage emerged of Africans being held as slaves in the strife-torn north African country early this year, triggering an international outcry.
Segun Afolayan, the southeast region coordinator of the Nigeria National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said the returnees arrived in the early hours of Friday, in a joint operation with the International Migration Organization (IOM) and the European Union. Nearly 450 Nigerians returned voluntarily in the last three weeks, and among Friday's returnees were 61 women and 22 children, he added. He said the IOM will provide rehabilitation and vocational training for the returnees. They returned to Nigeria under the Assisted Voluntary Return Program, according to Afolayan. Some 7,000 Nigerian refugees returned home voluntarily over the last year, according to the Nigerian agency.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous country, with some 192 million people, and has faced such problems as economic crises, security threats, and the herder-farmer conflict. Attacks from the militant group Boko Haram in the country's northeast forced millions of Nigerians to flee their homes. Some who try to cross the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean through Libya fall into the hands of human traffickers. Some die in the desert or the sea.