Head, African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, has said that over 400,000 Nigerians and other illegal immigrants remain stranded in Libya.
Hundreds of thousands more — “400,000 to 700,000,” according to Mahamat— remain stranded.
European and African leaders have set themselves a tall order to stamp out horrific abuse of African migrants, some of them are Nigerians in Libya, where thousands are suffering in a vast, lawless territory.
On Thursday, a summit of the African Union and the European Union set a goal of immediately repatriating 3,800 migrants languishing in a camp near Tripoli.
But experts pointed to a daunting array of hurdles, from extracting migrants in perilous situations to giving them incentives to stay put when they return home.
Even so, the summit’s commitment, initiated by outrage over a CNN television report on black Africans being sold as slaves in Libya, is being welcomed.
“It is a step in the right direction,” International Organisation for Migration Europe Director, Eugenio Ambrosi, told Agence France Presse by phone from Brussels.
“It is a little bit too much to think it will solve the slavery issue, but it would definitely mitigate (it) to some extent,” Ambrosi said.
He said the summit also showed there was now “international watchdog pressure” that could be brought to bear on the criminal gangs, but it must be “sustained.”
The drive was announced at a meeting on the summit sidelines organised by French President, Emmanuel Macron.
It brought together eight other EU and African countries as well as the AU, EU and United Nations representatives.
Macron said the UN-backed Libyan government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj had identified and granted access to the worst camps to enable the returns of people who want to go home.
The Macron group also decided to work with a task force, involving the sharing of police and intelligence services, to “dismantle the networks and their financing and detain traffickers,” he said.
They pledged to freeze the assets of identified traffickers. The AU is expected to set up an investigative panel and the UN could take cases before the International Court of Justice.