Nigeria has finally evacuated 679 of its citizens stranded in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Libya as the Emirates slap a visa ban on young Nigerians.
The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) confirmed on Monday in Abuja that while 542 young Nigerians were evacuated from Dubai on Sunday, 137 others touched down at Murtala International Airport in Lagos on Monday.
“A total of 542 stranded Nigerians in the United Arab Emirates evacuated by the Federal Government arrived [at] Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, on board the @MaxAirLtd Charted flight,” the commission wrote on Twitter.
“The plane touched down at 4:29am today, October 23, 2022. The evacuees consisted [of] 79 males, 460 females and three infants.”
The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) received the 542 stranded Nigerians from the UAE, confirmed Mr Manzo Ezekiel, the head of the agency’s press unit.
NIDCOM chairman Abike Dabiri-Erewa had in August noted that many Nigerians were stranded in the UAE and needed urgent evacuation.
Many of the Nigerians profiled in the UAE had neither passports nor other forms of identification.
Dubai had recently reported a spike in the number of harassment and hooliganism cases against Nigerians.
In one such case, a Nigerian woman who violated the UAE’s immigration policy started posting photographs of immigration officers on social media, an action that fetched her one year’s imprisonment.
The UAE on Monday slammed a visa ban on Nigerians seeking to visit Dubai. Authorities notified Nigeria’s trade partners and travel agents about the ban the same day.
This came weeks after the UAE tightened visa rules for prospective visitors.
The notice said that “all Dubai [visa] applications submitted are now rejected,” adding that the rejections will be sent in batches.
Ambassador Atinuke Mohammed, the Nigerian consul general in Dubai, who accompanied the returnees on the flight, commended the government for what he called a safe evacuation of the citizens.
Meanwhile, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in collaboration with the Nigerian Mission in Tripoli, also successfully evacuated 137 stranded Nigerians, who were irregular migrants, from Libya
Ambassador Kabiru Musa, the Nigerian Mission chargé d’affaires en titre in Libya, said on Monday that the returnees departed Misrata, on Monday, October 24, at 2.30pm aboard chartered flight UZ189.
The returnees included 76 men, 52 women, four children and five infants, he said.
Ambassador Musa said the evacuation was part of the federal government’s citizen diplomacy drive.
“This will continue to ensure safe returns of vulnerable Nigerians outside the shores of the country,” he said.
“The IOM under its Voluntary Humanitarian Return (VHR) programme in collaboration with the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in Tripoli successfully carried out an orderly, safe and dignified return of the stranded Nigerians.
“This is part of efforts to assist Nigerians in difficult circumstances to return home and reunite with their families.”
He explained that the returnees were irregular migrants and mostly victims of human trafficking.
“As a result of Libya’s strategic location on the Mediterranean coast, it has continued to be a transit point and destination for human trafficking,” he added.
“While measures are in place to fight the criminal gangs that indulge in the illicit trade in human beings, rescue efforts and the repatriation [will continue] as part of the mission’s consular responsibilities to Nigerian citizens.
“So far, nearly 3,000 Nigerians were returned to Nigeria from Libya between January and October through the IOM’s voluntary humanitarian return programme.”