Nigeria starts mass evacuation of citizens trapped in Libya

Nigeria is starting flights to evacuate thousands of its citizens from Libya which will continue until all those wanting to return home have done so, its foreign minister said on Saturday.
Nigerians have recently been the largest national group among African migrants travelling to Libya and trying to cross from there to Italy by sea.

Since local armed factions and Libya’s coastguard began blocking more migrants from leaving in July last year, large numbers have been trapped in Libya, where they often face dire conditions and abuse, including forced labour.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has in recent months accelerated a “voluntary returns” programme to repatriate migrants from a number of countries. Nigeria now joins Niger in organising bilateral returns.

“The main objective, and we’re very focused on that objective, is to get these Nigerian citizens back home as quickly as possible,” Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyema told reporters during a visit to Tripoli.

”Our president has made available all the resources necessary to repatriate all the Nigerians here.

“We have two planes arriving today and God willing we are hoping to evacuate anything up to 800 Nigerians today.”

Nigeria had been expecting to fly back about 5,500 migrants, Onyema said, but the situation on the ground made the actual number hard to ascertain.

“Some of the difficulties with getting precise numbers is that some are within the control of the central government in camps, some are clearly outside the camps, some are also in less accessible areas where there might not be full central government control and authority,” he said.

Facilitating voluntary returns could also be complicated by lack of access, Onyema said. Criminals involved in smuggling and trafficking migrants “also (have) an interest that a number of them should not be repatriated, because these represent economic assets for them”.

Libya has been in turmoil since a 2011 uprising, with rival governments and armed factions vying for power. Onyema was hosted by the internationally recognised government in Tripoli, which has struggled to assert its authority on the ground.

Slightly fewer than half as many migrants reached Europe by sea in 2017 than 2016, the IOM said on Friday, largely due to a drop in numbers crossing from Libya.


Uganda denies any deal with Israel to host thousands of African migrants 


KAMPALA, Jan. 8 — The Ugandan government yesterday denied reaching a deal with Israel to host thousands of African asylum seekers told to leave the Middle East country in the next three months or face imprisonment, a senior official said here.


Uganda’s state minister for international affairs, Henry Oryem Okello told Xinhua that there is no agreement between the East African country and Israel for it to host over 35,000 asylum seekers, mostly Eritreans and Sudanese. “We don’t know where the story is coming from. One thing I want to state categorically that the government of Uganda doesn’t have any agreement whatsoever with Israeli government in order to repatriate the refugees to Uganda,” said Okello.  “We have no agreements for those seeking asylum or harbour refugees who have been rejected by Israel to be brought to Uganda,” he said.


The Israeli authorities last week gave the African asylum seekers who fled war and persecution a 90-day ultimatum to leave “to their country or to a third country,” or face jail sentences, without stating the third countries. Israel’s population and Immigration Authority said those who leave the country before April will receive 3,500 U.S. dollars, airfare and other incentives for relocation. According to reports, African migrants are given the option of going to their respective home countries, deportation to Uganda or Rwanda.  Xinhua



South Africa’s ruling ANC celebrates 106th anniversary 


CAPE TOWN, Jan. 8 (Xinhua) — South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) celebrated its 106th anniversary on Monday with a pledge to pursue radical socioeconomic transformation.


As part of its transformation programme, the ANC will fast-track land redistribution by creating the legislative framework to pursue expropriation of land without compensation, ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said in a statement emailed to Xinhua. The ANC has adopted a radical programme to achieve this goal, Kodwa said. More details on this and other programmes will be contained in the birthday statement to be delivered by newly elected ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa at the birthday celebration to be held in East London, Eastern Cape Province on Saturday, according to Kodwa.


In celebrating the last 106 years since the ANC was founded on January 8, 1912, “we must never lose sight of the selfless sacrifices of thousands of people, many remain nameless and faceless who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy today,” Kodwa said.  As the oldest liberation movement on the African continent, the ANC is now more than ever more united and determined to lead the struggle for a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society, said Kodwa.  “This will however only be achieved when we work together to address the persistent challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality,” he said.


The ANC has identified the following four key priorities in its programme of radical socioeconomic transformation: placing the economy on a better trajectory, deepening transformation and consolidating the gains of democracy, relentlessly fight corruption in all its forms and build unity within the ANC and the country as a whole.


He said the ANC’s 106th birthday celebration is particularly important as it immediately followed the party’s 54th National Conference held in December 2017.  At the conference, the ANC recommitted itself to radical socioeconomic transformation.


Radical socioeconomic transformation has been on the cards of the ANC-led government for years. But little progress has been achieved as the economy is still dominated by the white minority due to the legacy of apartheid.


Radical socioeconomic transformation refers to fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.


The government has identified mining, manufacturing, agriculture, energy, tourism and ICT (information, communication and technology) as priority sectors for the participation of black people who were excluded in the past. The ANC has introduced programmes such as promoting and supporting black industrialists and black small businesses so as to change the patterns of ownership of the economy.  Xinhua



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