AU to bring back 20,000 migrants home from Libya

Nigerian returnees from Libya hand over their baggage tags to an official of National Emergency Management Agency after been process upon arrival at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Hundreds of Nigerians arrived in Lagos, having been repatriated by the African Union. (AP)
Updated 07 December 2017
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AU to bring back 20,000 migrants home from Libya

ADDIS ABABA/NIAMEY: The African Union (AU) has upped its goal to repatriate stranded migrants from Libya, saying in a statement that it aims to bring 20,000 Africans home in the next six weeks.
Pressure has grown on the continental body and individual African states to get their citizens out of Libya after CNN broadcast a report showing black Africans being sold as slaves in the north African country.
The AU had earlier said it wanted to repatriate 15,000 migrants by the year’s end, but increased its goal after a task force — including AU, EU and UN officials — met earlier this week.
“The immediate focus of the task force will be on the repatriation, within the next six weeks, of the 20,000 migrants currently in identified government-controlled detention centers who have expressed the wish to leave Libya,” the AU said in a statement received Thursday.
The group is also working to organize consular services for stranded migrants and landing rights for airlines that can fly migrants out of Libya, the statement said.
Individual African countries have started their own repatriation programs, with Nigeria, the source of the majority of undocumented migrants trying to reach Europe from Libya, bringing home 144 people earlier this week.
Rwanda has also offered to take in as many as 30,000 migrants who have suffered abuse and slave-like conditions in Libya.
500 Nigers evacuated
Meanwhile, Niger has flown home more than 500 of its citizens from Libya as part of an urgent repatriation plan which will see up to 4,000 people evacuated, the Foreign Ministry has said.
“This evening, 504 of our fellow countrymen who were living in Libya have been brought back home,” said Foreign Minister Ibrahim Yacoubou who met them as they arrived at Niamey airport on Wednesday evening.
“There are thousands of others who are still in Libya and we will bring back everyone who wants to leave,” he said.
Interior Minister Bazoum Mohamed said buses had been chartered to ferry them back to their villages. Among those brought back home there was a tangible sense of relief.
Some 4,000 Niger nationals have already signed up to be brought home, the foreign ministry said, saying they would be brought back in a “rolling airlift.”
“I feel so relieved to have left that hell back there. Even though it was anarchy in Libya, we didn’t know that migrants were being sold, although ransom demands are rife,” said one of those who landed on Wednesday, who looked exhausted and did not give his name.
It is not the first time that Niamey has repatriated its nationals stranded in neighboring Libya.
Since the Qaddafi regime collapsed in 2011, Libya has fallen under the control of a network of armed groups and militias; the violence and anarchy contributing to the push by many migrants, some of whom have been there for years, to try and make the perilous sea crossing to Europe.
Over the past six years, around 250,000 people have returned home to Niger, fleeing the violence in Libya.
At the end of November, Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou called on the International Criminal Court to take up the case of African migrants being sold as slaves in Libya.
Agadez, the main city in central Niger, has become a revolving door for economic migrants seeking to reach Europe via Libya, winning notoriety as Africa’s people-smuggling capital.
Despite a government crackdown and increased security checks at the borders, aided by the EU, there is still a steady flow of migrants and traffickers passing through Niger.


Turkish police shoot driver ‘planning Israel protest’

The driver claimed that he was on his way “to protest in front of the Israeli Embassy” in Ankara. (AFP)
Updated 24 min ago
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Turkish police shoot driver ‘planning Israel protest’

  • In May, Ankara ordered Israel’s ambassador to leave over the killing of protesters along the border with the Gaza Strip

ANKARA: Turkish police on Monday shot a tractor driver in the leg after he refused to stop, state media reported, with the suspect claiming he was planning a protest at Israel’s embassy in Ankara.
The 45-year-old was detained after damaging several vehicles with the tractor in the capital despite calls to stop by the police, state-run news agency Anadolu said.
The driver claimed that he was on his way “to protest in front of the Israeli Embassy” in Ankara but no details on the planned action were given by Anadolu.
However, an Israeli official, who did not wish to be named, said “to the best of our understanding, the incident was not related to Israel or its embassy.”
The Ankara governor’s office said in a statement that the incident was being investigated but officials could find no links to terror.
The office did not mention the planned protest and the incident took place near the Israeli ambassador’s residence in Ankara, not the embassy. Relations between Israel and Turkey, one of the Jewish state’s few key Muslim partners, have been strained this year.
In May, Ankara ordered Israel’s ambassador to leave over the killing of protesters along the border with the Gaza Strip.