The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, on Wednesday spoke on the alleged sale of illegal African migrants “mostly Nigerians” as slaves in Libya, saying it would not take lightly the maltreatment of its citizens across countries.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Marcel Alain de Souza said this while presenting the Status Report on the State of the Community to the Second Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja.
The commission’s Vice President, Edward Singhatey representing De Souza said investigations have commenced to ascertain reports on African migrants being maltreated and sold into slavery in some North African countries.
According to him, ECOWAS does not have enough funds to rescue migrants in Libya but has sought assistance from the international community for immediate assistance.
“The problem is that at this point in time, we do not have anything official from Morocco or Tunisia. We hear about it but there is no proper or thorough investigation and there is nothing documented.
“With regard to their inclusion in ECOWAS, they will be bound to ensure that they look after our citizens within their shores; but at the end of the day, there is no guarantee with regards to that.
“Through engagement we will be able to put our interests forward to ensure that these states know that we do not take likely the maltreatment of any of our community citizens and what is happening across North Africa right now is unacceptable.
“We do not know how many exactly of our youths are in Libya or where all of them are because we understand that some of them are being held in different detention centres.
“We do not have enough funds to go to Libya and bring them, so we have written to the International Organisation for Migration for immediate and urgent assistance.
“We are still trying to stop the tide of youths flowing northwards; we have to keep them (youths) by giving them reasons to stay and find decent living for themselves.
“But if we continue this trend with very little funds, there is also very little we can do. We are constantly engaging our donours to try to immediately do something for us.”