At least 1,600 persons attempting to migrate to Europe through several illegal channels, including Libya, have perished in the central Mediterranean Sea, in the first seven months of 2018, according to a group, the Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN).

The group noted that while the number of illegal immigrants to Europe has reduced drastically, the number of deaths increased between January and July 2018.

A statement jointly signed by Kenneth Gbandi and Femi Awoniyi, Co-Project Directors, MEPN, noted that attempts to cross to Europe through inappropriate channels amounted to suicide.

The statement also quoted a report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which had, earlier in the week, said one in every 18 persons, who arrived in Europe via the central Mediterranean route, between January and July, dies, compared to one death for every 42 within the same period in 2017.

MEPN further said that the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli on Sunday declared a state of emergency on following days of fighting between rival armed groups in Tripoli.

The group added: “The renewed clashes have plunged Libya into yet deeper chaos, further jeopardising the lives of about 8,000 migrants trapped and arbitrarily detained in the city's detention centres. Many of these detainees are Nigerians.

“The recent fighting demonstrates that Libya is not a safe place and would-be migrants to Europe should avoid that country as they will be exposed to mortal danger.

“In view of the foregoing developments, the Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria would like to advise would-be migrants to seek legal and safe ways of realising their goal to avoid unnecessary suffering and deaths.”

As part of efforts to address illegal immigration from Nigeria, MEPN said it would hold a ‘Stakeholders’ Roundtable Dialogue on Migration’ – a series of consultations with civil society in Lagos, on Saturday.

The forum, which was already held in Abuja and Enugu, was part of the activities of the MEPN, a public awareness campaign promoting safe migration in Nigeria.

The Stakeholders’ Roundtable Dialogue brings together youths, students, educationists, parents and multipliers, such as journalists, artists and religious leaders, among others, to exchange ideas and experiences on issues deriving from irregular migration.

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