Relatives of the 218 Nigerian migrants and asylum seekers who set sail from Lagos to Europe before arriving in Spain are bracing for a decision by prosecutors as early as Tuesday over the fate of their loved ones, who now face deportation back to Nigeria. Their boat was intercepted by Spanish fishing boats near a Spanish beach last week, en route to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where Nigerian asylum seekers have been arriving for more than a decade. It is believed that around 170 people survived the sinking, but many were reported dead on arrival at an overcrowded detention center in central Spain, while seven others jumped overboard, clinging to a pair of inflatable boats. The first of the people to be taken into custody, aged between 19 and 36, were arrested on immigration offenses, police said. The youngest of the seven is 18 years old.
Among the group was Grace Igbilano, 36, from Lagos, who told Nigeria’s Premium Times news website of her ordeal, “We didn’t know if our bodies would be found or if we would just be picked up as dead.”
In an interview with The New York Times, her younger sister, Pauline Igbo Anyanwu, said she regretted that no one was able to save the boatload.
“I went to Abuja to see Grace, who lives there now. I needed her to tell me if she was OK,” she said. “She couldn’t answer any of my questions because she was just in shock.”
Illegal border crossings into Europe by people who entered the continent via the Mediterranean is on the rise, as migrants are attracted by dwindling numbers of jobs and aid from other states in the region, and as central Europe opts for the politics of increasing border control and opposition to mass migration. Last year, 60,000 migrants entered the European Union irregularly.
But even as a record number of people are moving out of Africa, where between 200,000 and 500,000 migrants are currently displaced each year, things can be worse still.
For families like the Igbo Anyanwos and others waiting anxiously to hear if their loved ones survived, it may take some time before the devastating news sinks in. But once they do, the families plan to take legal action.
“I am now planning to sue the Spanish people for the loss of my beautiful sister,” Anyanwu said. “She is my only surviving niece in a family of 20. They all left Lagos, Nigeria.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.
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