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The European Union (EU) says it has so far facilitated the safe return of about 7,720 Nigerians who voluntary accepted the opportunity to be ferried back home last month from Libya and other places abroad.

The EU Ambassador and Head of delegation to Nigeria, Ketil Karlsen, who disclosed this during a media briefing on Wednesday in Abuja said another batch of 111 were scheduled to arrive Lagos on Thursday.

Mr Karlson said about 50 per cent of the returnees were Edo State indigenes, while another 15 per cent come from Delta state.

He said those who accepted to travel home under the arrangement between the EU and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) were guaranteed start-up funding for opportunity to pick the pieces of their lives and restart their future with some vocational training activities.

The ambassador said the EU was engaging the Nigerian government on how to stem the wave of irregular migration and human trafficking.

Part of the engagement, he said, was the signing of a Common Agreement on Migration and Mobility in 2016, while EU was funding programmes to help Nigeria better manage the menace of migration as well as address its root causes.

Irregular migration and mobility, he noted, were big priorities to the EU, and should be tackled as collective responsibilities, in view of the abuse of human rights and people in distress who need urgent assistance and support.

“Some of the people who volunteered to come back home have difficulties coming back to face their families. Some support was packaged by EU to help their reintegration into society. Many of them are in need of assistance,” Mr Karlsen said.

The deputy Head of the EU Delegation, Richard Yang, who was also at the briefing said the EU would partner with IOM to render assistance in four areas.

“On their return, they will be granted some seed money of about €100,” he expalined. “We (the EU) will counsel and identify the vulnerable people, particularly those psychologically affected as a result of being victims of human trafficking.

“We will identify individuals interested in setting up some businesses or go into some vocational activities, or other interested in coming together in cooperatives to set up businesses.

“Then, we will work with their state or local governments, along with agencies like National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the towns of their origin to ensure capacity building for them.”

Expressing commitment to address the emergencies of the people in distress and find the right recipe for the future, Mr Yang said the EU has already reached out to its Nigerian partners on how to find lasting solutions to the problem.

He said the concern was how to ensure Nigerian youth were given opportunity to job creation as well as adequate information about the risks of irregular migration to Europe for greener pastures.

Apart from trying to double access to student visas for exchange of students between Nigeria and Europe, Mr Yang said the EU has also accorded serious consideration to investment in youth and job creation by establishing trust funds focus on them.

Besides, he said, the delegation was promoting increased investments of European banks in Nigeria, including a $20 million equity participation announced recently by EIB in the Development Ban of Nigeria to stimulate growth, employment and youth engagement.

On the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), Head of Trade & Economics Section of the delegation, Filippo Amato, said the delegation was continuing with the dialogue with the parties concerned.

“We want to continue engaging with everybody on the potential benefits in opening up markets, providing technical assistance and creating market accessibility in a manner that it does not become hostile to infant industries, opportunities of youth employment, but an opportunity to develop those industries and access to the market.

“We are continuing the dialogue with all stakeholders on the EPA to ensure that decisions are taken based on clear scrutiny of benefits, advantages and disadvantages to all parties.

”We believe it shall create opportunities for businesses in Nigeria to develop. But we listen very carefully to all the concerns. It is a legitimate interest to ensure Nigeria is developed and the youthhave opportunities to be employed, Nigerian industries are not exposed to unfair competition, but to thrive,” Mr Amato said.

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