The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has in recent months accelerated a "voluntary returns" programme to repatriate migrants from a number of countries. Nigeria now joins Niger in organising bilateral returns.

A migrant stands on the deck of the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres, as it passes the Maltese island of Gozo while making its way to the Italian island of Sicily after rescue operations in the central Mediterranean off the coast of Libya, December 17, 2017.
A migrant stands on the deck of the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres, as it passes the Maltese island of Gozo while making its way to the Italian island of Sicily after rescue operations in the central Mediterranean off the coast of Libya, December 17, 2017. (Reuters)

Nigeria says it is starting flights to evacuate thousands of its citizens from Libya.

The flights will continue until all those wanting to return home have done so.

Nigerians have recently been the largest national group among African migrants travelling to Libya and trying to cross from there to Italy by sea.

TRT World's Christine Pirovolakis reports.

Italy's coast guard says eight migrants die at sea off Libyan coast

The Italian coast guard recovered the bodies of eight people as it rescued a further 84 from a dinghy that ran into trouble off Libya's coast, it said on Saturday (January 6).

The coast guard said the migrants had been spotted in the morning by a plane patrolling the sea. Dramatic video released by the agency showed the moment that migrants were pulled from the water to safety.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants have fled conflict or poverty at home and are now trapped inLibya, where they had hoped to pay people smugglers for passage to Europe via Italy.

In late December the United Nations began bringing African refugees to Italy from Libya, evacuating them from detention centres whose conditions have been condemned by humanitarian groups as inhumane.

Source: TRT World