Seventeen Nigerians who survived the 2017 migrant boat sinking have sued Italy who they believe connived with Libya to have them tortured and dehumanized in detention camps, the AP reports.
On November 6, 2017, a boat carrying 130 migrants, most of them Nigerian, sank off the coast of Libya.
The Libyan coast guard perched aboard the Italian-provided Ras Jadir vessel, arrived the scene first to rescue the drowning migrants.
The German aid group Sea Watch 3 also responded with dinghies and rescued some 59 people.
An estimated 20 people drowned on the day. Most of them Nigerians.
Legal and human rights organisations who are backing the Nigerians on the case, told a press conference that the Italians used EU funds to train and equip the Libyan coast guard to patrol its coasts and bring migrants back.
Italy defends itself
The Nigerians also allege that the Italians gave tacit approval to the slavery, torture and other degrading and inhuman treatment unleashed on them by Libyans.
The AP reports that Italy has defended its support of the Libyan coast guard.
Italian officials say the policy has saved lives and slowed to a trickle the number of migrants who risk their lives paying Libyan-based smugglers to ferry them to Europe aboard flimsy dinghies.
6,731 migrants have arrived Italy so far from Libya in 2018, 84 percent down from 2017 and 78 percent down from the year before, according to interior ministry figures.
But human rights groups say that under its policy, Italy is shirking its international responsibilities to rescue migrants at sea and bring them to safety.
Nigeria has been evacuating most of its citizens from Libya in the wake of the migrant scandal which exposed how Nigerians and citizens of other African countries were often beaten and kept in detention camps in Libya; with little or no food.
There was a sharp drop in arrivals in Italy during the second half of 2017 following efforts by Rome to discourage migrants from attempting the crossing.