When the French President Emmanuel Macron visited Nigeria about a month ago, he was touched and at the same time saddened and unable to reconcile the Nigeria he visited with the tales of large numbers of people involved in illegal migration to Europe and other parts of the world.
That people would risk their lives for a better life in Europe, even at the possible ultimate price, was astonishing to him. He urged youths to avoid illegal migration as the country had a lot of resources that they could build on to develop their potential and added that whatever was being sought abroad could be found here.
Macron’s call to all migrants leaving the country illegally in the pursuit of greener pastures is for them to pause and ponder before taking that crucial step into the unknown.
Several Nigerians who fled the country ended up in difficult circumstances in Europe, in Libya and in other unknown places across the globe. Many others die daily in the Algerian Desert and on the Mediterranean Sea trying to cross to Europe. While some migrants have been misled by those who promised to take them to Europe for work, others have ended up being tricked into prostitution and slavery.
Regrettably, some families have sponsored this illegal migration for their family members, while others set out on their own, believing that the grass is greener on the other side.
Ironically, in the days of the Trans Atlantic slave trade, Africans were forcefully shipped abroad for servile labour in Europe and America. Now Africans, including Nigerians, willingly leave their countries and walk into it.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) recently released statistics that indicate that Spain registered 21, 000 migrants this year, a number that surpasses the total figure for all of 2017. About 55,000 migrants have reached Europe this year. However, it has also been reported that Italy’s new government has closed its ports to rescue vessels as the country had about 18,130 migrants arriving by sea from Libya this year with the rest going to Greece, Malta and Cyprus.
Over 600 African migrants were said to have forced their way through well fortified border fence separating the Spanish North African Isle of Ceuta from Morocco recently in a desperate bid to get into Europe.
According to IOM spokesman, Joel Millman, West African migrants are the most prominent ones crossing from Libya to Spain.
As a newspaper, we wish to remind illegal migrants of some of the harms they can come to, such as slavery, organ harvesting, drowning at sea and death at the hands of criminal gangs, among others.
The recent spate of xenophobic attacks is another potent danger to migrants. Italy which bears the brunt of this illegal migration has recorded a high number of attacks on immigrants in the country. There have been several racially motivated attacks. Recently, one Daisy Osakue, a Nigerian born and bred in Italy, who is a popular athlete, was attacked and injured in Italy. Also, hundreds of Nigerians have been killed in South Africa on the same count. Thousands of other Nigerians have been repatriated from Libya with heart-rending tales of the horrible slavery they were subjected to.
Obviously, those embarking on this kind of journey are doing so to escape the worsening living condition in their home countries.
The federal government needs to look at the factors causing this exodus of the country’s youths. Perhaps, it is time to ask ourselves, what can the government do to make Nigeria a conducive abode for the citizens?
In our opinion, youths require reorientation towards their society and country. The education system has to be retooled to provide functional instructions to the upcoming generations. There is the need to train up entrepreneurs and artisans who would be given the right environment to thrive.
Vocational training should be prioritised in a way that would make it attractive to the youths. Those who have talents should be assisted to reach their full potential.
The government should make start-up loans accessible to youths willing to start a trade.
Nobody who knows that he stands a chance of doing well in Nigeria would like to embark on such a perilous journey.
The federal government should do everything possible to entreat its youths to stay and not migrate illegally. More awareness of the dangers should be communicated to the grassroots and, in particular, to the families of the prospective migrants. The country cannot afford to continue to lose the much needed manpower the country urgently requires for development.