…. Commends FG, EU, IOM Others
In its determination to contribute to ongoing efforts to end the unnecessary suffering and deaths of young Nigerians who are misled into irregularly migrating to Europe, the Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN) has deepened its fight against the menace.
MEPN is a Germany-based Nigerian diaspora initiative which started a campaign for safe migration in 2017 and is already in its second phase this year.
After the group held Roundtable Dialogue on Migration in Abuja, Lagos, Enugu and Benin City in August and September, the MEPN is intensifying its efforts to consolidate the awareness campaign to promote a greater awareness of the risks and dangers of irregular migration in Nigeria.
According to the MEPN, the media awareness campaign, captioned ‘Look Before You Leave’, is designed to educate would-be migrants in Nigeria about the realities of the journey to Europe.
MEPN, which also provides information on legal ways to migrate while encouraging young Nigerians not to overlook opportunities available to them at home, seeks to sensitize society to the problem of irregular migration and the enormous costs that families and the nation pay.
Speaking on their activities, a co-director of the group, Femi Awoniyi, told LEADERSHIP that MEPN was not against migration as movement of people from place to place is normal. He, however, emphasised that what MEPN is fighting against is illegal migration.
Awoniyi said “our campaign is simply to encourage people to seek legal ways of migrating. Migration is a fact of the human experience. There is nothing wrong with migration at all. I am a migrant myself. So what we are saying is that people should not put themselves in danger because they want to migrate.”
He advised people who are migrating to always ask questions and get information about the situation in which they would find themselves when they get to their destination countries.
Warning on the need for migrants to get a clearer picture of what they would face when they migrate to other countries, Awoniyi, who is also the publisher of The African Courier magazine, added that “this is because if you are a bank manager in Nigeria and you decide to go to America, and you get there, the status you have in Nigeria is not what you are going to have there. Your qualification and experience that made you a bank manager in Nigeria may not translate to the qualification and experience required to become a bank manager in America. So you will have to work yourself through the system and that will take many years of integrating into their education system and their labour market.”
He therefore, advised would-be migrants to always get a realistic picture of the situation they will face in the destination countries, adding “We are not against migration at all but to encourage people to migrate safely and legally so that they would not put themselves in danger and regret at the end of the day”.
Beyond the safety of an individual migrant per se, Awoniyi said that illegal migration negatively affects the reputation of Nigeria.
Speaking at the 12th Nigeria Media Nite-Out Award 2018 recently in Lagos, the MEPN director warned that irregular migrants discourage foreign investment in their countries of origin. “People logically tend to conclude that if so many of a nation’s citizens are desperately leaving their land irregularly, there can’t be much potential for profitable business in that country”.
Awoniyi also contended that illegal migration causes a backlash against legal migration. “For example, many events in Germany promoting German-Nigerian economic or cultural relations aren’t able to bring in Nigerian participants in the desired numbers because of the difficulties of obtaining visitor’s visa for them. Nigerian business people also have problems obtaining German visa. Upon deeper reflection, one would understand why visas are not being issued as needed against the background of about 30,000 Nigerians awaiting deportation in Germany. Every visa applicant is defensively considered a potential irregular migrant until they are able to prove otherwise,” he added.
Meanwhile, the group has commended the Federal Government of Nigeria, the European Union and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for their joint Initiative on Migrant Protection and Reintegration.
The directors of the MEPN, whose campaign is supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are Kenneth Gbandi and Femi Awoniyi.
Gbandi is also the chairman of the Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation Europe (NIDOE) and director of the German-African Information Centre Hamburg, and Awoniyi, publisher of The African Courier, is also a public communication specialist.
Both of them are journalists and have been covering migration issues for the past two decades.