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Tackling The Menace Of Illegal Migration

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Globally, the issue of migration has become a matter of international concern. In this piece, ANTHONY AWUNOR writes that there is need for the federal government to sustain the tempo of assisting deportees from other countries, especially the voluntary returnees.

In recent times, the federal government in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), European Union (EU), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and other groups seem to have recorded a reasonable success in repatriating stranded Nigerians, from different parts of the world, with Libya, Germany, United Kingdom, United States topping the list of deporting countries.

With the number of international migrants put at about 258 million, migration has become one of the most problematic international phenomena. From records, thousands of Nigerians are in legal limbo across countries in Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia and even in some African countries because they do not have legal papers to reside and work in these countries.

As at early this year in Germany alone, more than 30,000 Nigerians were awaiting deportation because their asylum claims have been rejected. Despite the huge number of stranded Nigerians in different parts of the world, migrants, mainly from developing countries still migrate from one region of the world to another due mainly to economic reasons as they always have the feelings that they can have a better life.  By so doing, these migrants put their lives at great risk to cross the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea in order to get to Europe in search of the proverbial “greener pastures”.

Countries like Germany were known to have taken in most of these migrants. Germany is said to be the second most popular migration destination after the United States. Of all the 27 European Union states, Germany is reported as having the second highest percentage of immigrants in its population after the United Kingdom.

Back home in Africa, Libya seems to be a “home” for illegal African migrants who usually target the Mediterranean route to escape to Europe. For some time now, Nigerians are deported in their hundreds almost on monthly basis.

As at May this year, the deportation exercise which has been ongoing since 2017 recorded about 55th flights that ferried returnees back home in Nigeria. Within the same period, over 13, 000 Nigerians have been returned to the country through the exercise.

However, the last batch of deportees arrived the Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMIA) in Lagos on July, 26th, 2019.

The Lagos Territorial Coordinator of NEMA, represented by Ibrahim Farinloye, the Public Information Officer of the Agency, received the returnees who arrived the MMIA at about 1:10 am on that day.

The returnees who were assisted back to the country by IOM aboard Al Buraq airline with registration number 5A-DMG and flight number UZ 196/25, had 61 female adults, 1 female child and 5 female infants with 98 adult males, 1male child and 5 male infants.

The Coordinator while admonishing the Returnees not to let the experiences, on the perilous attempts to seek the unavailable greener pastures in Europe, frustrate them from forging ahead in their future endeavours but to take advantage of those experiences positively to work harder and be determined in making use of the opportunities that would be availed to them by federal government and its development partners like EU and IOM to make Nigeria greater to the enviable development they wish Nigeria will be.

The Coordinator buttresses his call on the need for the youths to be vigilant, with emphasis on young ladies against being lured as victims to antics of traffickers who contact ladies on their phones through social media apps especially Facebook and whatsapp, making fake  marriage advances just to lure them to travelling out of Nigeria.

He cited a particular case when a lady sought advice about a man who simply called himself, Ali who claimed to be living in Sudan.

Upon, critical observation, the code number of the caller indicated that it belonged to a Libyan code and the man that makes video calls was an Arab but he was not making statements for the lady to hear him.

It was understood that the man cannot communicate in English but someone behind the scene was responsible for chatting with the lady.

The lady shared her chats and granted permission for the use of the chats as an awareness and sensitization tool in advising Nigerian youths on the antics of traffickers in recent time.

“NEMA is hereby appealing to youths to ensure that they make use of the Migrants Resource Centre jointly established by Federal Government and IOM or any of the Agencies directly involved in the management of the Returnees when confronted with, requested of these natures for assistance at any time”, Farinloye said.

Speaking on the spate of illegal migration, a co-director of the Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN), (a Germany-based diaspora group), Mr. Femi Awoniyi has commended the efforts of the federal government and Edo State Government led by Governor Godwin Obaseki in seeing that Nigerian youths understand the dangers of irregular migration.

While stating that the government is definitely doing a lot, Awoniyi also pointed out that National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) is very active and that the presidency is also directly involved through the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora.

According to the co-director of the group, Gov Obaseki deserves praise for emphatically acting on the issue of irregular migration and the plight of returnees, adding that Edo, being the most affected state in Nigeria, has put the issue on the front burner of public discourse and rightly so.

In a chat with LEADERSHIP, Awoniyi informed that MEPN is currently carrying out a campaign to promote a greater awareness of the risks and dangers of irregular migration in Nigeria.

He said that, the Nigerian diaspora in Europe has been concerned about the unavoidable tragedy and suffering associated with irregular migration for many years and have always tried in their various ways to act against it.

On MEPN’s efforts to curb the menace of irregular migration, Awoniyi said “no single actor in the migration awareness campaign can claim a decisive role in the ongoing return programme. I believe that the advocacy of all of us involved in raising awareness of the plight of stranded migrants surely contributed. However, the CNN report of November 2017 showing Africans being auctioned as slaves was a turning point. It woke everybody up to the horrible situation in Libya, pushing governments in Europe and Africa to finally act decisively”.

He therefore, appealed to the international organisations and the Nigerian government not to relent in their efforts to return their stranded citizens to their home country, stressing that there are indications that there are still thousands of them out there yearning to return home.

To the Germany-based migration expert, the only way to stop illegal migration in Nigeria is to give out as much information as possible, especially to the youths.

“Information! Letting would-be migrants know the risks and dangers of irregular migration and also know the situation of irregular migrants in the destination countries. Thousands of Nigerians are in legal limbo across Europe because they do not have legal papers to reside and work in these countries. You can imagine their state of mind after so much suffering getting to their destination and not being able to settle down. In Germany alone, more than 30,000 Nigerians are awaiting deportation because their asylum claims have been rejected. It’s a terrible situation”, he said.

Advising Nigerian youths, Awoniyi said “we provide information on opportunities for legal migration such as for the purpose of acquiring education or training. We also advise that youths should adopt a realistic approach to migration. Simply leaving your country is not always a better alternative than staying. We enjoin young people not to overlook opportunities in the country. In a nutshell, we also promote positive alternatives to migration”.

“Get properly informed. It’s important to know the situation in the country you would like to travel to. For example, the requirements for legal residency and authorization to work. Get informed about the challenges faced by migrants there. This will give you a clear picture of what you’re getting into. Then you can look at your situation in Nigeria and decide if it’s worth it to leave the country.

Migration is a normal thing and we don’t discourage it. We only advise that the decision to travel out must be based on sound reasons so that one doesn’t regret it”, Awoniyi advised.

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