Recently, the Social Development Secretariat (SDS) of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) commenced sensitisation programme on the dangers of illegal migration. DAVID ADUGE-ANI writes on the essence of the exercise
A recent statistics, released by the UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM), has revealed that more than 1,100 people arrived in Europe by sea in the first two weeks of 2017, compared to 22,590 for the first 12 days of January, 2016. Also, of the 181,436 migrants who arrived in Italy in 2016, IOM said the largest number came from Nigeria (37,551), accounting for more than 20 per cent of total arrivals.
In 2017 alone about 2,400 Nigerian illegal migrants were believed to have died, trying to reach Europe, while others were forced into hard labour, abducted, abused and sold as slaves. A fourth night ago, IOM also reported that 21 migrants were missing, and had probably drowned, after two boats, a rubber dingy and a wooden boat, set off from Libya for Italy and capsized. IOM spokesman Joel Millman told a news conference in Geneva that 132 other people on the rubber dinghy had been rescued. Millman explained that there were one pregnant woman and 14 children with no family among the survivors, adding that the victims came mostly from West Africa.
Last year, thousands of migrants were feared dead after their rubber dinghy sank in the Mediterranean Sea. Rome spokesman for the IOM, Flavio di Giacomo, told newsmen that harsh weather conditions were probably the cause of the shipwrecks.
Apart from the harvest of deaths of migrants, trying to cross through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, there are also the heartbreaking reported cases of how Nigerian and other African immigrants are sold as slaves for a mere $400 in North Africa.
A new documentary captured by the IOM has revealed how Nigerian immigrants are sold for $400 in some North African countries, particularly Libya. According to the documentary that was run by the CNN, the thriving slave market is a well-organised syndicate where the male immigrants are sold to work in farms and mines, while the ladies are sold as sex slaves.
The IOM statement had posited that its staff in the Niger Republic and Libya documented the shocking events on North African migrant routes, which they have described as slave markets tormenting hundreds of young Africans desperate to get to Europe through Libya.
Worried by this phenomenon, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) through the Social Development Secretariat (SDS) recently commenced a sensitisation workshop of youths, drawn from the six area councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), on the dangers of illegal migration. Declaring the workshop open in Abuja, the secretary, SDS, Alhaji Oladimeji Ali Hassan, noted that the reason given by illegal migrants that Nigeria’s economy is harsh, was not a justifiable excuse for them to endanger their lives on such tortuous journey across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea.
In 2013 global slavery index estimates that about 29.8 million people are held in one form of slavery or the other worldwide. The victims, often economically disadvantaged young girls/boys and women are lured with promises of good paying job, education and better lives in civilized western countries, end up being maximally exploited, devastated and demoralised.
At destination countries, their travel documents get confiscated and with no money, no shelter and no one to turn to, they are left at the mercy of those who trade in humans. Children are subjected to involuntary servitude as factory workers, domestic servants, beggars, agricultural workers and many times they are also sexually abused by their owners.
They are usually subjected to physical and psychological torture in addition to threats of physical harm to their relatives in their country of origin. Once effectively trapped, they are forced to work under brutal and inhuman conditions. Some of the jobs performed by the victims are forced labour (at mines and in agriculture), forced begging, organ trafficking, unpaid domestic work, forced prostitution, sex tourism/entertainment, pornography, bonded labour, begging among others.
Delivering a speech at the workshop, the director general, National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Dame Julie Okah Donli, noted that the reasons for taking the risk of living illegally in another country are not only the expected improvements in income and living conditions, but also the hope of eventually being allowed to remain in the country, legally as there may be a path to becoming naturalized.
Donli said that victims on transit en route their destinations are sometimes kidnapped for ransom, tortured, raped and killed, while some are forced into sexual slavery and labour exploitation, adding that the search for better standard of living is central to illegal migration, who works in dangerous industries, such as agriculture and construction.
Represented by the director, public enlightenment of NAPTIP, Mr. Arinze Orakwe, the director general revealed that prisons of South Africa, Malaysia and China etc, are filled with Nigerians who are illegal immigrants who also involved themselves in anti-social activities, such as drug peddling, internet fraud, human trafficking, prostitution etc. “Illegal migrants are perpetually watching out for police raids, which are regularly carried out and during which many of them have to be repatriated back home, when caught. In some circumstances, illegal immigrants have their organs harvested and sold in black markets,” she added.
She also noted that the menace of illegal migration is dangerously trending in Nigeria so much that the citizens strive by any means possible to leave the shores of the country to find a better means of livelihood.
A 21-year-old Nigerian immigrant, in a detention camp, in Libya, identified as Victory, said he left his hometown in Edo State and had spent more than N1 million and 16 months trying to reach Europe before he was captured and sold at a slave auction. However, a new dimension was added last week when a Nigerian jumped down from Nigerian-bound plane at Heathrow airport, London and died instantly, because he was about to be deported.
Marking the World Day of Migrants and Refugees at the Vatican last Sunday, Pope Francis called for more action to vulnerable child migrants, in particular, adding, “We must do everything possible to guarantee the protection and defence of child migrants as well as their integration.”
Hassan therefore called on relevant government agencies, as well as non government organisations (NGOs) to key into the sensitisation effort at educating the citizenry on the dangers of illegal migration. He also stressed the need for youths to look inwards and to use their potentials to realise their dreams in Nigeria, adding that Nigeria is a land of abundant resources which are not yet tapped.