The dictionary meaning of a migrant is somebody who moves from one place to another, often for employment or economic improvement. With the world in near total chaos, the word has assumed a completely different meaning that is bringing back the sad memories of slavery as supposed migrants end up in the slave market or in the prostitution rings.
This unfortunate development reinforces the marking of a day the International community set aside to put the problems and circumstances linked to migrants on the front burner of public discourse. To most, it is hope betrayed. The General Assembly of United Nations had, on December 4, 2000, taking into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world, with resolution 45/158, adopted the convention on the protection of the rights of migrant workers and members of their families. Migration was once a courageous expression of the individual’s will to overcome adversity and to live a better life. Today, globalization, together with advances in communications and transportation, have greatly increased the number of people on the move.
The theme for this year’s event “Safe Migration in a World on the Move”, draws attention to the safety of people who, for reasons beyond their control, leave their comfort zones in search of the seemingly elusive greener pasture. Many of this motley crowd are on the move, because they have no choice, some to flee war and persecution and others to escape the vicious circles of poverty, food insecurity and environmental degradation. Migration, regrettably, has assumed the dimension of a global phenomenon driven by many forces. These start with aspirations for dignity, safety and peace.
The decision to leave home is always extreme, and, too often, the beginning of a dangerous, sometimes fatal journey. Because of the plight of these migrants and the harrowing experience they have to bear in the struggle for improved wellbeing, the day is observed in many countries by intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations through the dissemination of information on human rights and fundamental political freedoms of migrants, and through sharing of experiences and the design of actions to ensure the protection of migrants.
To this extent, therefore, United Nations proclamation of the International Migrants’ Day is considered an important step that offers a rallying point for everyone across the world who is concerned with the protection of migrants. The day is seen as an opportunity to recognize the contributions made by millions of migrants to the economies of their host and home countries, and also to promote respect for their basic human rights.
The day has become an occasion to make their voices heard in situations where millions of women and men are leaving their homes in search of work and education. It has become so significant that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is acting to advance the migration-related commitments of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNESCO is deeply engaged with UN partners through the Global Migration Group, to shape a global compact for safer, orderly and regular migration.
The 2030 Agenda promises to leave no one behind – this must include every migrant. Protecting their rights and dignity means responding to humanitarian needs and advancing sustainable development. Fundamentally, this is about defending our common humanity through solidarity in action.
In Nigeria, many still see the migrants’ phenomenon as an inevitable product of globalisation and a common trend in the quest for human fulfilment. This may be true but the abuse the process has been subjected to has made migrant tendencies to become excessively pronounced to such an extent that human trafficking, prostitution, kidnapping and slavery have been thrown into the mix. Many have also died in the course of the search.
The belief of most who embark on the trip to what is now a tale of uncertainty assume that there is light at the end of the interminable tunnel. The story of Libya returnees is a clear exposition of the horror migrants are exposed to, eliciting calls for stiffer punishment for those who mastermind the syndrome it has turned into.
This newspaper subscribes to the position that reconstructing the rural areas from the zone of economic misery to that of prosperity is key to expanding the economic opportunities for African youth, leading to improvements in their lives, thereby stemming migration. We also share the opinion that modernising agriculture to unlock its full potential will lead to greater economic opportunities that will, in turn, motivate African youth to stay on the continent and live a meaningful life.