By Gloria Chinyere Okwu
“Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future; a part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family,” says the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban-ki Moon.
The aforementioned therefore, describes migration as a phenomenon that will remain a part of human existence as humans continue to move from one place to another to better their existence.
Fundamentally, there are two forms of migration—regular and Irregular migration. This piece will focus mainly on irregular migration which possesses severe and disastrous consequences.
Irregular migration causes numerous challenges to the migrants, countries of origin, transit and destination. Migrants in this situation are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, abuse and also in danger of being exploited by crime organizations involved in migrant smuggling and human trafficking.
They are exposed to torture, starvation and death. Nigeria has the highest number of irregular migrants through the Agadez route and fifth in the world. Many reasons have been attributed to this incessant migration such as poverty, unemployment, ignorance, greed and desperation.
Despite the ordeals of these travels, some of them come at a high financial cost. According to the special assistant to the Nigerian president on foreign affairs and diaspora matters, Abike Dabira Erewa, “a Nigerian traveller may be charged up to $4,500 by human traffickers for a trip.
These journeys which result in persistent loss of lives have become a graveyard for many. Many have been trapped in detention camps in different countries, living in deplorable, life-threatening conditions. Those that make it into their countries of choice end up living in fear of the authorities and security agencies.
The EU disclosed that between January to September 2016, 22,000 Nigerian illegal immigrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Likewise, the Nigerian Immigration service stated that no fewer than 10,000 Nigerians have died between January to May 2017 while trying to migrate through the Mediterranean Sea and deserts.
In 2017, a report about slavery and inhuman detention of irregular migrants in Libya revealed in critical terms, the urgent need to address the awful trend. Consequently, the Global Community through its ongoing Global Compact on Safe, Regular, and Orderly Migration (GCM) is collaborating with international organisations and governments to end all forms of irregular migration.
Similarly, The International Organisation on Migration, (IOM) through its coordinated return and reintegration programme, Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration, has helped in returning Nigerians from host countries.
The National Migration Dialogue, 2017, took place at a time when Nigeria witnessed the highest number of irregular migration with many deaths, torture, and slavery across different detention camps.
The dialogue which sought to devise a comprehensive approach to combating irregular migration made some important recommendations such as targeted policies and interventions to protect migrants at the origin and destination countries; prompt review of the National Migration Policy by the Technical Working Group to reflect current trends and changes in migration; youth employment opportunities through skill acquisition to discourage desperation tendency for irregular migration; balanced media sensitisation on migration; strengthen collaboration between government and the international community to safeguard the rights of migrants and harness the benefits of migration.