Irregular migration is a global challenge. Unfortunately, international immigration laws continue to hinder easy migration leading to increased levels of irregular migration.
Experts explained that desperation to achieve the desired goal of either economic or political emancipation was responsible for the high level of activity of irregular migrants.
Irregular migrants, unaware of the many risks that await them along the routes to their desired country of destination, continued to put their lives at risk in their quest for greener pastures.
Research shows that in spite of the fact that countries have continued to tighten security at their borders, the level of activities of irregular migrants have remained high.
The situation is the same in Nigeria as a member of the global community.
But the government is worried that unlike in Europe, the issue was not people coming in, but Nigerians leaving the country.
Speaking on the development, Mr Mohammed Babandede, Comptroller General of the Nigerian Immigration Service(NIS), said “Nigeria has demonstrated it is committed to the fight against the smuggling of migrants.
He added: “We are aware that a lot of our citizens are dying in the desert and the sea.
“The government believes that only harsh measures will stop the dying. Accordingly, the new regulations on migration include severe punishment for illegal migration.
“The old immigration law only modest fines of less than one euro ($1.08). New fines for infractions can go up to 3,000 euros ($2,800).
“Prison sentences for serious violations of the immigration law will be much longer than in the past.
“Nigeria is one of the main countries of origin of illegal migration. Last year alone, around 30,000 undocumented Nigerians crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
“Hundreds die each year attempting to reach the continent. Human trafficking
has tarnished Nigeria’s reputation around the globe.
“Current estimates point to more than 10,000 Nigerian women forced to engage in prostitution in Europe.
“Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari believes these numbers are a blight on his country’s reputation and has called for a coordinated strategy to fight smugglers and human traffickers.’’
Determined to reduce the incidences of irregular migration and create safe haven for would-be migrants, the International Organisation for Migration( IOM), recently organised a training session for editors and media executives in Abuja.
IOM Chief of Mission in Nigeria, Mr Frantz Celetin, who spoke, said his organisation decided to partner the media because of their very crucial roles of passing the right messages across to the right people.
Celetin said the decision for the training was for deeper collaboration with media outfits and practitioners in disseminating the right information on migration.
The IOM chief pointed out that it was unlikely for its target audience to get information from official reports, hence the important role of the media.
He called on the media to get directly involved in the work of IOM to help address issues of migration in Nigeria.
“IOM would like to use this dialogue to facilitate your direct involvement in the dissemination of credible information on migration in support of its efforts to ensure orderly, dignified, and safe migration.
“Maintaining good media relation is indispensable and contributes to IOM’s daily work.
“IOM will continue to work with you to shed light on the plight of the people, and the often-hidden opportunities that arise from migration.
“Governments, migrants, potential migrants, and average citizens are much more likely to hear about IOM’s work through the media than through official reports.
“IOM is committed to working with journalists who will act as conduits of the organisation’s message,” he said.
Celestin described the media as a very relevant part of all aspects of human endeavour, including promoting issues of safe and regular migration as well as discourage irregular migration.
He said that with the support of the media, some of the challenges faced by migrants, returnees, internally displaced persons and refugees could be addressed.
According to him, the media holds the key to addressing other such issues such as stigmatisation, harassment, misinformation, and vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation.
Giving insights into the work of the IOM, he said that the mission in Nigeria “focuses on three broad pillars: Migration Data Collection and Management; Preparedness, Response, Transition and Recovery, as well as Facilitated Migration and Migration Management.
“Under our facilitated and migration management pillar, we work with the government to promote orderly and humane migration management.
“IOM supports the Federal Government through migrant protection assistance programming, labour mobility and human development, migration health, and policy frameworks and coordination.
“IOM has supported the return of over 22,000 Nigerian migrants since 2017 and reintegrated over 11,000 migrants in the country,” he said.
Celestin added that between January and May 2021, almost 20,000 migrants benefited from IOM’s health assessments before travelling to various countries.
He also pointed out that IOM introduced the Migration Information Data Analysis System (MIDAS) in Nigeria to strengthen the Federal Government’s ability to process individuals’ identities when entering or exiting.
He added that MIDAS had been installed at 32 locations, 14 land borders, four seaports, eight state commands, the NIS Headquarters, and five international airports.
He said that the IOM had series of activities ongoing, stressing that without the media, such activities could happen unnoticed.
Mrs Bimbo Oyetunde, General Manager, Bronze FM Benin, said ” the training was insightful and refreshing. “As gate keeper of my station, the several topics taught have enriched my knowledge on migration, and the lessons taken away will help me change the old narrative on migration reportage.’’
Mr Ufuoma Egbamuno, News Manager, Cool FM, who described the training as excellent said ” it was an eye opener for me as it has changed my view point on migration reportage.
” By this training, I am now better informed on how to pen migration stories without offending humanity.
“I will henceforth learn to give migrants, especially irregular migrants a voice away from the old stereotype way of `headling’ migration stories,” he said.
For Mrs Huawa Bata, Controller News, Radio Nigeria/ Peace FM, Maiduguri, the training has made her take a decision for the creation of migration desk in her station to improve reportage on migration issues like never before.
IOM’s Project Assistant , Mr Elijah Elaigwu, expressed optimism that ” after this training, my organisation is hopeful that we will begin to experience more of dignified and safe migration among migrants.
By Kevin Okunzuwa