During a walk against irregular migration, stakeholders cautioned intending migrants as they spared a thought for fellow Nigerians who lost their lives while embarking on irregular migration through unconventional routes. GBENGA OMOKHUNU, who participated in the walk, reports
Every December 18, the world marks International Migration Day, (IMD). Nigerians, including, government officials, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and major stakeholders in the migration sector trooped to the street of Abuja to walk against irregular migration.
According to findings, there is no universally accepted definition of irregular migration. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) defines it as “movement that takes place outside the regulatory norms of the sending, transit and receiving country”.
Reports have it that a migrant in an irregular situation may fall within one or more of the following circumstances: He or she may enter the country irregularly, for instance with false documents or without crossing at an official border crossing point; he or she may reside in the country irregularly, for instance, in violation of the terms of an entry visa/residence permit; or he or she may be employed in the country irregularly, for instance, he or she may have the right to reside but not to take up paid employment in the country.
It is important to note that the phenomenon of irregular migration refers to both the movement of people in an undocumented fashion, or irregular migration flows, and the number of migrants whose status may, at any point, be undocumented, or irregular migrant stocks.
Changes in irregular migrant stocks in a country can occur not only due to undocumented migrants entering or leaving the country (irregular migration “inflows” and “outflows”, respectively), but also due to changes in status for migrants already in the country, from undocumented to documented or vice-versa.
Irregularity refers to the status of a person at a certain point in time or during a certain period, not to the person. Migrants can go “in and out” of irregularity as laws and policies change.
In some cases, the classification of movements as “irregular” is more nuanced. For example, the Free Movement Protocol of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) allows people to move freely among the 15 member states and stay for up to 90 days provided they are in possession of valid travel documents.
Honorable Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migration and Internally Displaced Persons, Senator Garuba Mohammed led the road walk from the Old Parade Ground, Area 10, through to Area 1.
Mohammed, who was pleased with the crowd that participated during the walk said all forms of irregular migration should be discouraged.
He urged those planning to move out of the country through illegal means to desist to avoid regrets.
His words: “As you all know, today, December 18, marks International Migration Day. I think it is fitting to reflect on this day, what migration means for our world.
In the words of the former President of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcak, we have never lived in a world without planet earth, but one thing we can agree on, however, is that we have always moved. We are all migrants.
Migration is a part of our humanity. It would not be possible to make it disappear. Therefore, we are advocating safe, regular and dignified migration.
“This walk is a symbol of solidarity with our brothers and sisters who have lost their lives or have gone missing during these journeys through the desert or by the sea in search of better life.
We remember many who have drowned at sea. The uncountable migrants sold as slaves and confined in detention centres.
We remember also, the unknown or the faceless that were left behind during the journey and those that have been forgotten.
“We walk in solidarity with those who have been uprooted, expelled, forced into emigration and driven out of their homes. I talk about people who have been uprooted regardless of whether they are black or white, young or old, male or female, Christian or Muslim and who have the same painful experiences etched in their souls.
Hundreds of thousands of these people perished because of acts of war, disease, hunger, rape as well as exhaustion and forced labour.
“We are also here in solidarity with people whom, in their thousands and millions, fled their homes and lost their relatives during their flight.
I mean those looking for a country where they can be free and safe; a country in which they can live to determine their own lives in freedom.
“I would also like to remind those at home that are planning on doing the same, that your lives are more valuable and there are options for them at home.
Even if you choose to travel, there are safer and more humane channels of doing so. To all of you who are here today, I want to ask you to be kind to migrants. I also urge you to become advocates and educators of the dangers of irregular migration”.
A non-governmental organisation (NGO) Mothers of Earth International Foundation, called on the Federal Government (FG) to put in place a well thought out policy on Voluntary Return Assisted Programme not only to assist Nigerians stranded abroad to return home, but to also be well integrated back into the society.
The founder of the NGO, Hajia Hafsatu Bello lamented in a chat with The Nation that attempts to seek green pasture outside the country have only yielded bitter experiences for many Nigerians.
She also called for the establishment of displacement tracking mechanism, especially in the North East and other flash points in Nigeria, rejig of the Social Intervention Programme to ensure the inclusion of the most vulnerable and development of a communication line between Diaspora commission, Foreign Affairs Ministry and Nigerian embassies abroad to tackle the problems of illegal migration and facilitate voluntary return and integration of Nigerian migrants.
Hajia Bello said the maltreatment of Nigerians outside the country, especially in countries like South-Africa, Libya, Italy, Spain among others should be a thing of serious concern to government.
Her words: “As a significant number of Nigerians in their thousands may have gone out of the country, in an attempt to get a better life, which severally turned out to be a bitter life, as many get caught up with traffickers, this is reportedly too rampant.
“We are here to mark the International Day for Migration. We are here to work with the relevant authorities. It is not as if migration is a bad idea completely but only legal migration is good.
If you must migrate then do it properly with relevant documents. Know where you are going to. We also in a way, encourage migration because it creates rooms for development, economic improvement and expansion.
We need to sensitise people and have one-on-one with parents, neighbors on how to discourage this illegal migration and how to identify smugglers of human beings.
“I can say that within the last two years over 8000 people have migrated illegally to other parts of the world while about 5000 people have been repatriated back to the country.
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This season is also one that our people should be careful about. They should be mindful of whoever will come to them to assist them travel abroad with their loved ones. What you are going there to do can also be done here.
“Government is trying to tackle this situation but there is nothing wrong is asking them to try more, because if we have the enabling environment, this will change for the better.
We should not fall into wrong hands. Governments are not listening to us and they see us as an NGO that is coming to either expose what should not be taken out to the public.
That is not the case. This migration saga is a kind of load that you cannot carry with one hand. We need as many hands and many heads as possible to channel this cause.”
The situation, according to many of the participants of the road walk, could get better if all hands are on deck to tackle irregular migration. They also urged government to play a critical role geared towards ending the menace.
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