Human dignity of migrants and Nigeria

on   /   in Viewpoint 11:41 am   /   Comments

MANY find themselves overseas for many reasons, ranging from the pursuit of greener pastures, fleeing persecution, tough family conditions, wrong peer influence among friends and in school, to mere youthful adventurism.

Some do this at great risks of their lives like in the recent case where hundreds of migrants perished in a boat mishap in Italy. Whenever such happens, Nigerians are involved, because of the highly adventurous nature of our life in Nigeria, fuelled by years of broken promises of employment, and economic good conditions by successive governments in the past.

No one tells these people especially our youths that life can be very tough should their bid for migration legitimacy fail in the destination or host country.

Every nation has her own immigration laws and rules which must be adhered to by all migrants, and once breached, the person becomes an illegal migrant.

Governments have varied attitudes towards illegal migrants, but most countries, do all possible to make life very tough for the illegal migrant. They are often arrested, sent to detention or holding Centres, from where they will be deported under shameful conditions to Nigeria. Where their asylum bid fails, they would remain at the Centre till they were suddenly deported.

The shame, feeling of anguish, loss of years of one’s life, and of value honour and human dignity associated with forced deportation from home countries, cause many of them to choose to die in their host country than return to Nigeria, where the environment has remained largely indifferent and even hostile to deportees.

It is against this background that over 168 nations partnered in 2002, to establish the International Organization for Migration (IOM),whose main thrust is to uphold and restore the human dignity and well-being of migrants, through the encouragement of their voluntary return, to settle in their countries of Origin, while enhancing their re-integration into the economic system they have become alien to due to long absence.

The IOM envisions the collaboration of professionals built on trust, that listens to member states and helps them to manage migration cost effectively and efficiently, for the benefit of all. This initiative’s  support of the government of Switzerland’s MOU with Nigeria regarded as best practice on the handling of migrants must be commended in the face of inhuman, degrading treatment of migrants by most other nations especially the developed and civilized world.

Rightly or wrongly America does not want immigrants and is increasingly enforcing removals in dehumanising manner. A recent report indicated that the “enforcement of the nation’s  immigration laws is crucial to the future of America due to a “fundamental fact,” according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) — many more people would like to relocate here than the country could reasonably absorb. ”

Unless this country becomes a very undesirable place to live and work, there will always be more people wishing to come here than there will be available legal immigration slots,” the CIS states, using a Gallup poll of more than 450,000 adults in 151 countries conducted over a recent two-year period.

It projected that about 13 percent of the world’s adults, more than 640 million people, would like to leave their country permanently, and about 150 million of them would prefer to relocate in the United States.

The second most favoured country people would like to move to is the United Kingdom preferred by 45 million adults, followed by Canada (42 million), France (32 million), Saudi Arabia (31 million), Australia and Germany (both 26 million).

Migrants are most likely to come from populous countries such as China (22 million), Nigeria (15 million), India (10 million), and Bangladesh (8 million), according to Gallup.

America, Britain and the developed nations need to emulate, and support the IOM initiative, and Swiss MOU, in order to increasingly foster the upholding of the human dignity of migrants especially including Nigerian migrants. Nigeria is presently the biggest returnee and transit Centre along West Africa.

The Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) program, of the IOM is of greatest interest, where it encourages illegal immigrants to return voluntarily, and assists them to overcome the myriad of challenges they face upon return to Nigeria, in order to reintegrate them into the social and economic system of this nation.

Voluntary Returnees, constitute a large population of human resources, with huge potentials that could be tapped into towards the economic development of this country. So far 644 Nigerians have returned making Nigeria the biggest country of voluntary return in West Africa, Ghana comes next with 326, Gambia, 221, while Guinea recorded 142 returns.

Nations that have remained hostile and abusive to migrants need to learn, understand and support the AVRR initiative of the IOM. The EU and Asia should reconsider and improve on their largely inhuman handling of migrants.

Nations like Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, to name a few should adopt a necessary change of attitude towards migrants, by encouraging and promoting Assisted Voluntary return and reintegration of migrants. It is noteworthy, that Nations like Iraq, and Sri Lanka top the list in the support of the AVRR program , basically because they have national migration policies which they are implementing. The absence of Migration Policy within most African countries accounts for the tardiness in the handling of migration with dignity in Africa.

Nigerian government has mandated the National Commission For Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced persons [NCFRMI] to coordinate all Migration issues and matters. Expectedly the NCFRMI has articulated the National Migration Policy since 2006, which has been ratified by stakeholders but is yet to be approved. The uncertainty surrounding the adoption, approval, and implementation of the policy must be removed.

Whoever is responsible to ensure that this policy is released must be encouraged now, from the office of the Secretary of the Federation, to the NCRFMI. All hands must be on deck, while we look up to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to do more to arrange the Swiss type of MOU with other EU nations, America, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.


Mr. CLEMENT UDEGBE, a legal practitioner, wrote from Lagos.

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