…Why more will follow
By Omeiza Ajayi
In what appears an indictment of the federal government, a cross section of Libyan returnees from Edo state has said more Nigerians would continue to flee to Libya in spite of the sufferings and torture associated with such trips except governments at all levels become more responsive to the yearnings of the youth.
Accusing the government of being the major stimulator of such dangerous journeys, the returnees said if elected public officials fulfilled even half of their electioneering campaign promises, the number of irregular migrants from Nigeria would reduce drastically.
They consequently advised international humanitarian agencies, particularly the United Nations Migration Agency, the International Organization for Migration IOM as well as the European Union EU against routing their projects through the Nigerian Government, lamenting that such lofty gestures hardly ever get to the intended beneficiaries.
They spoke in Benin-City, Edo state at a ceremony organized by IOM to launch and hand over a Migrant Resource Centre MRC to the Federal Government.
“What I have to tell the EU-IOM is that they should please, not partner with the government or any other agency in Nigeria. If there is any project you have for the returnees, please do it fast. We heard that some money was set aside to empower us but till now we have not seen anything since we finished our training last year”, said Mr Iluobe Ehis who returned last year.
Another returnee who simply identified himself as Collins said; “ Talking about reintegration, up till today nothing has been done. They trained us last year but the grants they promised us have not been given. My candid advice to IOM and EU is that if you want to spend money on returnees, do not partner with the Nigerian government. Some of us that returned have gone back again”.
Other returnees expressed frustration at the government, saying most of the procedures for reintegration are often hijacked.
In a swift response, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation SGF, Boss Mustapha and the Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons NCFRMI, Hajia Sadia Umar Farouk who were both represented at the event, absolved the federal government of any blame in the matter.
Represented by Mrs Roseline Obiechina, the SGF said; “I want to point out the fact that you cannot venture into a country without partnering with the government of the country. I cannot be here and hear you say that they should not partner with the government. The Office of the SGF makes efforts to ensure that every programme gets to the target population but if it is hijacked at the state level, then that is very unfortunate. There are procedures. International bodies cannot come and operate here without collaborating with the government on ground”.
On her part, the representative of the NCFRMI said; “ There is an SOP – Standard Operating Procedure for handling returnees. The SOP is in the process of being operationalized and I can assure you that by the time that is done, most of your fears would have been addressed “.
While handing over the MRC to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, IOM’s Chief of Mission, Ms Enira Krdzalic said the initiative seeks to among other things, “support the Government of Nigeria to improve migration governance through the development of migration strategies and implementation of migration policies action plans; strengthen national structures and capabilities for managing reintegration in a dignified and sustainable manner; sensitize communities on dangers of irregular migration; and strengthen migration data and communication on migratory flows, routes and trends in order to support evidence-based policies and programmes design.”
Represented by Mr Abrham Tamrat, the IOM boss said the MRC is important at a time when the number of deaths, exploitation and abuse recorded on the Central Mediterranean migration route are at an all-time high. Irregular migration along the Central Mediterranean route is increasingly dangerous for migrants.
Crossing the Mediterranean to Europe is by far the deadliest route, with one death recorded for 35 arrivals. Over 70% of the migrants interviewed by IOM on their arrival in Italy reported that they were victims of trafficking or other exploitative practices during their migratory journey along the routes of the Central Mediterranean.
Many of these migrants were tricked, forced or persuaded to leave their homes for better opportunities abroad. Many of them entered Libya through several illegal routes with the hope of crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, but become stranded living in terrible conditions and seeking the opportunity to return home when they could no longer continue their journeys to their final destinations. Although many of them have been assisted to return home, many are still stuck in terrible detention facilities in Libya.
From April 2017 to date, IOM with funding from the EU has facilitated the return and reintegration of over 7, 000 Nigerian migrants”.
On his part, Sen. Ngige said the need for the establishment of MRC in Benin City is understandable, in view of the high incidence of irregular migration and trafficking in persons from the State.
“It is important to note that the establishment of MRC in Benin City is that it will serve as an authentic one stop shop, where potential and returning migrants will be able to access relevant migration information and a wide range of services through direct assistance, and information provided by the MRC network.
This will ensure that intending, actual and returning migrants make informed decisions about their migratory aspirations thereby minimizing the risks and maximizing the benefits of their migratory experience.”
According to him, the Ministry has established Job Centres in Anambra, Bauchi, Delta, Lagos and Abuja “to provide assistance to applicants on job placements and employment opportunities, so as to mitigate the challenges of job search”.