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Poverty, unemployment forcing more Nigerians to migrate

By Sola Ogundipe

Many Nigerians plan to leave the country in the next five years. Nearly half (45 percent) of adults  say they plan to move to another country within five years, by far the highest share among 12 countries surveyed across four continents.

File: Immigrants at a detention centre in Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli. AFP/Getty Images

Some of them have already taken steps to do so, such as gathering information about a destination country and saving money, according to a Pew Research Centre survey conducted in 2018.

Tunisians and Kenyans also plan to migrate.

In the three African nations, two-thirds or more of all who were surveyed cite jobs, education and reuniting with family as reasons why people leave their countries. Conflict also plays a role as majority in Nigeria and Kenya say escaping violence is a very or somewhat important reason for why they want to leave.

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Meanwhile, a quarter (24 percent ) of adults in Tunisia say they plan to leave within five years, as do 19 percent  in Kenya. In 2017, substantial shares in Senegal, Ghana and South Africa said the same.

Many are planning to move to the United States and Europe. In Tunisia, a North African country near Europe, more than two-thirds (68 percent) who plan to migrate say they will move to a European country. Meanwhile, Kenyans who plan to move most often say they will go to the U.S. (33 percent) or to another African country (25 percent). In Nigeria, 28 percent of potential migrants say they plan to move to the U.S., 19 percent  mention a European country and 19 percent say a Middle Eastern country.

Many of the Nigerians, Tunisians and Kenyans have made preparations to migrate and even though many say they plan to migrate in the coming years, not everyone who says this has made preparations.

In Tunisia, 70 percent of those who plan to migrate in the next five years have gathered information about moving to another country, about half (54 percent ) have saved or borrowed money, and about half (52 percent ) have applied for necessary documents such as a passport or visa.

A quarter of Tunisians who plan to move have taken all three steps (28 percent), which amounts to about 7 percent  of all adults surveyed in the country.

In Nigeria and Kenya, lower but substantial shares have taken each of these steps to prepare for their move. About 11 percent of Kenyans and 14 percent of Nigerians who plan to migrate in the next five years have taken all three steps to prepare for their move.

Those with a high school diploma or higher in Kenya, Nigeria and Tunisia are more likely to say they plan to move abroad. Among sub-Saharan Africans who have already migrated, about half or more of those living in the U.S. and United Kingdom have at least some college education. The survey also found that younger adults, men and those with higher incomes are more likely to say they will make a move in the next five years.

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The merits and demerits of migration are obvious

Migration places individuals in situations which may impact their physical and mental well-being especially if conditions surrounding the migration process increase the vulnerability to ill health. Many Nigerians migrate voluntarily, fleeing perceived or realistic man-made threats.

Migration also cuts across economic and social policies, human rights and equity issues, development agendas, and social norms—all of which are relevant to migration health.

In light of the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda of migration and health are critically important to monitor the Agenda’s progress, including specific progress on the health-related goal and targets to ensure that “no one is left behind” irrespective of their legal status.

Migration is a common pastime in Nigeria. Millions of Nigerians in the search for greener pasture migrate abroad annually and already it is estimated that no less than 20 million Nigerians are currently living in different countries as migrants.

The most common countries that are attractive for migration to Nigerians include Canada, the United States of America, Germany, Mexico, Belgium, Austria among host of others.

Common excuses for migration are not far-fetched. Unemployment and poverty top the list. The search for better prospects for survival and advancement than can ever be available in Nigeria is a powerful attraction for migration.

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