BY CHIBUZOR EMEJOR,
International Organization for Migration [IOM] Nigeria on Tuesday raised the alarm on the number of deaths recorded along Mediterranean route as a result of irregular migration embarked upon by migrants from Nigeria and West African sub-region.
Mr. Frantz Celestin, IOM Chief of Mission in Nigeria, raised the alarm in Lagos at the Follow-up Training of Government Officials on Running Effective Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) organised by the IOM in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment with funding from the European Union (EU) within the framework of the “European Union Trust Fund and IOM initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in Nigeria.”
Celestin represented by Mrs. Elizabeth Poage, IOM’s National Project Officer, said the number of deaths and those who are current subjected to exploitation and abuses along central Mediterranean route were alarming.
Though the number of deaths was not given, IOM maintained that many irregular migrants have met their untimely deaths due to dehumanising conditions on the route.
According to Celestin, “You will agree with me that this project is apt at a time when the numbers of deaths, and those suffering exploitation and abuse along the Central Mediterranean migration route are at an alarming rate.
“Current statistics shows that the number of migrants from West Africa in migration flows through the Central Mediterranean route has increased despite the difficult conditions of making the journey irregularly.
“It is worthy to note that thousands of Nigerian migrants are stranded in Libya, living in terrible conditions, with many desirous of the opportunity to return home.
“From April 2017 to October 2018, over 10,000 Nigerian migrants stranded in Libya and Niger have been assisted by IOM to return to Nigeria.
Celestin observed with dismay that many migrants have embarked on irregular migration with little or no accurate information about the legal migration process and the risks inherent in the journey.
“Permit me to say that most of these migrants embarked on this perilous journey because they received little or no information about the legal migration process, the risks inherent in irregular migration, the living and working conditions, and the support and redress services available at destination countries.
“In the absence of accurate information on legal migration procedures and requirements, risks of irregular migration, job advisories and general information and support on welfare and social protection, potential and returning migrants are bound to fall victim to fraudulent migration brokers/recruitment agencies,who usually capitalise on the vulnerabilities of their victims’ desire or ambition for exploitation.
“It is against this background that IOM has within the framework of this project supported the Government of Nigeria to develop several initiatives to effectively manage migration in a more efficient and coherent manner.
“One of such initiatives is the establishment of Migrant Resource Centre [MRC] in Edo State to complement the support services being provided by the MRCs established in Abuja and Lagos State within the framework of the national 10th EDF project.
“As the leading United Nations Agency in the field of migration, IOM recognises the importance of MRCs in the overall integration prospects of migrants as it helps in improving the knowledge of migrants about the destination country and ensuring that their expectations about the migration process are realistic.
“IOM has assisted various governments to establish and ensure the long-term sustainability of MRCs as the scope of MRCs’ reflects a holistic response towards the empowerment of migrants for development, prevention of irregular migration, facilitation of regular migration, and protection of migrants.
“The MRCs established by IOM in Abuja, Lagos and Edo States are “one-stop shop” where migrants, potential and returning migrants can access relevant migration information and a wide range of services through direct assistance, or online services to enable them to make informed decisions about their migration aspirations, whilst minimising the risks and maximizing the benefits of their migration experience,” he explained.
Commenting on the three-day training organised for some staff of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Celestin said it was designed “To provide services for the empowerment and protection of migrants, staff of MRCs” as well as build capacity of the participants on a wide range of issues such as relevant laws and procedures relating to migration and migrants’ rights and responsibilities.
“To this end, IOM has continued to train and retrain relevant Government Officials on how to effectively run/manage MRCs as a policy option for ensuring safe, orderly and regular migration in Nigeria,” he said.
Also speaking, Chief Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, underscored the need for training and re-training of MRCs staff aimed at providing competent human resource to provide services for migrants, would-be and returning migrants.
Ngige represented by Mrs. Mimi Badejo, Deputy Director and Head of MRC in Lagos, lauded the efforts of IOM and its collaboration with Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment over the years, thanking the European Union for its funding support to the EUTF project.
The minister expressed optimism that the information and experience gained at the training would tremendously help in the collective resolve to stem the risks associated with irregular migration in Nigeria and West African sub-region.