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Homecoming agony (2): Concern over how deported sick migrants, ex-convicts are managed

By Innocent Duru

 

Homecoming agony

On August 19, this year, Germany deported a crop of Nigerian migrants who had gone to the European country to seek greener pastures. Among the deportees, according to Nigerian envoy to Germany, Peter Lambat, were some convicts who had finished serving prison terms for committing violent crimes. The deportees also included sick people who came back with heaps of medications given to them by physicians in Germany.

Surprisingly, none of the deportees was subjected to any check by the Nigerian authorities as they were secretly whisked out of the airport. The denial by the Nigeria Immigration Service that the deportation took place apparently shows that the system is porous and prone to allowing deportees find their ways into the society without minding their health conditions and criminal records and the attendant implications for the country.

Findings showed that what happened on that very day was a usual practice, especially when it affects deportees and expelled migrants. One of the August 19 deportees, Mike, who said he was nursing health challenges before his deportation, said no government agency attended to them when they arrived. “No government agency came to say anything to us. We were only welcomed by Nigerian Immigration Service officials on arrival.

They said: “Welcome home brothers and sisters” and that was all. I wanted to even report what I experienced in the hands of the Nigerian Embassy over there but a lady I met said I should explain to one oga. “When I met the man, he said I should go and explain to one man over there. They kept tossing me around and I said, ‘What is going on?’ At the end, they said I should put it in writing and send it to Abuja. I feel disappointed about the attitude of the immigration officers.

I left Nigeria several years ago and I’m sad that I came back to see it in a very bad situation. “Inside the plane, there was a guy who was sick and was being given injections by the doctor attached to him. While we were still in Germany, we heard that a guy on a wheelchair was deported in July and was frustrated at the airport for three days because none of his relations was aware of his arrival,” he said. Esther, a migrant who was deported on July 25, this year, also said she was nursing health challenges before her deportation but got no attention on return to the country.

She told The Nation that her health challenges assumed a worrisome dimension when she arrived the country, adding: “I can’t even explain what they gave to my son and because from that very day, we started vomiting and stooling. My son is still having some challenges now.” An airport worker, who identified himself simply Emma, said many deportees dumped outside the airport are always exhibiting all manners of health challenges. “When you see some of these people, you will pity them because aside from psychological challenges which they expectedly manifest, you will see a number of them showing disturbing signs of ill-health. We have seen those with mental challenges abandoned here, and also seen some with other with visible health problems too loitering here because they had nowhere to go. “Allowing these people to just find their ways into the society has grave implications.

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Some of them could have contagious health issues that could affect innocent citizens. Those who were into all manners of criminality will easily go back to it on arrival because they have nothing to fall back on.” Another worker at the airport, who gave his name as Ohens, described the system at the arrival point as too loose. “ The attitude of Nigerian authorities towards deportees and expelled migrants is always horrible.

Most of the deportees are brought in and moved out of the airport quietly. They are always dumped outside the Hajj Camp from where they were expected to find their ways to their various homes and relations. “The immigration service doesn’t subject them to checks to know if they have sicknesses or have criminal records. This has a grave implication because those who have serious health issues could spread it.

Those who have not so much money could go home and die in the long run if they do not have the means to take care of themselves.” The Director of the Centre for Youth Integrated Development, Aihawu Victo, also frowned at the development. “Most of these people didn’t leave this country as criminals, drug addicts or rapists. They developed those characters over there and Nigeria is just receiving them without proper monitoring. Nobody monitors them; when they enter the country they disappear and that is all,” he said.

Retired Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Abubarkar Tsav, said it is dangerous to allow deportees with criminal records to find their ways into the society without checks. His words: “Deportees who have criminal records should be kept in custody when they come before they are released into the society. When they come with that mentality, they contaminate this area again.

They would continue with their crime.” For those who have already found their ways into the society, Tsav said, the government could still do something to arrest the situation. “What government should do about those who have found their way into the society is to try and inquire about their lives. If there is need to rehabilitate them, they should do so. Definitely, they must need some rehabilitation. Why should the country not accept them when they return? They are our people. It is only if they have no passport that they can be denied entry into the country.”

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A medical expert and principal partner of Kamyk Clinic, Dr Monsurat Kadri, said the development portends grave health risks to The Nation. “ There are lots of implications when deportees are allowed to enter the society unchecked. The most important is the spread of infections such as tuberculosis, Hepatitis, HIV, among others. Apart from infections, we also talk of lifestyle influence. Most of these deportees might have committed offences and incarcerated in inhuman conditions which may affect the way they relate with the society if they are allowed to enter the community without screening or rehabilitation. They need psychological and physical rehabilitation. As a result of their experiences, they pry on innocent citizens and may actually corrupt the young ones by recruiting as their foot soldiers.

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The innocent young ones may only be carried away by the fact that the deportees came back from abroad. The deportees could also constitute economic burdens as they have no jobs and accommodation. They also serve as security risks as they are not quarantined and cannot be traced. Government will have to have a database for whoever is deported. They should be screened for diseases, quarantined and rehabilitated before they are reintegrated back to the society. The government should also provide training and empowerment for them so that they can engage in something meaningful to make both ends meet. .

NDLEA, Immigration, NCFRMI react

National spokesperson of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Sunday James, in a telephone chat with The Nation, said the service has never failed in its responsibility of giving the needed attention to deportees and others coming into the country. “When people are deported, they come to the immigration and we refer them to the appropriate quarters. If it is an EFCCrelated issue, we refer them and if it is drug-related issue we send them to the NDLEA.

The quarantine workers are there at the airport to attend to the people on arrival. “The same way they check ebola, that is how they check people coming in. it is only when the officials are not there we can quickly call their attention that they need to be on ground. But I don’t think they can desert their duty for any reasons. “The deportees are Nigerians and they would be rehabilitated.

Definitely, the government would always take care of them and rehabilitate them. You can’t refuse them coming back to their country. It is just like you going back to your father’s house. Nobody can stop you from going to your father’s house just because you are sick.” In a separate telephone chat, the national spokesman of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA., Jonah Achema, said the agency has from time to time had deportees with drug cases referred to it. ”We have deportees referred to us on a regular basis.

They are arrested abroad not necessarily because they moved drugs from Nigeria to those places. They are arrested because they went into drugrelated activities while in those countries. “Each time they are arrested, they are made to serve a jail term and then returned to Nigeria. Sending them to us is for us to document them and keep tab on their activities thereafter.

There is this argument that they should be tried in Nigeria again but there is this international human rights policy of double jeopardy, where one doesn’t need to serve jail term twice for a single offence. “Once they are deported, we keep tab on their activities to ensure that they are no longer continuing with their criminal activities. I can assure you that they are always in good numbers. We refer to this as an equal opportunity criminality. “Incidentally some of them go under the guise of studying abroad. As I am talking to you, we have what we call visa clearance strategy.

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As you are travelling abroad to study, we would screen you. Before you are even granted visa, we would screen you, ask for guarantors who must be responsible people in the society and who ordinarily would not subscribe to somebody going abroad to commit crime. “There is nobody who has passed through strategy that has been found wanting.

I can tell you that over 5, 000 to 6, 000 visa applicants have to pass through us, especially as it affects about 15 countries that we have memorandum of understanding with to that effect. When deportees referred to us for drug cases come, they stay with us for a day or two.” The Director, Refugee and Migrants at the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs, Hamidu Lawal, also gave details of how the organsation works with sister organisations to attend to deportees.

“If you are talking about deportation, it always has to do with criminal offences. If they have criminal history, They would be incarcerated in the place they are coming from; when they are coming here, their names and other details would be communicated to Nigeria and then, other records would follow. . “It is not a matter of dumping them here. Medical checks are also done. If people have health issues that are deemed to be serious, they would not be deported. We have a system to save this people.

We have all stakeholders, including health officials, immigration, and others are always there to receive them. “We have different categories of people coming back. We have deportees; there are returnees and there are evacuees and we have different people seeing them. It is against the law to bring back people with serious health challenges. But if it is something that is manageable, you will come with the history and we would take over here.

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IOM launches open South America portal

International Organisation of Migration (

Buenos Aires – IOM, the International Organization for Migration, this week launched the Open South America Portal, a web platform providing migrants and stakeholders in the region with access to reliable and timely information on human mobility restrictions and health and safety measures adopted by governments in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open South America, available in SpanishEnglish and Portuguese, shares official information by country on the latest measures, including border restrictions, quarantine requirements and COVID-19 tests for migrants and travellers.

The portal also provides updated information on authorized entry points and key places for travellers and migrants, such as consulates, migrant care and health centres, airports, border crossings points and ports. This information can be explored through an interactive map.

The platform, funded by the IOM Development Fund, is also accessible to vulnerable migrants who may be stranded or are at risk of receiving misinformation on migration.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, South America has been one of the most impacted regions worldwide. According to the World Health Organization figures, as of 8 July 2021 there were 33,475,765 COVID-19 cumulative cases in the region, which represents 89 per cent of the total cases in Latin America, and 18 per cent of all infections recorded globally.

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Countries such as Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador all experienced severe outbreaks. For example, Brazil currently reports the third highest number of cumulative cases (18,855,015) and second highest death toll (526,892) globally.

“Open South America will facilitate orderly, regular and responsible migration in South America amid the uncertain times of COVID-19 and after the pandemic,” said Minister Ana Laura Cachaza, General Director of Consular Affairs of the Government of Argentina.

“Migrants’ access to up-to-date information through innovative online tools is essential considering the changing migration dynamic in the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marcelo Pisani, IOM Regional Director for South America.

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29,000 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians, other Africans migrated through the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in 2021 —IOM

The International Organisation for Migration has said that 29,000 individuals including Nigerians, Ghanaians, Somalians and other Africans have emigrated to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea this year.

About 13,000 were arrested by the coast guards and returned home while 761 migrants were said to have perished in the sea.

Disclosing this to journalists in Abuja on Friday, the Chief of Mission, IOM Nigeria, Mr Franz Celestin, said less than five per cent of migrants usually made it to Europe, adding that the vast majority stay in Africa.

He further said that a lot of migrants were trafficked within the Economic Community of West African States, adding that Mali was the number one destination point for trafficked Nigerian women.

Responding to questions on the number of people who have undertaken the perilous trip to Europe through the Mediterranean, the IOM Chief said, “A combination of unemployment and underemployment is pushing people to migrate.

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“In this year, 29,000 migrants from Sub-Sahara Africa have migrated to Europe through the Mediterranean. About 13,000 were intercepted by the coastguard while 761 died.”

International Organisation of Migration (

Celestin stressed the importance of tackling human trafficking which he said grossed about $150 billion annually.

“Traffickers make a lot of money and they would continue to do it until a coordinated response is evolved to stop them. We are collaborating with Interpol in this respect; we are connected to the Interpol i/247 database. We connected the MIDAS to the Interpol database where we pass the information on traffickers to the Interpol,” he stated.

Celestin explained that the IOM has been involved in the biometric registration of children in the North-East, noting that the agency has registered no fewer than 17,053 children in 18 different internally displaced person camps between 2019 and May 2021 in Borno State.

The agency chief also disclosed that IOM was involved in the G7 Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Compact for North-East.

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FG condemns killing of Nigerian footballer in UK

Kelvin

The Federal government has condemned the alleged killing of a Nigerian Footballer, Kelvin Igweani, by the UK police.

Recall that Igweani, a Nigerian Footballer, was shot dead by officers, who attended a call out to a house, where a child was found with serious injuries.

Reacting, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), in Abuja on Wednesday described the incident as very unfortunate,and sad.

Dabiri-Erewa condoled with the family of the deceased and the Nigerian communities in the UK while praying that God grants rest to the soul of the departed.

“We call on the UK government for a thorough and proper investigation to be carried out on the incident,” the statement added.

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