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Homecoming agony 1: Returnees bemoan failed promises by UN body, govt to empower them

Libya RETURNEES

•Condemnation trails exclusion of deportees, expelled migrants from trainings
•Large return of migrants may worsen insecurity- House Committee Chair
on Migration and Refugees •We have trained, empowered over 7, 000
returnees this year ­–National Commission for Refugees director

No fewer than 15, 000 stranded Nigerian migrants have in the last two years voluntarily returned to the country with the assistance of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a United Nations migration agency . The IOM in July 2017 said roughly 3,800 Nigerian migrants would receive in-kind reintegration assistance to start businesses, study or cover medical and accommodation costs after they return home from other African countries (an estimated 3,000 migrants) and from EU member states (800 migrants) over a period of three years (2017 to 2020). This, according to the organisation, represents a major scale-up in the reintegration assistance that IOM provided previously. More than one and a half years after their return, many of the returnees are yet to get the expected empowerment from IOM even after attending the reintegration programme facilitated by the organisation. The returnees’ woes are compounded by the failure of government to fulfil myriads of promises made to them on return to the country. With the number of migrants coming back to the country constantly increasing, INNOCENT DURU, in this report, examines the implication for the socio-economic and security situation of the country.

After a hellish experience during her turbulent sojourn in Libya, Anthonia heaved a sigh of relief when the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) came to evacuate her and other stranded migrants in the North African country back home to Nigeria.

Anthonia’s joy was not just that she was returning home unscathed, she was elated that after all she had suffered, there was hope that she would later have something to fall back on because she was voluntarily returned by the IOM.

Her confidence level rose when she was invited to participate in a reintegration programme by IOM in Lagos, after which she would be empowered. But that never came. Her vivacity gradually fizzled out after a long time of fruitlessly waiting for IOM’s support.

“I was part of the people brought back by IOM. When we came back, they promised that they would support us by starting businesses for us. I was part of the reintegration programme but I wasn’t empowered. I came back last year April. They accommodated us during the training and also reimbursed us for the money we spent on transportation. The training I attended was held in Lagos and I was given N5, 000 for transportation.

“They have not given me anything after that time. I have been in touch with them. They said they would support and asked me to provide some documents. I have been on it but the latest I heard from them was that they have transferred my case to another person. They have not replied me since then. I am acquiring skills in fashion designs. I have not received any support from the government,” she said in a tone laden with disappointment.

Anthonia is not alone in this. Sifahu Lasisi, who also came back through the Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR), also spoke of how her hope of bouncing back to financial independence through the support of IOM was dashed.

“I attended the training at IOM’s office located at Isaac John’s Street, Ikeja. They trained us on how to do business and make profit. For the six days we spent going to take part in the training, I was paid N6, 000. I have not received further help thereafter. I had gone to their office several times but nothing came out of it. I was forced to give up. I have nobody to help me.”

Also reliving his frustration waiting for IOM’s support, another returnee brought back under the AVRR programme, Christian, said: “I came back last year. I was one of the people brought back by IOM. I took part in the reintegration programme. I spent about a week attending the programme. They taught us some hand work but I told them that I am a driver.

“I have not been able to reach IOM officials after the training. I don’t even have their contact anymore. When we returned to the country, they promised us that they would empower us but I have not heard anything from them. I am surprised and disappointed.

“I have been helping people to wash car since I came back just to make both ends meet. I want the government to assist us. I am a driver and need a job to earn a living.” It was the same sad tale for Vitalis who also took part in the IOM’s reintegration programme. “I attended the training but got no support thereafter,” he said.

When The Nation called one of the numbers of the IOM officials, who was identified as Tope, to know why the returnees have not been empowered in line with the organisation’s mandate, he rhetorically asked: “What are their names? Who gave you my number? The person who gave you my number should call me. I don’t know how you got my number. I can’t respond to that question. Who are those people? Give me their names. Please oga, Iam very busy. I can’t answer that your question I beg o. I should know the people that made the allegation.”

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Our correspondent subsequently asked Sifahu who provided the IOM official’s mobile to call him.

The embattled returnee later called to inform our correspondent that Tope neither answered her call nor called back. “He also did not respond to a text message I sent to him,” Sifahu said disconsolately.

The Nation subsequently contacted the European Union office in Nigeria to find out why some of the migrants who voluntarily returned with IOM were yet to be empowered.

The International Aid/Cooperation Officer Migration, Drugs and Organised Crime, EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Eleni Zerzelido, declined speaking on the phone but on two occasions requested that our correspondent should send messages to her.

As at the time of filing this report, Eleni was yet to respond to the messages sent via WhatsApp and regular text message.

The EU and the IOM entered into a partnership for the Protection and Reintegration of Migrants, which was launched in Nigeria on 20 July, 2017. The European Union Trust Fund (EUTF) support is part of the EU–IOM Initiative.

Returnees lament successive governments’ failed promises

The frustration of not being empowered by IOM for many of the returnees is bearable compared to the failure of successive governments in the country to make good their promises to the beleaguered migrants.

Some of the returnees in Edo State told The Nation how they went into agriculture to make both ends meet and shun the temptation of embarking on another round of irregular migration but got no support. They recounted how they formed cooperative societies to enable them access loans but ended up disappointed.

One of the leaders of the cooperative groups, Pastor Dongo, said: “ I am the head of Victory Farmers Cooperative Society. We are into fish farming. I actually head two cooperative groups and both are into fish farming. We have not received any support from any government. Edo State government under Obaseki trained us but we are yet to be empowered. When they made the promises to us, we were praising them all over the social media but at the end nothing came out of it.

“This is why most of us went to hustle on our own. It has not been easy hustling without support. I attended training on fish farming for good three months, wasting all my money on transportation. Some of my cooperative members don’t have money. I have to foot their bill in order to encourage them. At the end, like I said, we are just at the mercy of fate. We only thank God that we are still alive.”

Expressing fears about the large number of jobless returnees in the country, Dongo said: “The situation of things in the country is an eyesore. In my area, once it is 7 O’ clock, you will not see a single fly outside. Yesterday (Tuesday), there were gunshots for good three hours. Things are getting out of hand.

“The major problem of our youths is unemployment and hunger. I believe strongly that if our youths are empowered and they work during the day, they would sleep at night. But when they are idle in the day, they would be busy at night.

“Some of my members have been expressing the desire to travel again but being a pastor, I have been talking to them, giving them hope that one day, God will help us. Some of them have started learning how to repair generators and other skills. Nobody has left in my group but it cannot be zero per cent in all the groups. Some will come today and in the next three months, they are back again.”

For Chidi, the head of Fish Farmers Cooperative Society, it was endless lamentation as he relives the ordeal of his members . “No government has ever empowered us. We are a registered body and we have our certificate. Since the expected empowerment from the govern ment didn’t come through, we are operating individually, but we hold meetings from time to time. We are not happy with the state of things. It is because of lack of support that the cooperative society is not functioning the way it should be.

“It is not everybody in the group that has the money to start the business of fish farming. It is those whose parents helped to raise funds that have started farming. Our personal efforts are grossly insufficient but instead of staying back and doing nothing, we have decided to be productive and take care of our families. We have made efforts to get loans from a new generation bank we opened an account with but nothing came out of it after they had tossed us up and down,” he said.

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Chidi suddenly became emotional as he recounted how some of his frustrated members have perished trying to make another attempt at going abroad. “Many of our members have gone back through the desert to places like Morocco because there was no hope of empowerment from the government. Many of them even died in the process because they there was nobody to assist them.”

When The Nation cornered Tony Jimoh, the leader of Snail Farming Cooperative Society, he told of how they registered the group last year with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, adding: “We are 27 in my group. Some other groups have 27 members each too. Our farmland is more than four hectares. We contributed money to get the land. Nobody has given us any support since we started. They have only been promising to assist without fulfilling it. They only brag and do nothing. We came back from Libya in 2011. We started the group in 2013 but it was not registered. It has been promises galore since then till this time.”

Former leader of the Nigerian Migrants in Tripoli, Libya, Sidi Yakubu, who is based in Kogi State, also said: “Government has done nothing to empower us. I came back in 2011 and have received no form of assistance since then. I came in on as a diplomatic returnee. I have been on the street since I came back. I have been part of one or two civil society groups which have helped in one way or the other.

“There are dangers in continuously bringing people back without providing jobs for them. They could be used as thugs during election period and can be engaged in criminal activities. The way out is for the government to train and empower returnees and give them a conducive environment to operate in. I went to Libya legitimately. I worked there for eight years with an international organisation. I couldn’t take the risk of staying back there because my life was at risk. The rebels raided my house and brought it down.

We have been training, empowering returnees- National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs (NCFRMI)

The Director, Refugee and Migrants at the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and IDPs (NCFRMI) , Hamidu Lawal, in a chat with our correspondent, dismissed the allegations of the returnees, saying that the commission has always trained and empowered returnees. “We actually do empowerment, which we call Durable Solution. We don’t it not only for migrants but also for IDPs and persons of concern. This empowerment is in phases. When migrants return, we do NEEDS Assessment.

“We aggregate their needs, knowing those who want to go to school and those who want to do other things. We take an aggregate of whatever they want to do. Most of these returnees, especially those stranded in Libya and Cameroon are adults who want to do something for livelihood and not education. We have a training skill for them, which we do together with our partners like the IOM and others”.

This year, he said, “We have trained over 7, 000 of them. We do this sometimes on our own and sometimes with our partners. Thereafter, we empower them. If you want to open a shop, we will get a shop for you, buy the goods and pay the rent for at least two years. We paid rent for those who came back from Cameroon; we gave them food for six months and empower them in a trade after training.

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

“When they come back, we take them back to their local communities or any communities they choose to stay in and we empower them from there. Last week, we set up a cooperative group in Numan, Adamawa State. It is a rice milling cooperative. We set up the cooperatives and gave them the machines and capital to do their work. We are going to do the same thing in oil mill in Adamawa State. We teach others on how to make soap and other skills.

“The figure of migrants who have been brought back is over than 14, 000. I know that NEMA brought back 2, 100; IOM has brought back over 16, 000 migrants. Those who are deported because of immigration problems are being brought back on a regular basis.”

He further pointed out that “some of the migrants don’t understand that this intervention is in their interest. Some of them disappear immediately they arrive. Even when we have given them SIM cards so that we can keep in touch, they don’t come back. It is not the fault of the intervening authorities. It is the fault of the beneficiaries. Some of them want to be given physical cash. The programme is tailored in such a way that the cash doesn’t get to their hands. If it is a store he wants, we would do that and get the equipment.

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“Some of these people coming from Mali, Europe and so on have criminal history. Most of them are returning for immigration related offences. Those ones fizzle away immediately they arrive. Some of them because of circumstances key into this programme. The ones that came back from Cameroon because they are refugees are fully part of the process. Most of them have been returned to their villages and empowered.”

Stakeholder decry returnees’ plight

Some stakeholders on migration issues in the country, who spoke with our correspondent, flayed the plight of the returnees.

The Director of the Centre for Youth Integrated Development (CYID), Victor Aihawu, said: “When we met in Morocco, the international reintegration officer of IOM said if reintegration does not lead to financial independence, that it is not sustainable. IOM does not work with forced deportation. They deal with voluntary returns. But the truth is that there are so many people that came under that voluntary return that they have not implemented their programmes. Because I don’t work with IOM, I wouldn’t know what the problem is.

“The NCRI is supposed to be the agency supervising the work that IOM is doing in Nigeria. IOM is not the owner of the funds. They are only working with the money given to them by EU. The NCRI is in the best position to answer why this and this have not been done. If the NCRI asks IOM that they are aware that after one and a half years, so many returnees have not gone through their reintegration programme, what is the problem? IOM will immediately respond to them because if they fail to do that, the NCRI can write to the EU and terminate their contract.

Unfortunately, the NCRI is not supervising anything. When you have a country where their migration management is 100 per cent in the hands of foreign donors, he who pays the piper will dictate the tune. The standard operating procedures in Nigeria, which we are reviewing now, only covers voluntary return because it was IOM that sponsored the draft. Nigerians are Nigerians irrespective of how they came back. tion, expulsion, they all should be entitled to reintegration because you don’t even know the danger of receiving people you don’t even have their background information. Most of these returnees 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.”

Also expressing concern about the plight of the returnees, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on IDPs, Refugees and North East Initiatives, Hon. Muhammed Umar Jega, said it is a serious matter. “In the first place, they are leaving their country for another in search of greener pasture. When they get there, they are declared persona non grata because they don’t have valid documents. This comprises educated and non-educated. We need to make our system better and make our economy work so that people don’t leave the country.

“It has serious security implications. When people are idle, their minds would become the devil’s workshop, as the saying goes. Some people cannot even provide some basic needs. You know it is a serious matter. The way forward is to make our system work.”

He added: “This is the work of the executive. Ours is to enact the law and also ensure there is supervision and implementation of this law, that is an oversight on the part of the executive to ensure they are doing the right thing.

“This question is better answered by the minister of humanitarian affairs because they are supposed to provide a policy direction and where they think they need some legal framework from us, they should let us know. The minister of humanitarian affairs should make adequate provisions for the rehabilitation of those returning so that they will be reintegrated back to their families.”

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Nigerians in Spain say no to genocide

Nigerians resident in Spain have kicked against bad governance and brutalitalisation of innocent citizens by security operatives in Nigeria.

They are in solidarity with the #Endsars protesters.

The #Endsars protest  started by young Nigerians to say no to brutality, impunity and gruesome killings in the hands of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the government in the country saw security operatives using live bullets on the protesters last week, October 21, 2020.

In a statement signed by Afolabi Oloko, the Nigerians in Spain said: “In every part  of the world, including Nigeria, we believe protesting is a fundamental right of all citizenry that we can exercise whenever we deem it fit as long as it is civil and devoid of violence but such is not the case in Nigeria where the young future of the country are murdered by their very own government just because they made demands that there must be a reform to the notorious Police department and that the country be reformed in general. Have they asked for too much from a responsible and responsive government?

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“It is so disheartening that after Ten days that the youth refused to back down they resorted to killing, maiming of their own future generations just because they asked and begged for good governance and good policing. It’s a shame that young people are being killed all around the cities of Nigeria from Lagos, Abeokuta, Ibadan, Abuja, Ondo , Benin, Porthacort just to mention a few. It was horrendous seeing over seventy people being murdered at night while still protesting unarmed peacefully in Lekki area of Lagos state. They organised by switching off the street light while they carried out their evil deed against defenceless young people of the country and also took away the CCTV. The commander-in-chief of the Armed forces in person of President Muhamodu Buhari must be tried at the International court for genocide against it’s own people.

“We the compatriots far away in Spain are with our young brothers and sister on the streets saying no to bad governance as you’re in our hearts and prayers. We support you in the just cause you’re are fighting. Fighting for one’s future should not be seen as an affront to the authorities, rather they should look inward and realise that the system is rotten and should be cleansed but not killing innocent young men on the streets with Army being deployed to take lives of vibrant and resourceful, frustrated and change hungry citizens.
“Today, we came out in multitude in solidarity with our compatriots back home to say #ENDSARS! #ENDBADGOVERNANCE #ENDPOLICEBRUTALITY #ENDCORUPTION #ENDTHEGENOCIDE”

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ILO, IOM sign agreement to strengthen collaboration on migration governance

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) today signed an Agreement to create a framework for cooperation and collaboration to enhance the benefits of migration for all.

The framework includes joint support for improved migration governance, capacity building and policy coherence at national, regional and global levels. Other areas of work may also be developed.

The Agreement was signed by Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General, and António Vitorino, the IOM Director-General, on Friday at the ILO Headquarters in Geneva.

Speaking after the signing ceremony, Ryder said, “this Agreement seals an important alliance between our two organizations. Together, we will be stronger and more effective in both fulfilling our individual mandates and in collaborating on areas that are crucial for reshaping the world of work so that it is more inclusive, equitable and sustainable.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic is having a brutal impact on economies and societies. Vulnerable groups, particularly migrant workers and their families, are being disproportionately hit. There could be no better time to reinforce our partnership and combine our strengths, so that we can help countries and our constituents build back for a better future.”

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DG Vitorino said, “the agreement that we are signing today will help us further solidify our collaboration at the time when joint solutions are so much needed, with a pandemic that is hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. As we move towards post-pandemic recovery, we fully embrace the call to build a better world together, tapping into the added value of each partner. With ILO, we have much to co-create and we look forward to future cooperation within the broader UN family, with our partner governments, private sector and civil society.”

The new ILO-IOM Agreement builds on the agencies’ comparative advantages, expertise, and respective constituencies. By encouraging joint initiatives, the Agreement aims to strengthen international migration governance and boost cooperation, capacity building and joint advocacy to promote migrants’ rights and decent work opportunities.

By encouraging social dialogue, it will allow workers` and employers` organizations – who sit equally with governments in the ILO’s tripartite membership structure – to contribute to policy discussions.

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A workplan will be developed in the next six months to push forward the collaboration at global, regional and country levels and, more importantly, facilitate the implementation of the Agreement in the field, where both agencies are working directly with affected populations.

It will seek to enhance the agencies joint contribution to their member states, UN country teams, and societies to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Agreement will also allow the ILO and IOM to strengthen support for their respective constituencies in implementing the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM), and contribute to other global and regional migration policy fora and debates.

Support Voice for African Migrants


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Stop enslavement of Africans in other continents- Experts tell African leaders

The second international migration summit by the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM) ended on Friday, October 16, 2020,  at the Pensioners FM, Ibadan, Oyo State, with a call to  African leaders to deliver good governance to halt continued enslavement of the Africans in other continents through irregular migration.

The conference themed: Migration governance and media strategy for development   with physical and virtual presentations was attended by hundreds of journalists and other participants across the world.

President of JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi, in his remark after signing a memorandum of understanding with the Diaspora Innovation Institute (DII), US, on training and investment opportunities for journalists, said the global media body with over 200 journalists spread across the continents as parts of the fallouts of the summit would produce glossary of terminologies for over 10,000 journalists and media houses beyond Africa.

Speaking at the occasion, Governor Oluwaseyi Makinde of Oyo State hailed JIFORM’s  advocacy and identified poverty as the root cause of irregular migration pledging commitment to reverse the tide through good governance.

Represented by Barrister Olubunmi Ogunniran, Director General of Legal Administration, Oyo State Ministry of Justice, the governor said apart from rescuing trafficked indigenes of the state abroad and creating diaspora unit, he had inaugurated a task force against human trafficking, sexual offenders with prosecute department and further engagement of the youths through economic activities.

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Minister of Labour Sierra Leone, Mr Alpha Timbo; Ghana Ambassador to Egypt, Lebanon and Sudan, Nii Okai Hammond, and the United Nations Youth Ambassador (Ghana), Lilian Addo, all praised what they tagged courageous movement by JIFORM and promised to support the body in its quest to further spread its advocacies.

Chairman of the summit, Patrick Lumumba,  rued the faulty labour and trade laws in Africa limiting development and called on the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) for ntervention to remove migration barriers causing undue frictions between Ghana and Nigeria ditto for the African Union to end the xenophobic attacks in South Africa against other African nationals.

He blamed the crisis on misapplication of resources and corruption among African leaders and urged them to retrace their steps to save the youths from desperate migration to other continents through the desert and the Mediterranean Sea.

Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Matters, Tolulope Akande-Sadipe lauded JIFORM’s efforts to eradicate irregular migration and vowed to rescue and end the suffering of stranded Nigerians lured through human trafficking to the Middle East and other Arabian nations through collaborations.

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Member of African Union Advisory Committee on Labour Migration, (Ghana) Dr Princess Ocansey urged the African nations to end the Kafala bilateral agreement entered into with some Middle East countres that permitted the en-slavery of mostly African women.

“African leaders must wake up to save the youths from deadly work they are being subjected and replace that with decent work. The Kafala system is a shame and very dehumanizing” she said.

Former Canada Minister of Immigration, Gerry Weiner while delivering his presentation urged the African youths to acquit themselves with the right processes to tap into numerous diaspora opportunities in Canada and elsewhere.

Weiner, who had 12 years working experience in Africa, said only safe and regular migration, would guarantee the actualization of the desire to be part of  economic activities in the world.

The summit had participation from several international speaker that Prince Akin Ojomo from DII; included Johanna Mac from Erich Brost Institute, Germany; Barrister Samuel Adeusi and Ms Omotola Fawunmi both from the US; International Organization for Migration (IOM), Nigeria and Gambia; Rescue African Mission; Synergy Rescue Mission; ThisLebanon Lebanon; Nigerians In Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM); National Agency for Prohibition of Trafficking In Persons (NAPTIP); Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS); Ghana Immigration Service; Diaspora Innovation Institute, New York, America; and Ghana Immigration Service.

READ  JIFORM signs MoU with Institute of Innovation (DII), US for members' training

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