After narrowly escaping death in their search for greener pastures abroad, many returnees from Edo State have begun to return to the perilous path. They are blaming their strange decision on failure of the state government to empower them two years after they were exposed to various agricultural trainings. Rather than stay back in the country and continue to suffer, they said, they would prefer dying searching for greener pastures abroad. INNOCENT DURU digs into the development and reports that the unbridled exodus of the returnees, some of who have also turned into traffickers themselves, is fast eroding the impression that the ugly practice is declining in the state.
AFTER a tortuous experience in Russia where she experienced a mysterious affliction that claimed all the savings she had abroad and back home in Nigeria, Florence Abu, a mother and housewife, is bent on going back to the European country to continue ‘selling her body’ in order to meet the needs of her family. During her initial adventure to Russia, the dark-complexioned lady said she was forced into working as a commercial sex worker by her pastor’s sister who paid for her trip.
Even though she didn’t enjoy her involvement in one of the oldest businesses in human history back then, the trade has now become something she is gladly ready to take to stave off the hardship that has become her lot. This time, she said, she will also be working as a trafficker, and brazenly vowed to traffic family members of public officials in Edo State who she said had failed in their promise to empower her. “When I came back from Russia, I met with the state government in the course of my advocacy against human trafficking. The government got interested and decided to call me over.
When I got there, the governor promised that they would integrate me. I have gone for so many trainings, and after each training, they would say they would set me up, but nothing is forthcoming. “Most of my colleagues I came back with have gone back.
They are not willing to stay here. I am the only one that chose to stay back and prove that there is hope in Nigeria, but it is like the government is not encouraging me.
“There is something in me that I want to bring out, but the government is not helping me to do so. If I am just sitting at home and doing nothing, then, what am I waiting for? I am now a mother. Even when I was single, I was crying and complaining. If I do anything drastic, it is the government that is pushing me to do what I don’t want to do.”
The vocal returnee said she would go back to selling her body if she succeeds in going back to Russia. She said: “My husband’s business is not moving well, and that is the reason why things are even very hard for me. I know he will feel bad if he hears that I want to go back and sell my body to survive. But instead of us dying in hunger. I woud it.
“Now, things are getting very hard for me as I cannot pay my rent or take care of my child. I am no longer comfortable with the situation of things. I am going back to where I came from. I am looking for traffickers who will take me along if that is the only way I can survive. If by any means I leave this country, I will become a trafficker myself. Government officials would have to be very prayerful so that I don’t come for their family members.
If I have the opportunity, I will traffic anybody that is related to them. “I have a child, but I have to feed that child. If there is no money for me to take care of that child, how would I be happy? I can’t watch my child die. The best thing for me to do is to fight for myself and fight for my child. I don’t want a situation where tomorrow the child grows up and says, ‘Mummy, you are suffering, I want to go and help you.’ “The child would now be doing what I don’t want all in the name of putting food on my table. I won’t allow it to happen. The best thing for me to do is to make the sacrifice for her. “I am saying all this so that the government can fulfil their promise. I just don’t want to do it without crying out. If nobody supports me, I will move ahead with my life. What I said I want to do, I would do.”
While Florence is contemplating taking to trafficking, a Libya returnee, Tony Jimo, said he was planning to return to the North African country and has already begun trafficking fresh indigenes of the state. He said: “Things are bad here for us. I initially came back in 2011, after which the government trained us in livestock farming but failed to empower us. I had to go back to Libya in 2015 when nothing was forthcoming.
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“My experience travelling through the dessert the first time was terrible. But when the government was not making good their promises, I had to go back the second time. I took 10 passengers (illegal migrants) along. I collected N150,000 from each of them. “All the money was not mine. It was for settling (bribing) immigration officers in Abuja, Kano and other places. We bought dollars and cefas on the way. What I made on each of them was not more than N5,000.”
Explaining the desperation of many of the indigenes to travel abroad, Jimo said: “Many people are still entering the desert. As I am speaking to you, my younger brother is begging me to traffic him. He was one of the people repatriated recently from Ghana. “If not for the help of IOM, many of us would have died in Libya. But it is better if we had died then than to be experiencing what we are going through now. By now, I would have known if I belong to God or I belong to the devil.
“The safest route to Europe now is Morocco through Algeria. If I have like 10 people now with N200,000 I will go. “Many people on the street are desperate to be trafficked. Let the government and the NGOs show us the returnees that they have empowered and we will show them thousands that have got no attention.
“IOM gave us N42,000 when we came back, before the Edo task force came to take us to Benin. The government should fulfil their promise to the returnees. Let them establish returnees’ farm. ” Another Libya returnee, Vivian Osaigbovo, said she has a debt of N500,000 the mother borrowed to facilitate her failed trip to Libya hanging on her neck. Reliving her ordeal, Vivian said: “I came back from Libya in 2018. I attended the IOM training on how to make hair but there was no empowerment thereafter.
“The training was done for five days. After the training, they asked us to send the cost of what we needed to start what we learnt. We have sent it but we are yet to get any response from them three months after. “I have been calling but their number has not been reachable.
That same number was reachable during the training and when we were processing the invoice we sent to them. Even the money that the government promised to give us is not forthcoming. “I have been hustling since I came back, working as a sales girl from one place to the other. I want the government to help open a shop for me. With that, I will survive. “I don’t want to go back to experience the horrors again if the government comes to my help. But if the government does not answer me, I will go back, not minding the challenges.
I will look for somebody to traffic me, because I have not been able to pay the N100,000 back from the N500,000 my mother helped me to borrow. Three of my colleagues have gone back.” Two other Libya returnees, Theresa Uwaida and Daniels Osaro, also expressed disappointment over the alleged failure of the government to empower them. Like their colleagues, they said they would be taking another shot at going to Libya.
Theresa said she was in Libya and about crossing to Italy when she was captured. She said: “I spent about nine months in detention. I came back in 2015 and the government promised to give us N100 million and 150 acres of land to start poultry business. “When the governor made the pronouncement, we were so excited. But they have been telling us to have hope since then. Na hope we wan chop? I have made attempts to return to Libya but I don’t have the money to do so. “I am a single mother. I don’t have anything to take care of my children.
I had the children before I travelled, and that was why my marriage didn’t work out again. “When they captured us in Libya, they were using us to engage in slave trade. My children couldn’t write the last examination because I had no money to pay their fees. I don’t know what will become of their future.” Miffed by what he described as the state government’s insensitivity to their plight, Osaro said: “What the government did to us since we returned is bad. They promised to integrate us in Agriculture Development Programme (ADP).
We spent three weeks undergoing the training. “After the training, they failed to provide the N100 million they promised. They made us to start a journey they would not help us to complete.” Highlighting the implication of the alleged failure of the government to empower them, Osaro said: “The government is putting more pressure on the security system by their action, because the street is full of people that are idle.
“My colleagues whose parents are well to do have helped them to go back since the government deceived us. I was detained in prison for seven years in Libya because of language barrier.” Pastor’s mother collects pubic hair, pant, others from victim Florence gave a shocking account of how the pastor’s mother collected her pubic hair before she embarked on the distasteful trip abroad. She said: “My pastor’s mother said she would not just allow me to go like that. She took my pant, hair from my head, armpit and private part, and also took my finger nail. The pastor himself was the one that asked me to go ahead and do it, to prove my innocence that I would not run away with the sister’s money. He gave me assurance that it was not going to harm me.
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“When I came back to Nigeria, I reported the matter to NAPTIP, because they were the people that received me when I came back. The pastor initially denied knowing me. In the long run, they accepted but said that was not their intention.” Our horrible experiences abroad The returnee said she was deceived into travelling to Russia in 2013 by her pastor who said the trip was to enable her hone her skills as a hairstylist and singer. On getting to Russia where she put up with the pastor’s sister, Florence was faced with the real reason she was lured abroad. Rather than being enrolled in a hairdressing or a music school, the naïve young lady was told point blank that the purpose of paying her bills to Russia was for her to go into prostitution and pay a whopping $45,000 in return. She said: “My experience in Russia was hell. When I got there, it was not what I was told that I would do that I ended up doing. They said since I was a hairstylist and a chorister, I would go over there to do the same thing.
“When I got there, I had to follow the trend because the lady told me that I had to do it or die. She collected my passport and that was how I started selling my body to pay back a total of $45,000. “After paying the pastor’s sister the money, things became bad for me and I fell seriously ill. I came back after developing a disturbing affliction on my face. It started as rashes and later became something like pimples. From there, it advanced to boils. I took drugs and even went to hospitals but it didn’t work.
“I spent a lot of money, including my savings, treating myself. I had to ask my people to send the money I had sent home to me to treat myself. Instead of dying in a foreign land, I ran to the Nigerian Embassy to complain, and that was how I came back. I thank God that after the intervention of some pastors, my face became okay. ” Although she was keen on making money, Florence said she was always protecting myself when sleeping with men back in Russia, adding: “But most of my friends were not protecting themselves. They were always doing it the fast way so that they could move ahead with their lives. I protected myself so that I would not be regretting tomorrow.
“We were charging per hour when dealing with men, and it is always about 3000 Robo. That is about N15,000 an hour. I always had one, two or more men every day. It is just like the weather which can either be bright or dark.” Recalling his plight trafficking other illegal migrants through the dessert, Jimo, said: “I was seriously dealt with in the dessert by rebels. They wounded me and I am still carrying the wound on my body till date. We fell into wrong connection during the trip. I told the boys I was trafficking to hold extra money aside the N150,000 because we needed to settle rebels. Some of them were not holding extra money.
“The rebels arrested about 50 vehicles and told us that each person must pay $100. They messed up many females and males. “When you fall into the hands of rebels, they will naked everybody. About five people will be raping one girl and you will be hearing the cry. Many of them died in the process and some others contracted diseases. Some of them that came back pregnant was because of what they experienced on the way.” Also recounting her ordeal going to Libya, Vivian said it was her girlfriend who brought her into the arrangement.
“She told me she wanted to travel and asked if I would like to go with her. We passed through hell in the dessert as many people were dying. The vehicle we boarded caught fire inside the dessert and there was no place for us to go. “We spent three weeks inside the dessert before we eventually got another vehicle. We had no water to have our bath. Where would you see water? Some people were drinking their urine when there was no water. When there was no urine to drink again, some survived and others died. “The rebels in the dessert raped my female friends but they didn’t touch me. Life in Libya was terrible. The country is one terrible place that I have seen in my life. “
Dominican Republic, IOM clear hurdles for 100,000 Venezuelan migrants
Santo Domingo – The first group of almost 100,000 Venezuelan migrants without legal status in the Dominican Republic have received visas allowing them to work, open bank accounts and join the social security system under the country’s Migration Normalization Plan.
Created by the Dominican government and launched with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the plan aims to regularize the Venezuelan population in three stages: application for extension of stay, visa, and residency. Since April, when the first phase began, 43,000 Venezuelans have registered to extend their stay and, on 1 July, the first group of 21 Venezuelans received their work visa.
“Now that I have my visa, I feel that for others like me a lot of opportunities are opening. We will be able to establish more safely and formally to offer a better future to our children,” says Gabriela Rivero, who arrived in the country with her husband and daughter in 2018. “Once we settled, we did not imagine how difficult it would be to get a job because the lack of documentation closed all doors.”
Since 2019 Gabriela has led a support organization for Venezuelan migrants in Santiago de los Caballeros called FEV (Fundación Emigrantes de Venezuela), which offers free orientation and helps hundreds of migrants daily to complete their normalization plan applications.
With IOM support, eight Venezuelan migrant organizations have created orientation hubs to assist the Venezuelan population who are applying to the plan. Of the 43,000 registered through the General Directorate of Migration (DGM) web page, around 9,000 have visited the hubs for help on the procedure. The promoters and coordinators of each hub – mostly Venezuelan migrants – have learned the process with the support and guidance of the DGM team and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MIREX). Besides being trained for orientation, they became the pilot group of the plan to receive their extensions and visas.
“The idea of this process is that we are the ones at the front of the hubs, a migrant helping a migrant, a Venezuelan helping a Venezuelan,” says Iván Carrera, a lawyer from Caracas and legal adviser of FUNCOVERD (Fundación Colonia de Venezolanos en RD). Carrera works as a promoter at the orientation hub in El Sambil Santo Domingo, one of the locations with the most people requesting support for their application.
IOM launches open South America portal
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 Spanish, English 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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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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