Stranded Nigeriansin different countries overseas are groaning as the Federal Government continues to foot-drag and double speak on its plans to evacuate the citizens who are willing to return to the country from different parts of the world.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyema had last the week, April 8, 2020, to be precise announced that the government was set to bring back the stranded citizens.
Within a space of three weeks that Onyema gave the assurance, the government is yet to make good its plans leaving the citizens at the risk of being infected by the virus.
The United States, United Kingdom, Israel, France, Germany among others showed the extent they value their citizens’ lives when they swiftly evacuate their citizens from Nigeria and other parts of the world, even though they have worse cases of the pandemic.
Tweeting after the Nigeria Covid-19 Presidential Task Force (PTF) programme held on April 8, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Geoffrey Onyema while responding to questions about the citizens who are stranded abroad, said the government had been working on evacuating the citizens, dismissing claims that the government’s action was a response to letters written by the stranded citizens.
“The #PTFCOVID19 under the chairmanship of the SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha has actually been engaging with this since the closure of the international airports. So, the response was not as a result of letters coming in from Nigerians abroad as has been mentioned in some media houses.
“At the time of request, we did not have all our isolation centres and all the other logistical arrangements in place. So for that reason, we kept it in abeyance while we were putting all those things in place and now, we have sufficient beds and so forth and protocol is now well established, and we now feel much stronger and in a better position to undertake this herculean task of trying to see how we can bring Nigerians outside the country back into the country.
“In that context, we’ve now started to get great numbers of Nigerians especially in the United States where almost 200 have now indicated and are willing to return. We are engaging with our Embassies in #China and the High Commission in #London and also in #France to work out all the logistics. Things are now falling in place, and we are getting a sense of what needs to be done.
“It is important that the willing Nigerians engage ONLY with the Embassies and High Commission where they are.It is the Embassies and High Commission that are collating names and making necessary arrangements.
“We have 67 Nigerians, including children, men and women, that were in Cote d I’voire and we needed to engage the Government of Togo, the Government of Benin for them to be able to go through.
“They are now at the Nigerian border and we got the authorisation of the Government of Benin for them to come into the country. They will be in isolation for the mandatory 14 days once they have come in. #COVID19.”
The minister’s assurance that the country was ready to commence the onerous task of bringing back the stranded citizens started fizzling out when spoke at the Covid 19 Task Force meeting. His tweeted on that day, April 16, read: “We‘ve received all the numbers from our various embassies around the world. We‘ve selected 2 airlines that‘ll be responsible for fetching them. Nos (numbers) are high, & we don’t have isolation spaces for everyone at same time. So we‘ll have to stagger the repatriation.”
“Nigeria has selected two airlines that will bring back Nigerians stranded in various countries around the world. Because of the high numbers, and limited mandatory-isolation spaces in Nigeria, the evacuations will be done in batches.”
The government it appears enjoys doing more talking and taking less action, as it daily inundates with needless stories of obstacles to evacuating the citizens.
When many were expecting to hear that the country was bringing the first batch of the citizens, the Foreign Affairs Minister on Tuesday, April 21, said: “We have to choose which countries we want to start the evacuation process and are looking at 200 evacuees that we can accommodate both in Lagos and Abuja since they will be in isolation for 14 days.
“The most important part at this stage is to secure transportation to bring them back which we have done.
Just yesterday, April 22, the minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, while responding to questions about the possibility of
Nigeria government increasing the numbers of evacuees from 200 to 500 Nigerians stranded abroad to make the evacuation faster and ease their financial challenges, said:
“In terms of the timeline of evacuations, we had hoped to have started evacuations already, but we have huge numbers all around the world and as such a delicate exercise.
“We took medical advice and asked what was possible and the figure we were given was 200 for Lagos and 200 for Abuja, of course this is much less than the numbers that are waiting to come back but we are constrained by the facilities that are available.
“We have the internal challenges because the figures are going up as well, so we have a great responsibility to ensure these facilities are available to deal with the immediate challenges we are facing back home.
“But if opportunity presents itself and we find that more facilities become available, then of course we would look at the possibility of expanding and increasing the number of people that we can bring back home.
Stranded citizens groan
Some stranded citizens have expressed frustration about the government’s planned evacuation that is daily greeted with hopeless stories. Some of them lamented that they have resorted to begging after exhausting their resources.
Tweeting at the minister, Akim Abubakar
(@akimabubakar) said: “The more you leave us stranded abroad the more we are exposed to the virus and http://abuse.How do we survive this 200 batches strategy for 2,000 people? God this is just like a dream to me. please review the strategy, we appeal.
“Sir please it will take about 7 months to evacuate in batches of 200s inclusive of 14 days isolation. Why not convert hotels near airports in Lagos, Abuja and also hotels in Ogun and Nassarawa due to proximity and at the expense of evacuees, am in Berlin and frustrated.”
AijayGold @aijay_gold, said: “Sir, please save us from South Africa. We have done the tests requested already and it is getting old. We have a number of pregnant women and nursing mothers desperate to go home before their winter becomes strong. Please help. No word of our fate from anyone.
“I only came for a medical treatment. Was to stay just 12 days but alas the shutdown. I have spent so much money trying to pay for accommodation since 26th March. My guest house are pressuring me to get my govt to evacuate me. I hope I don’t get thrown out in the street. Pls help.”
Dee @Darlingtonf13 said: “…diaspora at risk while waiting for 2 weeks+ before it gets to their turn. A lot of us came here for holiday and business and really need to be with our family at this trying times. Most Nigerians are already beggars in the street here because the ‘strandedness’ is at its peak.@NigeriaGov should review this strategy because at this moment, the world is at war and the best place to be is HOME.
Akindele Abiola @AbiolaOyeboade: “Going by 200 evacuees every 14 days means it will take over five months to evacuate the 2000+ stranded Nigerians that have signified interest in returning home. This makes the whole process defeat its aim of truly helping Nigerian stranded in abroad in the midst of this pandemic.”
Atorohoma Nelson @Nelzmeister: “Hello sir. I think the problem of Isolation can be solved if the Government partner with Hotels around the Airport, get their facilities at cheaper rates and I’m sure some of the returnees will be more than willing to pay for their accommodation and feeding for the 14 day period.
In God We Trust (@twittlarge): “… you should call all ambassador/high commissioner to order in this time of pandemic so that their various countries can treat Nigerians with respect before they start using Nigeria’s as lab rats
Adadioramma @IgwiloMadonna:”Please the one’s in China needs urgent attention, they sleep in the streets chinese people chased them out of house and hotels. So please sir those guys needs government more than any other Nigeria in diaspora. God bless you sir. Chineke gozie gi ri nne.”
Dee (@Darlingtonf13): “Sir this strategy is dangerous. Why not convert most hotels around airport to quarantine centers and make it optional for those that can afford it, Also there are a lot of warehouses you can convert to quarantine centers. 200 in batches is like putting the life of others in…
debby25 @debby2518: “Please sir what about we stuck in South Africa?”
Peacemaker @aduralere06: “Thanks for the steps so far but sir, 200 out of millions of Nigerians willing to come home is something else sir. Which means others would have to wait for another 14days in the hell Nigerian citizens are facing here. My suggestion is using other cities in order to save our lives
Toyin Oyewole @ToyinOyewole: The number of returnees needing to be accommodated can be significantly reduced and the entire evacuation operation expedited, if they are all tested on arrival, and those that test negative are allowed to go home
Tindel Travels @TindelT:: “You’re on point, if Emirates airlines can test passengers at the airport before flights and gets results in 10 minutes why can’t the government get such kits, test and release those that are negative to go home and probably still self isolate if need be.
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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