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Dilemma of Nigerian migrants: Stranded citizens cry to return home as  returnees plan traveling back

The predicament of Nigerian migrants appears to be getting  worse on a daily basis as the effects of COVID  19 and myriads of other challenges have continued to make life unbearable for them. While some stranded abroad are itching to return to the country, some returnees are doing everything possible to leave the country. PHILIPPINE-OBETO DURU reports.

 

A Nigerian migrant who survived the Beirut blast is one of the latest victims of inhuman treatment constantly meted out to Nigerians, other Africans in Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East.

After surviving the blast, her boss prevented her from leaving Lebanon as she was reported to the authorities as a runaway. No thanks to the Kafala system which gives unbridled control to masters of these unfortunate victims of human trafficking.  “ The explosion threw me in the air. I saw dead bodies. I’m at the airport but they won’t allow five  of us to board because  our madams reported us as runaways. If you don’t hear from me again, I’m in prison.” NOW SHE’S IN PRISON. SHAME ON,” This is Lebanon, an international Non Governmental  Organization,  posted on its Instagram page shared with us.

Ground Coordinator of This is Lebanon, Nia Evans, told this website that the ordeal of Nigerian migrants in the Middle East, Lebanon in particular has been compounded by the COVID 19 pandemic. Many Migrant Domestic Workers (MDW)  experienced racism when at the testing centres in Lebanon. Most MDW are financially destitute and therefore unable to pay for PCR tests both in Lebanon and Nigeria. Upon arrival to Nigeria MDW were being forced to pay $150 for a further PCR test and if they did not present the funds were threatened with imprisonment. Some MDW were returned back to their employers for not having paid the $150 on credit card prior to boarding and charged full price for re-booking their tickets,” Nia said.

 

Ben, one of the Nigerians deported from Austria and Germany on Thursday, November, 12, 2020, decried the level of racism against Nigerians in Austria, adding that their predicament was worsened by the pandemic.

“In Austria, Nigerians suffer seriously from racism. Citizens of other African countries like Ghana, Somalia and others are not so treated.  Don’t know why. Many are in prison where bathing is not allowed for more than two days in a week. Many inmates have rashes all over their bodies and feeling unwell. The pandemic worsened our situation because we were indoors and weren’t making money for a long time. I am supposed to return home and be happy among my people but here I am back home with nothing,” he said despondently.

Back home,  the ravaging effects of the pandemic and other push factors such as the wide spread #Endsars protests have also made life unbearable for many returnees tempting them to want to leave the country at all costs.

Emma who was deported from Germany told us that he has lost the little job he got because of the pandemic. It (COVID 19)  affected me in many ways.  The company I was working with has stopped  me. I have  no job now and no company is employing  anybody. I am at home doing nothing.

 

Asked if he has the temptation to leave the country again, he said: “Yes because of hardship” adding that his friends abroad are already asking him to come back.

“They told me to come back there because life is better up there than in Nigeria. I don’t have money to go but I will  ask my friends to support me. I have been speaking  with GIZ and IOM to support me for tools because I am into welder fabrication. It is really difficult for me here. If they can support me with tools I’ll be happy.”

READ  Covid- 19: Migrants, refugees, IDPs might not access concomitant human rights enshrined in international law -AU

 

When this reporter informed Emma that efforts to reach his fellow deportee has been fruitless, he said: “He has sold his phone in order to have money to eat. He is also out of job and has nobody to assist him.”

 

It was also the same tale of lamentation for Motun, who returned from Lebanon recently.

“Life has not been what we expected it to be when we were coming home. We didn’t come back with any money so survival has been pretty difficult.”

 

IOM Public information Officer , other activists react

IOM’ s Public Information Officer, Jorge Galindo,  said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on people’s livelihood and economic prospects around the world and Nigeria is no exception. “According to a recent assessment conducted with 105 Nigerian returnees in Edo and Delta states, 96 per cent reported that they are now worse-off financially compared to before the start of the pandemic. In addition to lower income, beneficiaries’ purchasing power has also taken a hit. Three-quarters of Nigerian respondents reported that food and basic items are now much more

expensive than previously.”

 

Jorge Galindo

Socio-economic factors according to Jorge play a key role in the mobility of persons. “Given the direct implications of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s economic situation, it is anticipated that there will be an impact on mobility trajectories in migration-prone communities. In the Southern States, where approximately 20,500 Nigerian migrants had returned from Libya and European countries, the pandemic has heightened vulnerabilities associated with return and reintegration into their communities of origin.”

He further said: “Though it is too early to attribute any current increase or decrease in irregular migration to the economic impacts of COVID-19 in the country, it is predicted that these impacts will become a push factor for people at risk in areas with large migrant outflows such as Edo, Delta and Lagos states. Moreover, according to IOM’s assessment, diseases outbreaks and subsequent factors can be key drivers of human trafficking.

 

“Criminal groups such as traffickers are likely to take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities for exploitative purposes. Increasing rates of unemployment which will likely worsen in the foreseeable future will add additional pressures on workers and increase competition for jobs, while reducing flows of international remittances to countries of origin, thereby exposing more families to poverty.”

 

Concluding, he said: “Remittances are a lifeline in the developing world. The loss of income from COVID-19 is likely to lead to a colossal $109 billion drop in remittances – the equivalent of nearly three-quarters of all official development assistance.”

Speaking on the plight of the citizens in the Middle East, founder of RebirthHub Africa, Omotola Fawunmi, noted that quite a number of people who emigrate from Nigeria or  who found themselves in what we know as the Kafala system did that because they were practically economic migrants seeking a better quality of life for themselves and for their family members.

 

Omotola Fawumi

 

“Unfortunately, some of these ladies ended up being tricked by traffickers with a promise of a better opportunity. Sadly, the COVID -19 simply aggravated the situation of migrant domestic workers across the world because their principals could not pay them. A lot of them, particularly in Lebanon were kicked off the street.

 

“If you have spoken with some of our partners on ground, they will give you a better picture of the condition of living of some of these ladies on the streets. Another thing is that many of them didn’t have enough money to come back home. Many approached the embassies and many of the embassies were quite unhelpful and unwilling to provide support until the migrant domestic workers had to cry out.

 

What is the impact of this on irregular migration? Omotola replied: “For those who have successfully returned home, they have returned to a country where there is no work or where there has been a lull in economic activities because of the covid pandemic. Now add to that, extreme poverty, non-reponsiveness of people in government who have the responsibility to create an enabling environment for these citizens to thrive.

 

“What we have on our hand is that many more are going to try to leave again. Unfortunately, this time, more desperately because the Nigeria they left  has become worse. If you add to that the #Endsars protest and the arsons, and the lootings that have happened over the weeks we have on our hand a very serious situation because there are no jobs. A lot of businesses have been destroyed. Families need to feed and people  need to get education and so they will look in the direction of any opportunity that is dangled before them.

 

Advising the authorities, she said: “My counsel is that the government and its agencies should be more proactive in providing migrant information to people in low income communities so that they can verify their options.

 

“We had a lady who we brought back in April. Only last week, she reached out to me saying that she knew that I brought her back from Lebanon but that ‘someone is offering me an opportunity to go to Australia’ and that she thinks it is a good opportunity. She said they told her it is just 19 hours from Nigeria and that she could come back anytime she likes.

I said we should ask the person what he is offering. She said they told her she would be a sales girl in Australia. I asked why can’t she be a sales girl in Nigeria and she said well, that she has been back for a couple of months, learnt a couple of skills ( I know she has worked as a cobbler and we have sent her recently to learn hair dressing and a couple of vocational skills for a week) but she believes that she doesn’t have a market to sell and so this opportunity of a sales girl seems to be a good idea and she is willing to go.

 

“I sent her a couple of questions to ask this supposed recruiter. I said she should tell me who this recruiter is and ask him what city in Australia they are taking her to and what company she would be working with. What came out of it was very powerful. The moment she started asking questions, the recruiter was very offended and he sent abusive words in the voice note that came after. He questioned  her for asking too many questions. He said if she knew that much then why asking him too many questions.”

 

Omotola regretted that: “We frustrate a culture of enquiry by shooting it down by making people feel that when they ask questions they are confronting authorities. But it is not. It is to clarify. People need to come out of a space that limits one.  They need to come to a space of light, a space of advancement, a space of enquiry where they can have mental engagement. The government needs to provide an environment where people to ask questions.  If they say they are being recruited to a particular country, where can they get information about that. A lot of them will never make it to the embassy so they cannot ask question from the nationals of those countries.

 

“So there needs to be a migrant information centre. I am aware that there is one in Lagos State but a lot of these recruitments are happening outside Lagos. Can we have migrants’ information centres across local governments where people can go to and ask questions?”

 

Following the attitude of the Nigerian government to the developments in the country, President of Initiative for Youth Awareness on Migration, immigration Development and Re-integration (IYAMIDR) , Comrade Solomon Okoduwa, said: “with what is currently going on in Nigeria now, coupled with the jail break in Edo state, people are already on their way to Libya enroute Europe. They want to find alternative means for their lives. Irregular migration has just been encouraged.

Okoduwa

“Nigerian youths are not lazy at all, they must find a way to live a happier and a better life when they feel neglected by those they elected. With the level of hunger in the land, unemployment on the increase, insecurity and other factors will surely fuel irregular migration in the coming days.”

 

The federal government earlier on had  advised Nigerians who are planning to migrate to make use of the newly created Migrant Resource Centres (MRC) to get adequate information relating to their destination countries.

The government said the centres were established in collaboration with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to stem the tide of irregular migration by Nigerians.

The National Agency for Prohibition  of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) also said it has been working round the clock with relevant government and international organisations to assist stranded Nigerians abroad.

Head of Intelligence and International Cooperation Unit NAPTIP, Angela Aleakhue Agbayekhai, said the agency has directly been  engaging the victims via telephone call/whatsapp chats, to interview them, learn first-hand their situation and location, transmitting information to the victims on location of Nigerian Mission(s) in that country as well as foreign partners (NGOs) they could contact for immediate assistance.

She added that the agency has also been transmitting victims’ information to relevant authorities  like MFA,  IOM,  NIA, NIDCOM etc) for urgent intervention. “We have been contacting victims’ family members to establish the circumstances that led to their being trafficked apprehending those culpable in their movement abroad (traffickers) for prosecution.”

 

 

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IOM appeals for lifesaving assistance to over half a million displaced and vulnerable migrants in Niger

International Organisation of Migration (

Niger, one of the Sahel region’s busiest transit countries for migrants, faces multiple emergencies. COVID-19, ongoing security threats and generations of deeply embedded poverty have contributed to a growing humanitarian crisis, with over half a million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and their host communities in need of essential services. Another 135,000 vulnerable migrants also need assistance in Niger in 2021.

To be able to provide much-needed assistance, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) today is appealing for USD 121 million to provide essential support to migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities in 2021.

Continuous returns of migrants from Algeria—as well as migratory movements through Niger, both to and from Algeria and Libya—leave migrants lacking shelter, food, water and health assistance. In addition to these essential humanitarian interventions IOM is equally committed to promoting stability and social cohesion between host communities, IDPs and migrants.

Despite the official closure of land borders since 19 March, migrants continue to travel to, through and out of Niger on longstanding migration routes mainly to Libya and Algeria. IOM assists stranded migrants through its humanitarian operations (on the border with Algeria) and with search and rescue operations in Niger’s northern Agadez region, after which many migrants receive assistance in one of IOM’s six transit centres in Niger.

READ  Nigerian embassy attacked in Indonesia

An IOM assessment last year concluded at least 2.7 million migrants were stranded unable to return to their country of residence by COVID-19 mobility restrictions.

“In 2020, IOM assisted more than 9,000 stranded migrants in Niger, the majority of whom were from countries in the West and Central Africa region,” said Barbara Rijks, IOM Niger’s Chief of Mission. “Many of these migrants have been supported with voluntary return to their respective countries of origin, despite the official closure of the borders, through a humanitarian corridor established with the Government of Niger.”

Over 2,100 returning Nigeriens were also assisted with their COVID-19 isolation and onward assistance to their areas of origin once they arrived in Niger. Official convoys for stranded Nigeriens have been organized from various countries in West Africa by other IOM offices in collaboration with Niger’s government, including its consular missions.

Some 3.8 million Nigeriens will need assistance in 2021 according to the Humanitarian Needs Overview released by the Humanitarian Country Team in Niger. IOM Niger plans to scale up its level of assistance in areas that have been affected by different crises, including natural disasters and insecurity as a result of increasing activity by violent extremist organizations in Niger.

READ  Covid- 19: Migrants, refugees, IDPs might not access concomitant human rights enshrined in international law -AU

IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s funding requirements in 2021 and beyond. The Platform is updated regularly.

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UNHCR appeals for immediate rescue of Rohingya refugees in distress on the Andaman Sea

This news comment is attributable Indrika Ratwatte, Director of the UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.
BANGKOK, Thailand – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing for the immediate rescue of a group of Rohingya refugees in distress on the Andaman Sea today.
UNHCR received reports of an unconfirmed number of Rohingya refugees aboard a vessel in distress as of the evening of Saturday 20th February. The refugees report having departed from Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf, Bangladesh, approximately ten days ago. Many are in a highly vulnerable condition and are apparently suffering from extreme dehydration. We understand that a number of refugees have already lost their lives, and that fatalities have risen over the past 24 hours.
Refugees have told us that the vessel ran out of food and water several days ago, and that many of the passengers are ill. The vessel has reportedly been adrift since the engine broke down, more than a week ago. We have not been able to confirm the number of refugees or their precise location at this time.
In the absence of precise information as to the refugees’ location, we have alerted the authorities of the relevant maritime states of these reports and appealed for their swift assistance, should the vessel be found in their area of responsibility for search and rescue. Immediate action is needed to save lives and prevent further tragedy.
As always, saving lives must be the priority. In line with international obligations under the law of the sea and longstanding maritime traditions, the duty to rescue persons in distress at sea should be upheld, irrespective of nationality or legal status. We appeal to all governments to deploy their search and rescue capacities and promptly disembark those in distress.
UNHCR stands ready to support governments across the region in providing any necessary humanitarian assistance and quarantine measures in the coming days for those disembarked, in line with public health protocols.
The fact that refugees and migrants continue to undertake fatal journeys accentuates the need for immediate and collective regional response to search, rescue and disembarkation

READ  COVID-19: Thousands of irregular migrants face severe humanitarian challenge - Group

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Migrants play key role in disaster response, IOM explores diaspora’s engagement in humanitarian assistance

Stronger diaspora coordination has the potential for better and more effective humanitarian assistance in countries affected by disasters. Photo: IOM/Muse Mohammed

Many people, when they consider the contributions of migrants to their countries of origin, think first of remittance flows —the billions of dollars travelling annually between high income, “developed” destination countries to lower income regions in the Global South.

For decades, remittance flows have been larger than total official development assistance levels in low- and middle-income countries, and more stable than private capital flows. In 2020, which experts forecast as a year when a global pandemic would decrease remittance levels globally, the decline was nowhere near as considerable as predicted. Migrant workers and diaspora members —many employed in essential services— continued to send money home. Mexico, Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh all even saw rises in incoming remittances.

Yet, diasporas provide much more than financial support. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, diasporas have forged creative, transnational responses to support their communities in both their new countries of residence and those of origin. Diasporas provide supplies to hospitals; they equip communities with tutors and translators for school age children. They create helplines for families affected by the pandemic, developing campaigns to combat misinformation. And so much more.

READ  Covid- 19: Migrants, refugees, IDPs might not access concomitant human rights enshrined in international law -AU

To increase the scope of humanitarian assistance around the globe, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has implemented a project aimed at developing and piloting a framework for diaspora engagement in humanitarian assistance.

In cooperation with the Haiti Renewal Alliance, IOM has begun conducting remote consultations with key actors worldwide. IOM also has launched a survey for diaspora organizations to explore best practices migrants can leverage to strengthen their engagement.

“The results of the survey will allow us to dissect the challenges and interests of Diaspora organizations when delivering assistance in their country of origin,” said Magalie Emile-Backer, co-founder of the Haiti Renewal Alliance, an organization actively working to integrate Diasporas in the humanitarian system.

This effort comes at a crucial time, when the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic stretches resources for assistance.

“Diasporas’ engagement already is a critical component of humanitarian assistance, unlocking doors and knowledge that might not otherwise be available. Engagement contributes also to increasing communities’ resilience,” said Luca Dall’Oglio, IOM Chief of Mission in Washington, DC. “Diasporas’ involvement has the potential to further scale up all aspects of humanitarian response, preparedness and recovery matters.”

READ  IOM, 200 others to send unified message to victims xenophobia, discrimination caused by Covid 19

Ecuador
Founded by Ecuadorians and Spaniards, the Rumiñahui Association supports the needs of the migrant community in Spain. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of 30 experts stepped up to provide psychological assistance to migrants across Spain, especially to women who have been victims of gender-based violence. Additionally, the Rumiñahui Association coordinated with an organization in the United States to donate 5,000 food kits to vulnerable households in Ecuador.

Pakistan
The Pakistani Diaspora Health Initiative developed a digital platform where the Pakistani diaspora health community around the world register to provide online consultations. The organization also promotes webinars to share knowledge between local and overseas health professionals on the latest, evidence-based COVID-19 practices.
Closer coordination and cooperation with other humanitarian actors can maximize this potential. Funded by the US Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Affairs, the IOM project builds on several decades of work with diaspora communities. It aims to build the capacity of diasporas to better address disasters and to strengthen coordination with one another and with institutional humanitarian actors.

As seen during numerous man-made and natural disasters, diasporas have immense capacity for good. They can leverage their financial contributions, network with each other and offer technical skills and local area knowledge to quickly address humanitarian needs on the ground in communities of origin.

READ  COVID-19: Thousands of irregular migrants face severe humanitarian challenge - Group

After analyzing the survey results, IOM will join with partners to develop a framework for Diaspora engagement as well as a set of operational tools that diasporas and institutional actors can use across sectors and locations. With the right skills, resources and partnerships, diasporas can enhance humanitarian efforts, ultimately increasing the reach and support towards affected communities.

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