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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  How gender shapes women’s experiences of searching for missing migrant relatives

 

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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UNHCR and IOM shocked and dismayed by deaths near Belarus-Poland border

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and are deeply saddened by the deaths of four individuals near the border between Poland and Belarus. The organizations express their condolences to the families of the deceased and are calling for an immediate investigation into this tragedy. The nationalities of the all the victims have yet to be confirmed but two Iraqi nationals reportedly died of hypothermia.

In recent months, groups of asylum-seekers and migrants have been transiting through Belarus, to seek asylum in neighbouring EU Member States – Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.

The two agencies have been following with growing concern, reports of pushbacks of people at these borders. Groups of people have become stranded for weeks, unable to access any form of assistance, asylum or basic services. Many were left in dire situations, exposed to the elements, suffering from hypothermia. Some were rescued from swamps.

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Recognizing the significant challenges posed by irregular movements, the agencies have called for the situation to be managed in accordance with international legal obligations, and for States to work collaboratively to resolve the situation, prioritising human rights.

UNHCR and IOM call for immediate access to those affected, in order to provide lifesaving medical help, food, water and shelter, especially in light of the approaching winter.

While States have the sovereign right to manage their borders, this is not incompatible with the respect for human rights including the right to seek asylum. Pushbacks endanger lives and are illegal under international law.

UNHCR and IOM have been engaging with relevant authorities to explore various options for the people who continue to be stranded at borders; from access to asylum, family reunification procedures, and voluntary return for those found not to be in need of international protection.

IOM and UNHCR reiterate that asylum-seekers and migrants should never be used by States to achieve political ends. The fundamental responsibility to protect vulnerable people should be shared among States in a spirit of solidarity. Political disagreement on responsibilities must never result in the loss of life, forfeiting States international obligations and commitments.

READ  Hundreds of thousands of people leave Britain due to pandemic

 

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UNHCR calls on Libya to urgently develop plan for asylum seekers and refugees, welcomes authorization to restart evacuation

Libya. UNHCR provides assistance to asylum-seekers caught in crackdown

A refugee feeds her baby while waiting to receive assistance at an emergency distribution by UNHCR and partners in Tripoli, Libya.  © UNHCR/Mohamed Alalem

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today urged the Libyan government to immediately address the dire situation of asylumseekers and refugees in a humane and rights-based manner. Raids and arbitrary arrests by the authorities this month targeted areas largely  populated by refugees and asylumseekers that resulted in several deaths, thousands detained, and many homeless and destitute.

“Since the start of the security raids and arrests by the Libyan authorities in October, we have witnessed a sharp deterioration in the situation facing vulnerable asylumseekers and refugees in Tripoli,” said Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR’s Special Envoy for the Western and Central Mediterranean Situation. “The Libyan authorities must come up with a proper plan that respects their rights and identifies durable solutions.”

Some 3,000 people are currently sheltering outside the Community Day Centre (CDC) in Tripoli, where UNHCR and its partners have been providing medical assistance and other services. Their situation is very precarious. Many were affected by the raids, demolition of their homes, and have escaped from detention in terrible conditions. Others have joined the group hoping to be evacuated.

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“Many have been left homeless and lost all their belongings as a result of the security operation and are now sleeping in the cold and in a very unsafe environment. This is utterly unacceptable,” said Cochetel.

UNHCR and partners had to suspend operations at the Community Day Centre for security and safety reasons, but remain engaged in an active dialogue with representatives of the protesters outside the CDC to explain the limited assistance it can offer, including cash and food assistance.

Together with other UN agencies, UNHCR stands ready to support an urgent plan of action that could help alleviate the terrible suffering of asylumseekers and refugees in Libya. 

UNHCR continues to call on the authorities to respect the human rights and dignity of asylumseekers and refugees, stop their arbitrary arrest and release them from detention. 

The UN Refugee Agency has welcomed authorization to restart humanitarian evacuation flights, but warns that it is not enough. 

“This is a positive development for some of the most vulnerable refugees, who have been waiting anxiously for many months to depart. Our teams are already working to ensure humanitarian flights can restart as soon as possible,” said Cochetel “But we also need to be realistic: resettlement or evacuation flights will only benefit a limited number of people.”    

More than 1,000 vulnerable refugees and asylumseekers are currently prioritised for humanitarian flights and awaiting their resumption. UNHCR continues to urge the international community to offer more legal pathways to safety outside Libya.

READ  How gender shapes women’s experiences of searching for missing migrant relatives

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Free movement of people a top priority, say West African nations

Aligned migration policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons, says the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Photo: Fredrick Ejiga/IOM

Abuja – Free movement of people and goods, and fighting human trafficking should be top policy priorities, members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed at talks convened with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Network for Migration and the African Union.

Three days of consultations in Abuja this week offered the first chance for ECOWAS members to collectively assess progress in implementing the Global Compact for Migration (GCM) objectives and to decide key recommendations to be put to next year’s International Migration Review Forum.

Integrated migration governance should be a key goal and Ambrose Dery, Minister of Interior for Ghana, the Chair of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Governments, said it was essential African nations addressed trafficking in persons and its devastating consequences on migrants.

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“Vile stories on international media concerning migrant slavery, as well as mistreatment of young African domestic helps in some Gulf States, call for a reflection on appropriate actions to be taken with a view to finding a lasting solution to this persistent problem that leads to the loss of young Africans, without whom the continent cannot build a prosperous and peaceful future,” Dery said. “In Ghana, the contribution of migrants has played a great role in shaping our national development.”

Governments must address the root causes of trafficking and ensure the free movement of people in a safe, orderly and dignified manner. ECOWAS representatives emphasized the need to join forces and align approaches to prevent and counter smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons to promote rights-based management of migration.

The meeting, which ended Thursday, also heard that policies must be effectively applied by border officials to ease free movement while combatting trafficking in persons.

Aissata Kane, IOM’s Senior Regional Adviser for Sub Saharan Africa, said the Global Compact for Migration was a landmark, multilateral document. “It aims to catalyze and boost combined support and assistance for addressing legal and humanitarian challenges of migration and foster its positive social, cultural and economic dividends within and outside the ECOWAS region.”

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IOM has been working with all stakeholders at intergovernmental and national levels, as well as within the UN Network for Migration, to promote safe, orderly and dignified free movement of people and economic exchange among ECOWAS Member States.

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