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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.”

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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 provides food vouchers to vulnerable refugees and migrants affected by COVID-19 in Brazil

 Nearly 4,000 vulnerable refugees and migrants in Brazil affected by mobility restrictions and the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are receiving vouchers from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to purchase food and other basic items.  The vouchers are one-time offers, valued at about USD 100.

IOM is closely coordinating the activity with local governments and 31 humanitarian partners, prioritizing families with children and elderly persons who face food insecurity due to lack of a regular income.

The distribution of the vouchers is taking place in more than half of Brazil’s states, states which were selected based on those locations where the most vulnerable refugees and migrants are living. In particular, Venezuelans relocated by the Federal Government are a top priority. They reside in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Pará, and the federal district, Brasilia.

Other states have been selected based on the requests by the local governments and civil society organizations, such as the state of Acre. Many are located at the triple border area shared by Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, where migrants and refugees have been stranded due to COVID-19’s border restrictions.

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In September, IOM reported on the hindered mobility that has been one of the most common impacts of COVID-19 on different categories of refugees and migrants across Latin America, especially Venezuelans.

Many migrants are unable to continue their journey and remain stranded in transit countries; many others cannot not leave their countries to embark on the first legs of their journeys. Migrants stranded at airports, land border crossing areas or at sea were featured in multiple reports, as were migrants camping in front of Embassies asking for support from their Governments (for example, hundreds of migrants from the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela have been camping outside their respective embassies in Chile requesting support to return home).

That is the situation IOM is responding to in Brazil.

To Miriangela, a Venezuelan who arrived in Rio de Janeiro two years ago, this support is essential. “I live alone with my 7-year-old son and I’m not working at the moment. With the voucher I can buy food and cleaning products,” she explained.

READ  Nigerian held in Dubai for using friend’s passport

In Brasilia, IOM’s activity also benefits some 60 Warao Venezuelans, members of indigenous tribes. “We are very grateful for the help. This is the first time that we have received a food voucher, being able to choose what we will buy,” said Nilda, who had been living in the city for two months with eight other family members.

Vinícius Duque, a coordinator of Policies for Migrants and Promotion of Decent Work from the city of São Paulo, explained: “Networking is essential in this moment of public emergency. More than ever, these partnerships need to be strengthened. This action is the result of a joint effort between IOM and the government, contributing uniquely to expand the different actions and policies that have been developed on different fronts, benefiting immigrant families in situations of extreme vulnerability in the city of São Paulo.”

This initiative is part of the IOM Global Response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has a national partnership with Sodexo Pass do Brasil and the Stop Hunger Institute for the issuance of vouchers.  Financial support is granted by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) of the United States Department of State.

READ  IOM sets up pineapple processing factory in Nigeria

IOM’s Chief of Mission in Brazil, Stéphane Rostiaux, said: “At this time, when many families have suffered not only from the health effects of the pandemic but also from the socioeconomic impact, this support which allows food provision respecting people’s autonomy is essential.”

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Over 100 stranded Ugandan women provided with return assistance from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

 

On Tuesday (01/12) the International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted 105 stranded Ugandan women, including victims of trafficking, to return home from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). They were stranded due to COVID-19.

Thousands of Ugandan migrant workers are working in KSA and other parts of the Middle East, mainly as domestic workers and security guards. When COVID-19 started, many lost their jobs. They also faced stigma and xenophobia. Prior to the pandemic, most of the 105 women who returned home safely had been sending money back home to support their families.

The women arrived in Uganda on a return flight funded by German Humanitarian Assistance, in co-ordination with authorities in Saudi Arabia and Uganda. Upon arrival, many looked relieved to be home, despite evident signs of stress.

“At least, I thank God I have returned alive,” one woman said to another as they walked towards the buses taking them to their overnight accommodation.

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“The plight of many migrant workers in the COVID-19 era highlights both the devastation of the pandemic as well as the importance of organized international labour migration,” said IOM Uganda Chief of Mission Sanusi Tejan Savage.

The economic impact of COVID-19 on these women, and on migrant workers in general, has been devastating. Ugandans working abroad contributed approximately 4.5 percent to Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product, placing it above the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 2.8 percent.  IOM is working with the Ugandan and Gulf nations as well as other partners to enhance labour rights and protection for migrant workers.

“The economic impact of COVID-19 is affecting the employment prospects of many, and IOM is offering assistance during this difficult period. We commend the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which contributed to ‘leaving no one behind’ and helping the most vulnerable to return home voluntarily,” explained Carmela Godeau, IOM Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa.

READ  114 Ivorians, Guineans, Liberian migrants return home from Algeria amid COVID-19 with IOM assistance

The return of these 105 women is the second intervention of IOM Uganda to support the return of stranded migrants since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, IOM in Uganda and Bahrain helped 113 Ugandan women return from Saudi Arabia, following an appeal for help by the Ugandan authorities.

“The information from the Uganda Government indicating in May that more than 2,400 mostly vulnerable Ugandan migrant workers were stranded abroad was distressing enough and, as IOM, we are doing all we can to improve the safety, welfare and dignity of migrant workers from the region,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa.

Many migrant workers from Uganda and Africa remain stranded and without work. They are facing tremendous difficulties abroad, and may face even greater challenges when they return.

These returns are part of IOM Uganda’s support in respect of COVID-19. IOM has also supported the Government with COVID-19 surveillance at the Entebbe International Airport and other points of entry.

READ  Celebration as Nigeria announces international flight resumption

 

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120 Central African, Sudanese refugees resettled to France

Over the past week (starting 27/11), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) facilitated the resettlement of 120 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) to France. The refugees, including 65 women and 55 men left N’Djamena (Chad) on a chartered flight last Friday morning. Many had spent more than ten years in Chad, awaiting a chance to be resettled and restart their lives.

All COVID-19 sanitary protocols were adhered to during the resettlement operation (including PCR-testing to COVID-19 prior departure). In addition to COVID-19 screening, the refugees were screened for medical conditions and received in-depth pre-departure orientation to ensure their integration in their new society goes as smoothly as possible.

Upon arrival in France, the refugees were welcomed by French NGOs who will provide administrative and social support for a one-year period.

“Resettlement offers refugees a unique opportunity to rebuild their lives in dignity. It is thus an important part of finding durable solutions to refugee situations, of which we are proud to participate,” said Anne Schaefer, IOM Chad Chief of Mission.

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With more than 480,000 refugees living in 14 camps and various urban centres, Chad is one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in West and Central Africa. IOM works closely with Government, non-governmental and UN partners, to ensure that the most vulnerable among them have access to durable and lifesaving solutions such as resettlement to a third country.

This includes eligibility assessment and referral, accommodation in a transit centre (once refugee status has been determined and the resettlement process has been initiated), pre-departure medical screening, vulnerability assessment, flight and support for durable integration in the destination country.

In 2020, IOM in Chad resettled 312 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic to France, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Norway.

Djamal’s Story

I arrived in Chad from the Central African Republic with my mother and my seven siblings in 2014. I was 16 years old. We fled because of the violence in our country. When we arrived, we had nothing. We had no money, and we knew no one. We first went to Moundou [Southern Chad]. From there, international organizations helped us contact family members. Afterwards, we went to the Doholo refugee camp [near the border with CAR] to be registered as refugees. It was not easy. In the camp, my mother learnt about nutritional health and started working as an assistant in the health centre. The little that she earned helped us make ends meet. It was this work that helped us survive while we lived in the camp. We are happy to be going to France. I have made some friends here. Some of them work as drivers, others want to go back to school. My dream is to become a pilot. I have always been fascinated by planes, and I hope that in France, I will be able to realize my dream.‎

READ  Covid-19: IOM Chief, others show concern for migrants, vulnerable groups

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