The pains, trauma and difficulties that many Nigerians have experienced in the last few years in their bid to seek greener pastures abroad are better imagined than felt. Those who told you they have ‘crossed’, seldom have the courage to relate their predicaments and bitter experiences to the people back at home.
This, undoubtedly, is never unconnected with the fact that the experiences each of them undergo in the various countries, be it destination or transit countries, are never pleasing to the ears or befitting on someone who boasted so much about travelling abroad.
Their sad experiences when critically examined, are based on grounds that they are illegal migrants, possessing no proper travelling documents, but are desperate to cross to the west, irrespective of the means, while others who are actually legal migrants, are said to be suffering genuinely in the hands of law enforcement agents over established cases of crime.
For the irregular migrants, Comptroller General of Immigration, Joseph Chukwura Udeh, in a paper he presented at a national workshop on Information Campaign against Irregular Migration, facilitated by the ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that there was no way they (illegal migrants) could ever live a good life in those countries, in view of their status.
Acknowledging that some of these people did not migrate willingly but lured by promises of better life outside the country, the CGI said “our daughters and children are being forced into child labour and sexual slavery. Even our young men, skilled and semi-skilled are known to be under-employed and engage in all manner of menial jobs abroad because of false promises of untold wealth outside our shores.” However, it is also known that several other irregular migrants had no basis for traveling out and as such, could not secure proper traveling documents.
The Federal Government in a position, had disclosed that while several of these illegal migrants are being held for simple immigration offences, others are languishing in jail over drugs related offences. Foreign Affairs Minister, Ojo Maduekwe, at the workshop spoke unequivocally, condemning the rush by Nigerians to Europe, when he lamented that between year 2000 and 2008, about 10,000 Nigerian illegal migrants in their bid to cross to Europe, had died on the high seas.
Further expressing government’s regrets over the avoidable death, he disclosed that presently, over 59,000 Nigerians, who undermined and ignored the revelation in several reports about the number of death, went ahead to travel as illegal migrants and are presently having it very rough in various transit countries while waiting for the opportunities to cross to Europe.
Regrets have also been expressed that, with these alarming figures, it relations and associates have not taking it as a duty to cross check with their loved ones to be sure that they were travelling genuinely. Rather, what the country was witnessing on a daily basis was the continuous migration without any by its citizens without any recourse to the prevailing facts on ground.
The figures given according to Federal Government, are those made available to it by some of the country’s missions in Libya, Mauritania, Algeria, and in Morocco. The government also said many of these illegal migrants are presently in foreign prisons, some of them on death row, others were recently executed, while those who are not in prisons are always on the run from security agents.
Since the situation in the country was not compelling citizens to migrate at all costs, the FG said in view of the dangers inherent in illegal migration, it was expedient for its citizens to have a rethink and stay back to make their own contributions to develop the country. The minister said when Nigerian people illegally migrate to those countries rather than staying in the country to put in their own contributions, they are going out as parasites and would certainly be treated as parasites.
Maduekwe in his plea with Nigerians that life was not worst here than those places where they think there are greener pastures, said the activities of illegal migrants and those who go out there to commit crimes, have, over the years, caused a lot of damage to the nation’s international image such that even those with valid documents and genuine motives suffer embarrassment at various International Airports.
He said on arrival at the airports, if you are a man, no matter how handsome and corporately you look, you are seen as a drug courier, and a woman, no matter how beautiful, well dressed and corporately you are, you are first called a prostitute. According to him, even after the sniffer dogs have absolved you of carrying drugs, the foreign security agents at these airports would hardly believe the report, believing that the Nigerian in his or her ingenuity, might have made the dog to perceive nothing, even when there was nothing to perceive.
Without sounding as supporting irregular migration, Maduekwe, expressing government’s displeasure over how foreign people treat Nigerians even with the Green passport, and the rate with which they parade the issues of illegal migrants, agreed with the position of the Nigerian Immigration Chief, Udeh, that “migration in itself is not entirely undesirable.” According to his position, many countries today owed their economic growth and development to migrants. He reminded that Africans in America and the biblical accounts of Israelites in Egypt were good examples.