Nigerians in disapora organise an enlightenment programme in Lagos, Tuesday, September 12, to encourage Nigerian youths to make the country their place of greener pastures rather than risk their lives travelling to Europe and either perish on the way or become a modern-day slave in foreign land
- Olu Ojewale
NIGERIANS in diaspora in Europe are apparently concerned. Their source of worry is the plight of fellow citizens who are daily on illegal voyage to Europe to seek greener pastures and in the process either lose their lives on the way because of inhuman conditions they encounter or when they survive are made to face all kinds of indignity in the host nations.
Irked by the worrisome situation, the Nigerian Diaspora in Europe established the African-German Information Center, AGiC, and the African Courier Velag, both based in Germany, in collaboration with the German’s Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched the information campaign called “Migrant Enlightenment Project Nigeria, MEPN, on Tuesday, September 12, in Lagos.
According to the organisers, the aim was to create awareness on the inherent dangers and risks involved in irregular migration to Europe.
Kenneth Gbandi, director of AGiC, in his welcome address, said the situation had become too distressing for anyone to contemplate travelling through the desert to Europe. He said as the president of five million Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation in Europe, he had travelled all over the European countries and found the inhuman condition of thousands of Nigerians who migrated illegally to Europe.
A graduate of the University of Calabar, Nigeria, Gbandi said there was no place in Europe where illegal immigrants were being treated with any atom of dignity. He said the idea of holding the enlightenment programme was to discourage illegal migration and encourage Nigerian youths to rather use their talents and resources to make the country great rather going on dangerous venture.
He narrated the kind of danger inherent in travelling through the desert and Mediterranean Sea, where a lot of young and promising Nigerians had perished.
Femi Awoniyi, publisher of The African Courier and director, MEPN, in a paper titled: Look before you Leave!” put the message succinctly, saying: “The ordeal that many go through either in the transit countries such as Niger and Libya or during the perilous journeys on rickety boats across the Mediterranean is heart-wrenching. This year alone, more than 2,500 migrants have perished in the Mediterranean, according to the International Organisation for Migration. Many more are believed to have died travelling across the Sahara Desert or in the transit countries. In Libya, many migrants seeking employment or trapped in transit are exposed to hash living conditions and widespread human rights abuses. Some are traded as slaves for ransom, labour or sex by gangs of human-traffickers and many die in the appalling conditions of detention facilities run by criminals and militias.”
Apart from drowning in the Mediterranean, some have died of dehydration and hunger in the desert.
Even when some were able to make it to Europe, Awoniyi disclosed that they were also made to face ‘severe human rights violations’ in refugee and migrants official detention centres. Regrettably, he said a great number of the irregular migrants were young Nigerians who should have stayed at home to build the country.
Besides, the MEPN director said the rising human costs of irregular migration had necessitated concerted action from governments and voluntary groups to curb irregular migration.
“Paradoxically, youths and their parents do sometimes sell their properties and close up their businesses to finance irregular migration. The nation is also poorer for it in many ways as it needlessly loses citizens who otherwise should be agents of national development to irregular migration.Moreover, irregular migration damages the national reputation as well as causes a backlash against legal migration from the sender countries,” he said.
According to him, many of the irregular migrants could in fact qualify to study in Europe if they passed through legal routes.
He quoted Bernhard Schlagheck, German ambassador to Nigeria, who in July 2017, said: “For people wishing to study in Germany, it is not difficult to get a visa. It is easier than you think. It requires filing the details or you can just go to our website.”
That notwithstanding, he said there are lots of trades one could engage in Nigeria that could lead to lucrative paid employment or self-employment.
Instead of travelling abroad illegally and suffer, Sadat Hassan, a deputy comptroller at the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, advised Nigerians to stay at home and engage in profitable ventures. Hassan, who had been in Germany as head of the NIS for five and half years, appealed to all concerns to take the issue of illegal migration to Europe seriously.
She said sometimes she could not bear the sight of inhuman treatments meted to illegal migrants. “The cases are pathetic. I wept on several occasions over the treatments our youths are subjected to. The hazard of road travel is nothing compared to the danger of living abroad illegally. Many Nigerians, in the attempt to get German state permit, go from club to club, sleeping with all kinds of people and end up contacting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. So many Nigerians are in prison but not all of them are guilty. If you have to go abroad, make sure you do it legally so that if you are asked to go back, you go back with your dignity intact,” Hassan said.
Making a similarly submission, Rita Orji, chairman of the House of Representatives committee on Diaspora, lamented over the plight of illegal migrants whom she said often have their livers and kidneys removed for organ transplants without their knowledge or permission.
The lawmaker said what makes the situation more disturbing is that many Nigerian parents are actually causing the problems for their children. “Some parents force their children to travel abroad. They even sell their land and other properties to finance their trips abroad. So people are forced to do odd jobs to pay back all the money used to transport them to Europe,” Orji said.