By Temilade Ajibola,
Multi-layer approaches towards solving challenges associated with irregular migration in Nigeria has been advocated by The Migrant Project (TMP).
This position was canversed at the maiden edition of global migration summit with the theme: The Economy, Human Security and Diaspora Value organised by Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM).
The event which took place in Abuja between November 26 and 27, 2019 has Clare Henshaw, the Nigeria Project Coordinator of TMP, an arm of social enterprise and non-governmental organization, SEEFAR, as one of the guest speakers aside other notable institutions and personalities.
Before the TMP boss took to the center stage, Ajibola Abayomi, JIFORM President during his opening remark said the purpose of the summit was bring to fore the need to introduce human face to migrants related issues and to draw attention of nations especially in Africa to the need to create opportunities for their citizens and halt factors aiding irregular migration.
The JIFORM President said henceforth the summit would attract dignitaries across the globe as annual event and continue to raise issue on migration to the benefits of mankind stating that migration was not a crime.
Professor Ikechukwu Kanu Anthony, OSA, one of the guest speakers urged media to stop using the term ‘illegal migrants’ to describe the personalty of migrants but instead called them ‘irregular migrants’ so as not to continue to empower security operatives to treat them as criminals.
Delivering a detailed presentation titled Adopting Multi-layer Approaches Towards Addressing Irregular Migration In Nigeria, she said that after a mixed methods study carried out by SEEFAR from May to July 2017 reflecting 1,053 quantitative survey of potential migrants, 85 in-depth qualitative interviews with West African migrants in transit, 30 qualitative interviews with returnees from Europe, Libya and Niger and social media analyses, the result indicated Nigeria and other nations need to do more to stem the tide of irregular migration.
TMP pleaded with government and other agencies to address both the pull and push factors fueling irregular migration by creating more opportunities and counseling for especially youths against associated dangers of traveling through the unapproved routes.
Henshaw stated that campaign on irregular migration should aim at providing information debunking myths about the act.
“People who want to migrate irregularly are best equipped to make a decision, understand the different risks of the journey, settling in a foreign country illegally as well as what the alternatives and opportunities available instead of choosing irregular migration “ she advised.
She noted that that the push factors for migrants entailed perspective of job prospects in Europe, access to educational opportunities and call for the need for economic support from host governments to respect the human dignity of the migrants.
TMP statistics revealed thus: ”87% of potential Nigerian migrants surveyed agreed that it would be easier to find a job in their preferred destination than at home while 83% thought that they would be better able to access educational opportunities in Europe.
“Nigerian asylum applications in the EU rose from approximately 30,000 to 46,100 between 2015 and 2016. By 2017, Nigerians became the fourth-largest national group of asylum applicants in Europe.
“14,159 Nigerian arrived Europe via the Mediterranean Sea in the first half of 2017. By the third quarter of 2017, a total of 77 percent of Nigerian asylum applications across the EU were rejected.
Worried by the revelations, she said there was need for the Nigerian government and other nations to address the migrant push factors.
The factors were “lack of job opportunities or low pay, limited educational opportunities, poor infrastructure, high crime rates, lack of personal freedom and civil liberties” in order to combat human trafficking and modern slavery.
The TMP multilayer approaches is combination of communication campaign through media engagement, online and social media outreach with direct community influence.
These steps being implemented by TMP according to Henshaw were already achieving positive attitudinal changes in the beneficiaries through face to face counseling.
The process involves education outreach and using of religious leaders, she was however quick to point out challenges in the areas of insecurity, gender and lack of oppourtunities.
According to TMP Coordinator, the steps were germane to solving migration challenges in the nation and “has proven to be an effective, community-based method to disseminate information, raise awareness and influence attitudes.
“A next phase of this campaign should consider adding school engagement as one of its core activities.
“We have already seen some interest from religious leaders in the camps to campaign on the risks of irregular migration. In a next phase we could formalise this by providing them with some training on the issue and our messages.
On Women-focused campaign, she said “at the moment, the online forums are open to both men and women.
“However, as the pages are quite male-dominated, it is culturally normal for women to be intimidated or feel unsafe to speak up. We think that if we could create private groups that are led by women for women only, we can create that safe space for online discussion among women.
“Working with local artists – Celebrities has a unique ability to influence their audiences. In the future, we would like to trial establishing formal partnerships with local artists such as “Samy l’éxilé” and “Master Soumy”, both singer-songwriters, to develop content with specific messaging related to migration issues in Mali” she said.