Written by Chukwu Christian Onyemaechi
NARRATIVES TO ILLEGAL MIGRATION AMONGST YOUNG PEOPLE IN NIGERIA
In recent times, the number of people especially the youths who either by hook or by crook, try to cross over into America and Europe, has skyrocketed astronomically. Due to bad governance, autocracy, nepotism, ethnic bigotry, and economic favoritism in Nigeria, their young populace moves out illegally in packed batches into developed nations in search of security, as well as educational and economic opportunities. This first-hand researched article looks into this trend from a practical point of view.
Facts and Figures
According to the International Organization for Migration release, on 23rd December 2020, a total of 1,200 migrants were obliged to sleep rough in the winter after their camp was set on fire in Bosnia (IOM, 23 Dec 2020). Their reports also asserted that every blessed day, five migrants die on European routes alone.
Between the years 2000 and 2005, an estimated population of 440,000 people migrated, per year, from Africa to Europe. Thus in 2008, Hein Dan Haas portrayed this gross escape of young people from Africa into some European, American, and Asian first world countries as an “exodus” (Dei Haas, 2008). In most cases, these massive migrations are illegal and instigated by poverty and conflict, and motivated by a do–or–die search for greener pastures.
Out of the 52 independent African states, Nigeria alone produces 40% of the migrants found especially in the interior regions of Europe and America namely the UK, Germany, Norway, Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland, USA, and Canada, to mention but a few. Such mass movements, in recent times, have been fuelled by the demand for both unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled labor forces in these nations, due to the existence of more industries and the prospect of viable employment opportunities.
By the year 2017, there were 168,000 subs – Sahara African asylum seekers in Europe and 78,000 lawful permanent residents both in the EU and US. Out of these numbers, Nigerian migrants were 280,000 in both regions combined. And a few years later, it was estimated that Nigerians in the EU, Norway, and Switzerland summed up to 390,000 with about 40,000 above Somalia, D.R Congo, and Senegal. According to a survey by the World Bank Migration and Remittance Factbook, over 74% of Nigerians would have migrated if provided the means and opportunity.
The Underlying Truth
It is this inexistent chance that has forced many youngsters to migrate either by hook or by crook without any second thought on the implications on them, their country, and the host nation. Catalyzing illegal migration, are the recent despicable economic tremors, political instability, incessant killings by bandits and Fulani herdsmen, terrorism, and the unimaginable level of corruption witnessed in Nigeria.
These socioeconomic and political issues leave the youths who nurture the ideas of an ideal society, to resort to the available means of escaping a failed society. Most often, they are vulnerable end up in precarious situations some losing their lives while others serve years of jail term.
It has been discovered that Libya is the chief exit point for unlawful migrants setting off for Europe. Through illegal migration, a modern kind of slavery and human trafficking have been reincarnated.
Every year, thousands of migrants die on the sea en route to Europe. People risk their lives and take deadly measures. Those who make it across the ocean in most cases, stand the chance of being deported. Though there are statistics, it is believed that the figures of victims recorded are far less than the reality.
Over the last decade, trafficking immigrants from Africa to Europe has become an enterprise, more lucrative than drug trafficking. This usually occurs by boat, through the Mediterranean Sea, or by land via Spain. Many of these migrants always risk the chances of serious injuries or death during their journey and those whose claim for asylum were unsuccessful are deported back to their respective countries.
The 2015 Mediterranean migration crisis is a typical incidence that portrays the ordeals and negative impacts of illegal migration. There were series of shipwrecks, arrests, trials, and deaths. People lost their lives and properties on the sea.
The Drastic Measures That Government Took
To discourage illegal migration among Nigerian youths, the federal government has over the past four years, provided grants and loans to support the youths. Through different schemes such as the National Youth Investment Fund (NYIF), and N – Power introduced and funded in the President Buhari regime, thousands of indigent youths have become entrepreneurs. This has in turn created more jobs and kept many vulnerable young people and adults out of the streets and away from crimes. Additionally, each state of the federation injected billions into their respective Micro, Small, and Medium scale enterprises as a way of providing for every Dick and Harry. Between 2019 and 2020, over 72,000 businesses were legally and fully registered free of charge into the Corporate Affairs Commission, under a Free Business Registration scheme by the current administration as a way of promoting entrepreneurship and encourage industriousness among the youths. With this great step taken, it is expected that if these 72,000 start-ups can survive and succeed through this support, they will be able to create 1,080,000 jobs in the next year and 2,160,000 jobs in the succeeding year. So, by 2023, Nigeria’s economic empowerments will have lifted about 4 million Nigerians out of poverty. This will consequently attract foreign investment and make the country an economic powerhouse. Economic empowerments in the forms of credits, loans, and subsidies will reduce the rate of illegal migration of Nigerian youths and its attendant consequences.
This will only be possible if corruption, which has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation, would be eradicated or at least trimmed down. Speaking recently at the Words of Wisdom Wesley Chapel Lekki, the former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi attributed the poor state of affairs of Nigeria to bribery, corruption, and public fund embezzlement. According to his speech on “how corruption kills entrepreneurship and professionalism”, corruption kills three things in a nation which are: entrepreneurship, professionalism, and innovation.
In Nigeria, bribery and corruption deprive the youths of their social, economic, and political benefits. Subsequently frustrating all their noble efforts, they desperately seek greener pastures overseas.
Due to corruption, industrious Nigerian youths are not always appreciated and rewarded for their hard work. And in a bid to meet social, family, and financial obligations, they often end up as internet fraudsters, kidnappers, traffickers, terrorists, and bandits. The end of corruption will eventually rid Nigeria of its disastrous political and socioeconomic troubles.
To curtail the prevailing illegal migration among Nigerian youths, extreme poverty among her helpless enormous populace must be checked. Just in 2018, the World Poverty Clock reported that Nigeria has more people living in extreme poverty than any other country in the world. In 2016, the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that the overall unemployment rate in the nation rose from 24% in 2015 to 25%. These economic trends, added to the numerous political agitations and industrial actions, have forced an increasing number of youths to leave the country for other countries that hold greater promise.
The Outcome of a Failed Governance
In addition to elevating the economic condition of Nigerian youths, there I a great need to invest in the educational sector as demonstrated by the ongoing industrial action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the Nigerian government has failed woefully in offering standard education to millions of Nigerian youths. For many years, the federal government has owed the union a summed amount of 40 billion naira plus other withheld salaries (Nigeria Scholar, Jan 2021). This left students sitting idle and unemployed at home between 23rd March 2020 and 3rd January 2021. And leaving them vulnerable to violence, crime, and bloody civil agitations such as the EndSARS protests that tore the nation down in October last year and marred her reputations globally. With the future looking bleak, many young boys and girls are seeking their ways out, either legitimate or otherwise. They just can’t stand the excruciating hardship and bad governance anymore.
A Lot More to Be Done
Aside from the national youth investment plans and poverty alleviation programs carried out in the past to keep our youth in Nigeria, there are many other alternatives to discourage illegal migration among Nigerian youths. The first is the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Program (YEDP) that was anchored by the Central Bank of Nigeria that provided 8,340 US for individuals and 7,800 US for cooperatives. It was followed by the Youth Employment in Agriculture, Nigerian Youth Employment and Social Support Operation, Nigerian Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, and the Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS). All these and more are the alleviative packages to keep and retain our talented youths. With the right and sustainable educational, economic, social, religious, and political fertile grounds in Nigeria, the illegal migration of her young workforces and geniuses will be checked.
Text © Chukwu Christian Onyemaechi
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