By Oluwafunke Ishola
Worried by the increasing rate of irregular migration, an NGO, Denny Social Welfare Hub (DSWHUB), has highlighted the need for more awareness on the dangers of irregular migration.
The Executive Director, DSWHUB, Mrs Abosede Otukpe, said this during a dialogue on irregular migration on Friday in Lagos.
Irregular migration is the practice of crossing an international border without official permission from the authorities.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), about 1.3 million Nigerians are facing irregular migration challenges across the world.
Data from IOM and the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) showed that 4,777 stranded Nigerians were evacuated between February and October from Sudan, Libya, Niger Republic and Saudi Arabia.
Otukpe said the country’s current economic challenges made vulnerable individuals, especially women, toward hasty decisions in search of a better life.
“Young Nigerian women, disproportionately affected, find themselves exploited and suffering as they pursue irregular migration,” she said.
To address this social issue, Otukpe said that DSWHUB initiated the Information Empowerment against Irregular Migration and Human Trafficking (I-EMPATHY) campaign, a crucial component of The Migrant Project.
She said that the initiative was dedicated to empowering women and potential migrants with information, raising awareness, and addressing the underlying factors contributing to these challenges.
“The project seeks to amplify women’s voices in migration decision-making and promote safer, more informed choices,” she said.
Otukpe advised those planning to travel to make it legal, get the skills that would boost their employability, and also learn the language of the country of their destination to ease integration.
Some of the returnees who narrated their experiences said that irregular migration exposed them to danger, discrimination, exploitation and abuse.
A couple, Jennifer and Stanley Joseph, emphasised the importance of collective efforts in raising awareness against irregular migration, noting that their experience was traumatic.
According to them, they embarked on a dangerous trip to Italy through Libya; where both were arrested on a boat sailing to Italy and jailed in Libya.
“Prison experience was horrific; after weeks there, we pleaded for mercy and because I was pregnant and due to deliver my baby, we were released.
“I went through a caesarean section and delivered a girl at one of the public hospitals. However, days after the delivery, my stomach started protruding and puss was coming out from the opening.
“I was in pain; the puss was smelly and I went back to the hospital to complain but I wasn’t attended to.
“Eventually, my husband’s family in Nigeria sold a land and sent money for my treatment at a private hospital where it was discovered that the placenta was not extracted from my stomach after delivery,” Jennifer said.
The couple, who said that after the agonising experience, they were linked to IOM and assisted back to Nigeria.
They, however, called for improved psychosocial support for returnees.
Also, Mrs Alaba Giwa, a 34-year-old trader, who said she paid N600,000 in 2015 for a trip to Libya, said that she regretted falling for the lure of travelling to Libya as an irregular migrant.
“I suffered during the trip and throughout my stay in Libya.
“I was degraded, lived in fear and the promised better life that made me leave my two children and parents was an illusion,” Giwa said.
Giwa warned against irregular migration, and appealed to the government to create more job opportunities, especially at the local government level.
She also called for favourable policies that would enhance the lives of citizens. (NAN) (www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Chidi Opara/Olawunmi Ashafa