For some years now, the Nigerian youth has regrettably been leaving the country in droves, in search of greener pastures in other parts of the world. Their usual destinations include Europe, Asia, and the Americas. In their desperation to leave the country, they have resorted to illegal and dangerous crossing of the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea, where many of them get either drown in the sea or arrested or even taken into slavery. Others also resort to stowing away in ships, another dangerous venture.
Before now, it was the north and east African countries that had dominated this illegal migration, reports have shown that in recent years, Nigeria has topped the list of African migrants to Europe. Data released by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) shows that at the end of December 2016, out of 387,739 arrivals to Europe, almost half, 173,000, were from Nigeria.
Because of the influx of African migrants into their territories, many European countries have tightened border control to stem the exodus. They have enlisted the assistance of the governments of some African countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea such as Libya and Algeria, in order to arrest the surge. This, has inevitably increased the risks inherent in embarking on this illegal adventure. Consequently, many African youths, including Nigerians have perished in the sea, starved to death in ship holds or died in the scorching sun in the desert while trying to cross to Europe. Some others are thrown aboard by merciless ship captains and their crew.
The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) two years ago reported that no fewer than 10,000 Nigerians died between January and May 2017 while trying to illegally migrate to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara Desert. According to NIS, 4,900 died in the sea while crossing the sea en route to Europe, just as 5,100 perished in the desert while scores ended up in slave camps.
Also, in the first seven months of 2018, at least 1,600 persons attempting to migrate to Europe through several illegal channels, including Libya, were reported to have perished in the central Mediterranean Sea, according to the Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN). About 700 were also said to have died in the sea while trying to raft across to Europe between June and December 2018. Many Nigerian families have suffered grief as a result of deaths and other inhuman treatment that have befallen relatives attempting migration to Europe and other parts of the world.
This worrisome situation reflects negatively on Nigeria. Perhaps, it is for this reason that President Muhammadu Buhari remarked recently that the sheer desperation that makes Nigerian youths dare both the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea, all in the bid to take-up menial jobs in Europe, is hurting the pride of the country.
The government and the international community has in the past made efforts to stem the tide of illegal immigration, through repatriation of stranded Nigerian migrants and addressing root causes encouraging illegal migration. While these efforts are commendable, we believe what is required is for government to take proactive measures to encourage the youth to remain in the country.
Illegal migration is being fueled by the harsh economic realities in the country, the inaction of the government to provide jobs for our teeming youths.
Nigeria is experiencing its worst economic performance in decades. Over 10 million jobs have been lost while many people are not able to feed their families as the prices of staples have shot up. Reports have it also that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day.
Added to the harsh economic realities are the protracted insurgency in the North East of the country, and the menaces of the Fulani herdsmen, among others, These have compounded the economic woes of the country, making life unbearable to the citizenry, hence many Nigerian youths are fleeing to escape the difficult socio-economic situations in the country.
Since unemployment and poverty have been identified as one of the root causes of illegal migration, the present administration is using initiatives such as: N-Power, Bank of Industry Youth Entrepreneurship Support, Central Bank of Nigeria support schemes, agriculture, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) to reduce the rate of unemployment in the country. These initiatives are rather phony when viewed against the backdrop of weak infrastructure required for businesses to thrive. It is very imperative that the government built basic infrastructure and improve the business environment to foreign direct investment in order to create jobs.
Government should develop proactive economic policies to foster socio-economic growth and development. Efforts should be made by government to bolster the ailing manufacturing sector to provide jobs for Nigerian youths. Government should create awareness that the mythological Golden Fleece to be found in foreign lands are not feasible. Parents in particular should advice their wards on the dangers of illegal migration.