The uproar caused by the death of 26 teenage female migrants from Nigeria in the international community has brought to the fore the sore depth traffickers of migrants have gone to target the nationâ€™s youth.
Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) is not abating in Nigeria and constitutes threat to national security, economy and socio-political sanctity and well-being of the country, according to journalists, who brainstormed on the ugly development in Kaduna recently.
Women and children, they said were the most vulnerable victims of SOM, stating that government at all levels and relevant agencies must wake up to the urgent need to tackle SOM.
These observations and recommendations are in a communiquÃ© issued at the end of a three-day European Union funded workshop on Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in Kaduna, recently.
The journalists, drawn from print, radio, television, and online were joined by some key personnel from the Nigeria Immigration Service who enriched discussions at the roundtable.
At the end of the three-day workshop, participants agreed that migration is an inevitable phenomenon with far-reaching advantages when done within the context of available conventions.
They however, observed that these advantages and opportunities are being lost to irregular migration that is perpetrated by smugglers of migrants.
The journalists, who called for synergy between the agencies coordinating migration management in Nigeria, NIS, NAPTIP and the media, observed that the rise in SOM was â€œa consequence of improper and ineffectual information dissemination and citizen education on the phenomenon.â€
It was revealed at the roundtable that beside Europe and America, the Middle East and some Asian countries were emerging as routes and destinations used by smugglers of migrants.
They noted that the social media has become a veritable platform for facilitating SOM and that there was need for NIS to develop a proactive information management system on migrantsâ€™ related issues.
They urged the NIS to develop a robust Social Media engagement strategy to counter the narratives on SOM, adding that media organisations should establish Migration Desks for effective reportage of migration and related issues.
â€œThe NIS and Foreign Affairs Ministry should develop effective and dynamic ways of engaging the diaspora communities to mitigate SOM,â€ they said.
To facilitate the ease of effective reportage and coverage of Migration, participant suggested the issuance of official travel documents to journalists covering Migration.
At the opening, the Depu ty Comptroller of Immigration, Kaduna Command, DCI Jerry Adah said there was always a push and pull factor in migrant smuggling. Â«Somebody will not get into an event if he does not expect to pick an advantage. The person being smuggled feels that he is being smuggled for greener pastures. The person facilitating the smuggling process is doing so because he believes that there is financial gain for him.
â€œThere are different characteristics that differentiate between migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons.â€
According to the National Project Officer of UNODC, Mr. Sylvester Atere, the Media Roundtable was designed to ensure that Nigeria gains from the potentials of regular migration, which was a natural thing to do.
Atere said, â€œMigration is a timeless issue, hence, it is very important to build the capacity of media practitioners, to understand the issues of migration, because it is important for journalists to operate from a position of strength.
Recently, a group of Nigerians in the Diaspora advised Nigerians considering irregular migration to Europe have been advised to quash such ideas because of the dangers involved.
The group, Nigerian Diaspora in Europe said in a statement that â€œMany of the migrants left Nigeria lured by the false promise of people-smugglers who deceive their victims into paying, sometimes, thousands of dollars for a passage to Europe. The fact is there is no easy passage to Europe through irregular migration. The illegal route to Europe is littered with hardship and death.
â€œIn Libya, for example, there are up to 1 million migrants trapped in transit where they are exposed to hash living conditions and widespread human rights abuses. Some are traded as slaves for ransom, labour or sex by gangs of people-smugglers and many die in the appalling conditions of detention facilities run by both the Libyan authorities and militia forces. â€œA substantial number of these irregular migrants are Nigerians. In fact, Nigerians constitute the single largest group of sub-Saharans in Libya.
â€œThe Nigerian Diaspora in Europe is deeply disturbed by this situation hence its decision to do something about it. This is why The African-German Information Center (AGIC), and The African Courier Verlag â€“ both owned by Nigerians living in Germany â€“ in collaboration with Germanyâ€™s Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is launching the information campaign â€˜Migration Enlightenment Project in Nigeriaâ€™, supported by Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria MEPN â€˜Look before you leave.â€