Swiss Government, UNODC Present Equipment to Rehabilitated Victims of Human Trafficking 

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By Bennett Oghifo

Irregular migration is becoming intense among young Nigerians who seek better fortunes than they can get at home. They fueled by legitimate anger at frustrating efforts to get a life, particularly having been imbued with so much energy, zest and creativity that they fear would wane because of a repressive environment. These young people believe they are dying anyway and most have resolved to die trying to escape hopelessness, even if it means swimming across the Mediterranean Sea or crawling across the Sahara. Whichever way, they are always at the edge of disaster so it means zero to them to roll the dice and take a chance.

Recently, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) with assistance from the Swiss Government presented some trade equipment to some rehabilitated and trained victims of human trafficking at the NAPTIP office in Lagos.

In an address presented on behalf of the officer representing the UNODC, the UN body expressed its delight at the presentation  of equipment for victims of human trafficking who have successfully passed through the rehabilitation process of NAPTIP, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons.

“As you certainly know, the work of UNODC is guided by the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. “Nigeria has ratified both instruments and Article 6 of the Protocol, on the Assistance to and protection of victims of trafficking in persons states that ‘Each State Party shall consider implementing measures to provide for the physical, psychological and social recovery of victims of trafficking in persons, including, in appropriate cases, in cooperation with non­governmental organizations and, in particular, the provision of material assistance; and Employment, educational and training opportunities.’

“Today, and in line with these provisions, UNODC, with funding from the government of Switzerland, supports NAPTIP in implementing one of its core mandates (that is, the protection, assistance and rehabilitation of trafficked persons) by empowering thirty victims of trafficking with vocational skills equipment for catering, hairdressing, photography, tailoring, and bead-making. Each beneficiary is also provided with a generator as back up for electricity power supply in their business.”

“Along with provision of such equipment, we spent the last two days delivering specialized training on Business Management. This aimed at providing basic knowledge that is necessary for successful business, to ensure economic self-reliance, within the family, community and society at large. Sessions also included coaching on customer relations skills that can assist to boost sales return.

“Of course, UNODC, as much as NAPTIP and the government of Switzerland, expect that each of you who has benefited from this programme will take proper care of this equipment and maximize its use. We equally hope that NAPTIP will be in a position to monitor progress made thanks to these equipment and newly acquired skills.”

UNODC thanked the government of Switzerland and NAPTIP “for the fruitful partnership under this project ‘Support and Capacity Building to NAPTIP on Strengthening Access to Justice and Victim Support’. The project started in June 2015. It will close next month and we are proud to list a meaningful series of achievements. These include: The establishment of a formal referral procedure in Lagos state to assist trafficked persons to access justice through formal and informal services; Capacity building to officers from NAPTIP and specialized institutions on access to justice for trafficked persons in Nigeria; Capacity building to officers from NAPTIP and NACTAL, the NGO coalition, on counselling and social work skills; And now the handover of equipment for the empowerment of 30 victims.”

“So let me indeed sincerely thank partners for this continuous collaboration in the fight against trafficking in persons, and I use this opportunity to reaffirm UNODC’s commitment to continue to support the protection and assistance of trafficked persons as well as the eradication of such heinous crime.”

A representative of Switzerland appreciated the efforts of UNODC and NAPTIP for the organisation of the training, and the execution of the project “Support and Capacity Building to NAPTIP on Strengthening Access to Justice and Victim Support”. “This project is implemented by UNODC in close partnership with NAPTIP who has taken, since inception, encouraging strides in addressing human trafficking issues. Let me also thank all stakeholders who work towards the success of this project, and the participants of the training workshop for their active participation.

The cooperation between UNODC, NAPTIP and the Swiss Embassy is one of the results of the expert meetings between the Swiss and Nigerian governments on migration issues. Swiss and Nigerian experts meet annually in the framework of the Swiss-Nigeria Migration Partnership signed by the two governments in February 2011. The next experts meeting will hold soon, in January 2018.

The purpose of Swiss-Nigeria migration partnership is to work together more closely and in a comprehensive manner in the area of migration with the purpose to tackle together the challenges of global migration. The objective is to develop common solutions to the challenges faced by both countries, and to better utilize the potential offered by migration.

Nigeria was the first African country with which Switzerland established a migration partnership. Since 2011, both countries have enjoyed an excellent and close collaboration on migration issues. Numerous projects and activities have been implemented so far in various fields, including the fight against human trafficking and migrants smuggling, capacity building in immigration administration and protection of vulnerable migrants.

Switzerland and Nigeria are also cooperating in the field of preventing irregular migration. A growing number of irregular migrants leaves Nigeria in search of a better life elsewhere. The need to escape difficult socio­economic situations presents the illusion that the perspectives in the destination country is better.

This is not always true! Not when irregular migration routes have to be followed. Significant number of Nigerians following irregular migration routes get stranded in transit countries, die in the desert or the Mediterranean Sea, or become victims of criminal and trafficking networks.

To raise awareness of the risks of following irregular migration routes, Switzerland developed together with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) and C&E Productions a television mini-series called “The Missing Steps”.

Last October the 13-weeks mini-series was launched at the Swiss Residence in presence of the Swiss Ambassador, the Comptroller General of NIS, the !OM chief of mission and the Nollywood filmmaker C&E Productions.

The mini-series is currently being aired on the Nigeria Television Network (NTA) every Friday from 8:05 – 8:30pm. The mini-series engages the audience with unpleasant encounters of irregular migration to Europe through the Sahara desert. The movie aims to raise awareness and change the behaviour of the target population, thereby contributing to minimizing the consequences of irregular migration.

Trafficking issues are often linked to irregular migration, as irregular migrants can be easy victims to these networks. Human trafficking is a complex phenomenon that needs a collaborative effort on both the national and international level, and appropriate instruments to counter it effectively and in a sustainable manner.

The Swiss funded project “Support and Capacity Building to NAPTIP on Strengthening Access to Justice and Victim Support” is implemented in close cooperation with our longstanding partners UNGDC and NAPTIP and pursues the aim to fit in efforts designed at tackling the issue of human trafficking in an effective way.

The overall objective of our project is to improve the organizational, operational and management capacities of law enforcement officers, counsellors and social workers to deal with cases of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants in Nigeria, in particular in the fields of access to justice and victim support. The broader aim is to contribute to combating and reducing irregular migration that occurs, inter alia, through trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, by adding to the capacity-building efforts being provided to NAPT1P and improving the services being directed to the victims.

For all participants of this training, we do recognize your invaluable service to the society in very many aspects. It is for that reason that we have reached the critical aspect of this project – empowering you with the already acquired training, as well as equipment to sustain and enhance your economic and leadership skills.

She said, “It is only with a common effort and close cooperation between all stakeholders that we will be able to overcome the sickening challenge of human trafficking.”