Government should address the socio-economic issues that give rise to undesirable migration
The revelation that several rogue labour recruiters are trafficking Nigerian women to Iraq for domestic servitude should be of serious concern to authorities in the country. “We’re inundated with pleas for rescue and repatriation from female victims trafficked to Iraq, especially to the cities of Baghdad and Basra where they’re distributed to homes by their recruiters to a hard life of domestic servitude,” said the Director General of the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), Fatima WaziriAzi. She further revealed that these unfortunate Nigerians are constantly under threat of being harmed either by their direct employers or the Iraqi agents, each time they complained of unbearable workload.
As unfortunate as it may seem, the challenge is not restricted to Iraq or the Middle East. The increasing number of Nigerians being trafficked abroad places a heavy burden on the authorities to provide leadership in communication and political action. In what is clearly an organised crime, human traffickers move their victims from country to country until they reach their destination. In the process many die even as the survivors are subjected to all forms of indignity, in the bid to repay the heavy debts owed their “benefactors” by way of travel expenses. But the trade is thriving because most of the people involved wield powerful influence with which they circumvent the law.
It is shameful that our country is regarded not only as a transit route for this illegal trade but also a source as well as a destination with children and young adults, especially of the womenfolk, now becoming merchandise. Indeed, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has since confirmed the prevalence of modern-day slavery known as trafficking in persons (TIP) in Nigeria: “Its high occurrence has made Nigeria to be classified as a source, transit and destination country in TIP.” UNODC stated while estimating that 750,000 to one million persons are trafficked annually in Nigeria.
A few years ago, the then Nigerian Ambassador to Mali, Mr. Iliya Nuhu, lamented that the problem of human trafficking had grown in magnitude and sophistication to the extent that several Nigerians in his country of posting were thriving on it. He described the development as akin to modern day slavery with some unscrupulous Nigerians now recruiting from their villages and towns young girls between the ages of 10 and 15 which are then sold into lives of misery. According to the ambassador, about 20 to 30 girls were at the time being trafficked to Mali daily, with the promise of securing for them good jobs only to turn them to prostitutes.
One of the challenges is that of mind-set as there are many young men and women who believe they can only make it abroad and will do anything to travel outside the shores of the country. But that is not correct. Irregular migrants are merely compounding their miseries because what await them on the other shores are no longer opportunities but detention, most often under subhuman conditions. That has been the testimonies of many of the stranded migrants brought back home under the auspices of the International Office of Migration (IOM). Therefore, apart from addressing the socio-economic issues of our country, government at all levels must also embark on a campaign to disabuse the minds of our teeming population of young people. As we have always stressed, the grass is not always greener at the other side.
While we commend NAPTIP for its efforts, tackling the problem is a collective responsibility.
We must cast away the complacency that has emboldened the perpetrators of this criminal enterprise who exploit the most vulnerable of our society for illicit gains.