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Migrants deserve dignity

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Over 140 migrants and refugees from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone who were transported by the German navy frigate Werra as part of the European external action service EU Navfor Med, wait to disembark at the Augusta harbour in eastern Italy...recently                                     CREDIT: GOOGLE

Over 140 migrants and refugees from Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone who were transported by the German navy frigate Werra as part of the European external action service EU Navfor Med, wait to disembark at the Augusta harbour in eastern Italy…recently CREDIT: GOOGLE

The United Nations proclamation of 18th December as the International Migrants’ Day is an important step, offering a rallying point for everyone across the world who is concerned with the protection of migrants. The UN invited all UN member states, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations to observe this day by disseminating information on human rights and fundamental freedoms of migrants, sharing experiences, and undertaking actions to ensure the protection of migrants.

The International Migrants Day is seen, first, as an opportunity to recognize the contributions made by millions of migrants to the economies of their host and home countries, and secondly to promote respect for their basic human rights.
In his report to the General Assembly in October 2013, the UN Secretary-General – Ban Ki Moon put forward an ambitious eight-point agenda to “make migration work” for all: migrants, societies of origin and societies of destination alike. “Migration is an expression of the human aspiration for dignity, safety and a better future. It is part of the social fabric, part of our very make-up as a human family,” the Secretary-General said.

For example, at the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development in October 2013, Member States unanimously adopted a Declaration in which they recognised the important contribution of migration to development and called for greater cooperation to address the challenges of irregular migration and to facilitate safe, orderly and regular migration. The Declaration also emphasized the need to respect the human rights of migrants and to promote international labour standards. The Declaration strongly condemns manifestations of racism and intolerance and stresses the need to improve public perceptions of migrants and migration.

Defining migration (especially internal migration within a country) and accepting an architectural framework for it continue to be a very controversial activity most especially at international or global levels.
Migration is probably best defined (in general terms) as the crossing of a spatial boundary by one or more persons involved in change of residence and in spite of the simplistic nature of this definition, underlying it is a complexity of issues and a very lengthy theoretical polemics. It is not appropriate to dwell here on all these issues.
Be that as it may, migration remains a very complex but fundamental part of human nature. People move from one place to another for various reasons, including poverty, unemployment, famine, political and religious crises, natural disasters, and so on.

Between 2000 and now, migration has feature prominently on national and global economic and political agenda of countries and international institutions with a variety of mixed impacts.
Notably, migration has been successfully linked with development with the Post-2015 Development Agenda’s new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on targets 8.8; 10.7; 10.c and 17.18.

Though, irregular migration constitutes an irrevocably dark side of migration, available evidences shows that migration has fuelled growth, innovation and entrepreneurship both at origin and destination countries. For example, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) indicates that Nigeria receives over USD21 billion in official diasporas’ remittances as at 2012. This is more than the total Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the country for that year. More is likely to trickle in with the dwindling petrol dollar resources most especially if we consider Nigeria’s position in the newly released 2015 UNDP Human Development Index (HDI) Report.

Nigeria has a complex and long migration history. Nigeria has undergone a major migration shift from being a country of immigration during the colonial era to being one of emigration since the 1970s and 1980s. With a large population size and a strong economy, Nigeria is an active Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member. Nigeria has not only ratified the 1979 Protocol relating to the Free Movement of Persons, Rights of Residence and Establishment with the supplementary protocols and the 2008 ECOWAS Common Approach on Migration but has endorsed key international instruments pertaining to migration (with the exception of the 1990 UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families). Nigeria is an origin, transit and destination country.

Nigeria is a key partner for the European Union (EU) and the International Organization Migration (IOM) in its efforts to promote better management of migration and mobility in West Africa, as well as an active part of the larger EU-Africa partnership to maximize the economic benefits of migration and mobility for both regions while addressing challenges relating to irregular migration, human trafficking and protection of migrants and asylum seekers.

For example, in March 2015, the EU and Nigeria signed “A Common Agenda on Migration and Mobility” (CAMM), in a joint effort to comprehensively address the need to improve management of migration and mobility, based on common political principles and reciprocity. Building on regional frameworks for cooperation and dialogue, the CAMM contains priority areas for cooperation and issues to be addressed covering legal migration and mobility, address irregular migration and trafficking in human beings, migration and development issues, international protection and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Nigeria has a focal institution coordinating migration issues (the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally displaced Persons-NCFRMI) and with the support of the Swiss Development Corporation (SDC) in December 18th 2014 held its first ever National Migration Dialogue in Abuja.

She is the most populous in Africa and 9th worldwide with estimate of more than 170 million people. According to the UNDP in 2009, Nigeria’s population is projected to increase to 193 million people by 2020 and 289 million in 2050. Nigeria really has much to benefit than its costs from migration. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM 2014), net outmigration of (24%) is driven by unemployment with huge youth population (54% under 35) affected with a high poverty rate of (62%).

Nigeria is an important country of origin of regular and irregular migration to the European Union (EU) and its Member-States. Nigerians are also prominent in many countries of the South – (e.g. in Africa, Asia, Pacific, Caribbean, etc). In 2014, Nigerians accounted for an estimated 8,700 out of the 283,532 irregular migrants entering EU borders, many of whom risked their lives crossing the Mediterranean2. Concerning irregular migrants who have no right to reside in the EU, out of 4122 return decisions in January-July 2015, only 2401 were effective. Nigeria has several millions strong diaspora residing in the EU.

In recent years, the Nigerian Government has indicated strong commitment to improve the management of migration and mobility, linking to the national development agenda. In May 2015, the National Immigration Act was signed by the President, replacing an outdated Act from 1963. A National Migration Policy (NMP), developed with the support of the European Union and technical input of the IOM was adopted in 2015 and provides a promising framework to improve the management of internal and external migration. Finally, in 2014 the Government adopted the National Policy on Labour Migration.

The Government has also taken steps to strengthen Nigeria’s response to irregular migration, migrant protection and trafficking in persons. In 2003, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Other Related Matters (NAPTIP) was created, and in 2012, the Nigeria’s Immigration Service (NIS) bill to the National Assembly criminalising Smuggling of Migrants (SOM) and not Migrants – was adopted in 2015. Moreover, Nigeria is also taking measures to align with the migration strategies and plans developed at the regional (ECOWAS) level.

However, migration linkage with development sector still faces serious systemic constraints that hamper the delivery of effective management of regular and irregular migration – including studies and data collection and management; development of evidence based policy, legislation and strategies on migration; coordination, management and technical capacity of key agencies; and budgetary commitment of the Government. In addition, the Government is unable to effectively manage the growing population of internally displaced persons, with only 10% hosted in regular IDP camps, and with international humanitarian agencies providing most of the severely limited assistance and protection. Trafficking and smuggling of Nigerian citizens remain a critical challenge, with regular reports of women and children exploited for sexual purposes and forced labour both domestically and in and beyond the EU.

Though, Nigeria labour migration policy of 2014 and the 2015 overarching National Migration Policy which shared the framework for the development of these policies on the guiding principles of the African Union Strategic Framework on Migration and Development and the 2006 African Union Common Position on Migration and Development covering a number of areas, including human resources, the political fervor in Nigeria for timely action oriented activities to address most of the policy elements that are long overdue for implementation remain a challenge.

On the way forward, Nigeria can use this commemorative day to reflect the potentials from the short, medium and long-term implications of migration inflow and outflows.

• Jide Olatuyi – International Migration and Development Policy Expert is the Executive Director at the POLICY CONSULT


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