Experts seek proper reintegration of returnee migrants
Advise Against Irregular Migration
Experts in migration issues in Nigeria have thrown their weights behind a coordinated approach in the implementation of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for the Conduct of Return, Readmission and Reintegration (RRR) of migrants.
The current push by the experts drawn from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Nigeria and Civil Society Organisations (CSO) is geared towards ensuring that Nigerians who return from other countries either voluntarily or forcefully are professionally reintegrated into the society to contiue their lives without feeling stigmatised.
At a five-day workshop in Lagos on Operationalisation of the SOP on RRR in the country organised by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in collaboration with the Federal Government, which ended yesterday, the experts identified inter-agency cooperation and structured approach as necessary steps that must be taken to achieve the goal.
Speaking on the objective of the workshop, which was held under the Individual Measure for the EU-IOM Joint Initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa project, within the framework of the Neighbourhood Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI), the Acting Chief of Mission of the IOM, Ms. Prestage Murima, said it was targetted at contributing to safe, orderly and regular migration in the Sahel and Lake Chad and Horn of Africa regions.
Murima, who was represented by Mr. Chukwuemeka Anene of IOM Nigeria, Abuja office, noted that the project aims to ensure that returning migrants achieve improved economic, social and psychosocial reintegration that also benefits communities.
“This can be achieved by the operationalisation of the Standard Operational Procedures of return, readmission and reintegration developed by the National Working Group, by sensitising and training stakeholders at the state and local levels on the provisions of this document.
“While urging you the participants to take due advantage of the opportunity presented by this capacity building activity, I would also, in the spirit of IOM’s whole of society approach to Migration Management, encourage you make adequate recommendations that would further improve the operability of the RRR programme,” she said.
South-West Zonal Coordinator of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, Mrs. Ola Erinfolami, who declared the workshop open on behalf of the Federal Commissioner, Hajiya Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim, said the workshop would deepen the knowledge of participants on the SOP on RRR.
“It is a programme that is meant to open our eyes to so many things about migration,” she said. Speaking with The Guardian in an interview, the Deputy Director, Humanitarian Affairs in the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Mr. Charles Nwanelo Anaelo, who represented the Minister, Sadiya Umar Farouq, said the Federal Government has developed the SOP on RRR but needed to operationalise it.
His words: “The ministry provides policies and strategies for the management of migrants, particularly the returning migrants. One of the strategies developed for such is the SOP for the conduct of RRR in Nigeria. This document had been developed and validated by all the stakeholders for sometime. What is remaining now is ensuring its operationalisation.
“So, one of the key objectives of this gathering is to engage relevant stakeholders to get their buy-in and ensure the operationalisation of the document, because we are looking at ensuring that there is a coherence.
“The issue of coordination does not mean that everybody would be doing one thing; it means everybody doing different things but aiming at the same goal. So, we want to see how we are going ensure appropriate institutionalisation of the process.
“We have stakeholders from various backgrounds as participants; we have people from the state governments and non-government actors. The essence of that is that we want to achieve a whole of society and government approach in the operationalisation of the SOP on RRR in Nigeria.”
Anaelo noted that when the document is conscientiously implemented, returning migrants would be properly re-integrated into the society. He added that the document does not only target returning migrants but also potential migrants by way of educating them.
“Within this SOP we have provisions where there will be advocacy to inform potential migrants about the dangers of irregular migration so that they can avoid it. Nobody is telling anybody not to travel but if you must travel let it be an informed decision. When it is an informed decision, it means that you know what you are going for and follow the due process of travelling.
“I must confess that even though people are dying following the desert, they need us over there because they have an older people population. But in as much as they need you, they want you to come through regular process. So, we are trying to educate people using this process and those who have taken the risk but are now back, we find a way to integrate them back into the society.
“One of the greatest challenges people have is that when they travel and come back, they begin to feel stigmatised and the quest to move again will come, which we call re-migration. But if you receive them and take them through processes, resettle them and reintegrate them into the society, they may relax and continue to live their lives here,” he explained.
On his part, one the facilitators, Osita Osemene, explained that from the inception of migration issues in Nigeria especially since the signing of the National Migration Policy 2015, there has been a lot of activities going on in Nigeria.
He stated that there was a lot of actors working in the area of migration, noting, however, that a lot of gaps has been identified. He said: “For instnace, on the issue of RRR, we found that there is need to have a standard operation guideline for actors who are providing series of services for the beneficiaries like the returnees.
“The international community has been assisting for a very long time through the Assisted Voluntray Return and Reintegration; and the IOM, which is tailored towards international best practices. However, for localisation, we needed to have our own home-grown approach. That is why for now, we are trying to look at how it can be reviewed from Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration to RRR, looking at it hostically from the angle of Nigeria where we can now be taking care of our citizens that are returned in a Nigerian way and from the Nigerian structured approach. That is why we have started this with the support of the EU and the IOM and this is tailored towards states with high rate of return. The essence is to see how we can ensure an effective way of implementing the RRR and the reintegration support and the return assistance by all the actors.”
A participant from the Nigeria Immigration Service, CIS B. A. Babajide, told The Guardian that the workshop exposed the gaps in the implementation of the SOP on RRR in the country, adding that participants were able to proffer solutions and make recommendations.
He said: “I want thank the NIS for giving me the opportunity to participate in this workshop and by extension the Comptroller General, Mr. Isah Jere and also the Comptroller MMIA Command, CIS A. O. Adesokan.
“At the beginning of the workshop, we saw reasons we should all work together as agencies that are involved in the return, readmission and reintegration of migrants. We have identified the gaps; we have also proffered solutions and given recommendations for the action plan going forward.
“As far as NIS is concerned, we have been partnering with IOM for quite some time now and the relationship is a very cordial one. As much as we can, we have also been trying to synergise with other agencies to make sure that this challenge of having to return, readmit and reintegrate migrants is conquered,” he said.