Africa and Irregular Migration

The regular media images of drowning African refugees in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic are a constant reminder of the tragedy of irregular migration out of Africa.

Irregular migration is the migration or movement of people across national borders in a manner that violates the immigration laws of the transit and destination countries.

A wrong perception of life in Europe and deliberate disinformation by people traffickers lead many young Africans to leave their homelands and seek to enter Europe irregularly in search of the much fabled greener pastures.

Nigerian migrants attempting to reach Europe irregularly face a daunting journey fraught with many obstacles including violence, rape, extortion and other life-threatening situations. Unaccompanied minors and women are particularly at risk.

It has been established that irregular migrants are not usually the poorest within the population they emigrate from. In many cases, the migrants have jobs and have established families in their home countries. The false promise of entering Europe irregularly leads them into abandoning their means of livelihood and families for a dangerous odyssey, which sometimes ends tragically. The problem is not abating but worsening.

Since 2014, more than 17,000 migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean, according to the International Organisation for Migration, while many more are believed to have perished in the transit countries as a result of dehydration in the Sahara desert, disease and violence.

There are countless stories of the suffering of children and widows left behind by dead refugees and migrants who disappeared without traces in transit.

Those who finally make it to Europe after the odyssey begin the arduous struggle to regularise their papers. For Nigerians, seeking asylum seems the most promising way to secure temporary stay. However, the country is considered a safe country of origin, which is why nationals of Nigeria have the lowest success rate in their asylum applications among sub-Sahara Africans.

With their asylum claim rejected and asked to leave their country of residence, many migrants go underground and seek to live without papers. Rejected asylum-seekers resist going back home because of the perception that they have failed in their overseas sojourn and would have nothing to do at home.

Irregular migrants, lacking legal residency papers, are constantly on the run and are an easy prey for exploitation. Moreover, when there’re sick they cannot seek treatment as they lack any health insurance cover. Research has also shown that some of these irregular migrants often embark on various criminal activities, including, but not limited to prostitution, fraud, drug trafficking etc. to survive.

International migration is a global phenomenon that is growing in scope, complexity and impact. People keep moving around the world, with several and various motivations.

There are many factors responsible for irregular migration: civil conflicts, climate change, unemployment, unrealistic perception of both the journey and the situation of irregular migrants in Europe and the sheer desire to try out Europe in the quest for self-actualisation.

For Nigeria, a major sender nation in sub-Sahara Africa, lack of information plays a big role in the issue of irregular migration. Researches both in the transit countries and in Europe have shown that many young Nigerians left their home country based on false information.

This is why an enlightenment campaign in Nigeria, which informs would-be migrants of the opportunities of legal migration and the dangers and futility of illegal migration, will contribute to an overall solution of the problem. Moreover, by discouraging irregular migration more young people will seek opportunities for self-actualisation in Nigeria and contribute to the development of their homeland.

© Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria, 2018