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Posts Tagged ‘Illegal immigration’

The report of African migrants trying to reach Europe is a daily news item. Many as we know and see frequently in the news meet their deaths in the Mediterranean. According to the International Organization for Migration, many others are being sold by traffickers into slavery in Libya, including for sex, for as little as $200, while others still are killed and their organs harvested for sale in the booming human organ trade.

Many young Africans find that after having paid human traffickers in the hope of finding a better life in Europe, they end up being held hostage by their traffickers who exploit them and their families, turning the dreams of a better life into a nightmare.

The International Organisation for Migration says slave markets and detentions are becoming increasingly common on the illegal migrant routes as criminal gangs cash in on what has become a very sad situation.

According to IOM’s chief of mission in Libya, Othman Belbeisi, selling human beings is becoming a trend among smugglers as the smuggling networks in Libya are becoming stronger. In his words, “Migrants are being sold in markets as a commodity” at a going rate of between $200 and $500” .

While some migrants sold this way managed to escape, many wallowed in captivity for months before being bought free or sold on. Others die and are unaccounted for and many among them are Nigerians fleeing harsh economic situation back at home or simply chasing the myth of greener grass on the other side.

The reality is that for many young people in Nigeria, the ultimate ambition in life is to go abroad. And the exodus has been on forever. There is hardly anyone who does not have a relative or someone who has “checked out.” In the late ‘80s and ‘90s there was a massive brain drain of Academics and professionals following the collapse of our educational institutions, and the persecution of perceived pro-democracy activists by the military dictators who held sway then.

The brain drain continues even today. You see it in the long queues of visa applicants in foreign embassies. I still have vivid memories of the crowd of rowdy, sweaty applicants in a zigzag queue, I saw on my first visit to the UK Visa application centre in Abuja close to a decade ago and how very willing they appeared to endure any kind of manhandling in their quest for a visa.

Such is the value placed on obtaining a visa that it is often a major prayer point in churches and a good course for testimonies. This obsession very easily turns into desperation. Many short-term visa applicants have absolutely no intention of returning. Some on student visas do not honour the terms. They live illegally in the shadows abroad, many getting deported, or jailed. These stories of the fate of their compatriots do not stop those who intend to seek the West’s presumed greener pastures, as the risk is considered one worth taking.

The denial of a visa or deportation does not stop the determined Nigerian immigrant nor does the fear of the dangers associated with migrating illegally. As long as there is a chance of success, no matter how slim, there will be willing people. This has resulted in the growth of what is today an industry of powerful people and their agents, feeding off the gullibility and desperation of young people in the guise of helping them reach their dreams of a better life abroad. These issues form the theme of my new e-book, ‘My Mind Is No Longer Here’ recently published by Bahati Books.

We have read of people who faked travel documents, of folks who braved life inside airtight containers sailing across the sea, of stowaways in the wheel compartment of international flights. We are also quite familiar with the malaise of human trafficking, of young ladies who either by coercion or by choice, are taken to European cities to work as prostitutes and the daredevil journey to Europe through the scorching heat of the Sahara desert and the stormy waves of the Mediterranean.

The UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in 2016 warned that the trafficking of Nigerian women to Italy by boat was reaching “crisis” levels, with traffickers using migrant reception centres as holding pens for women who are then collected and forced into prostitution across Europe. About 3,600 Nigerian women arrived by boat into Italy in the first six months of that year, and more than 80% of these women will be trafficked into prostitution in Italy and across Europe, the IOM said.

We need to stem this tide. Many of those who make this trip do not know any better. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the Nigerian government’s agency set up in response to the situation can only do as much. While we continue to clamour for a better deal from the government in terms of the state of the economy which is the ultimate solution to the crisis, we must also step up advocacy and public campaigns targeted at young people on the dangers of falling prey to criminal traffickers.

This is one issue where ideas are needed. It concerns us all because, in small instalments, our country’s future is disappearing…never to be recovered again.

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Yipeee!!! Today, finally my ebook, My Mind Is No Longer Here was release by Bahati Books.

The book is available for purchase Amazon and on the popular Nigerian ebooks platform, Okadabooks app

And as part of the launch, I did an article here for TRUE AFRICA on the general theme of the book.

Someone who has read it said they really liked it.  Buy, enjoy and do share what your thought about it.

And yes, a print version is in the works for all you print book lovers. Just watch this space.

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migrantsIt’s been disappearing in installments, the future. Like dew at the first touch of sunlight. We are witnesses of the exodus, seen in the ever long queues of visa applicants at various foreign embassies. We’ve read about stowaways in ships, braving life in airless containers for weeks, on a sail to uncertainty. We know someone who knows someone who has endured the heat of the Sahara and the stormy waves of the Mediterranean on a crossing to Europe in makeshift boats. Perhaps a friend or a family member has willingly or by coercion, made the crossing to begin a career in sex hawking or drug trafficking. Sometimes, having been denied repeatedly at the embassies, we know of folks who have manufactured their own papers and try to beat the hi-tech security checks to leave. For some others, a short term visa was all they got, but they boarded the flight, without any intention to ever return. The future, our future, has been leaving.

A better life, the need to find a job, the lure of the grass being greener on the other side, used to be the main drive. So the majority were desperate, unemployed or underemployed young people, some hardly with any formal education, hustling and grabbing at anything to stay afloat. It was a little ironic that while that class kept the hustle to go abroad, we had a unique class making a journey in the opposite direction. Young people, educated abroad, some raised there, leaving fancy jobs, and returning home armed with their ivy league certificates, experience, some awesome business idea, an accent and plenty enthusiasm to grab for themselves a piece of the pie in what was an economy growing averagely at 6% year on year for over a decade and with a GDP many other countries can only dream about.

But all that has changed now. Virtually every young person I know is leaving or considering his/her options. I mean people one grew up with, went to school with, met on social media and work with. Young people, educated, professionals, working, running businesses, of childbearing age, heads bursting with ideas…. the future, all in a hurry to leave. This includes most of the people who braved it back in the last five to ten years, persons who uprooted themselves from their lives abroad to sink roots at home. There is a general sense of uncertainty and despair. Nobody seems to be sure about anything and the exit door has never held a greater appeal. europe-migrants_1

What with the state of the economy and the body language of the leaders which inspires no confidence. Truth be told, no leadership in this country has exactly inspired any confidence since independence but nothing feels worse than being left high and dry as this current bunch have so successfully done. Coming into the last elections many young Nigerians, either out of exuberance, ignorance or a combination of both, had their hopes high that the country was finally going to turn a new leaf. How the government has crushed such hopes and in the process, foisted on the nation an air of cynicism. Like, ah it’s all over! There is no hope left now.

The exodus and the ‘we have given up on this country’ stand of many young people is a tragedy of unimaginable proportions. When we talk about what makes Nigeria a possible economic superpower, we boast about the population, specifically, the very young population. This population is only a potential until the right things are done to unleash the power inherent. This we have consistently failed to do. To have this very critical demography on a race to leave presents perhaps the clearest signal that this country is in trouble. Not only does it have a negative impact on productivity and government finances, but it also has long-term implications for the real-life opportunities of young people and the communities around them.

I read a recent PwC report on Young Workers Index which estimated the potential gain from youth empowerment to be over $1 trillion across the OECD economy. This is a huge figure. Imagine what it would be if a similar study was done for Nigeria. The report further explored ways governments, businesses, schools and young people themselves can work together to create economic opportunities in a way that promotes social mobility. These are the things our government should be doing, seeking ways to provide opportunities that empower young people to take ownership of their own future outcomes. But no. We are content with appointing a dozen young people as social media aides and handbag carriers for madam while the rest perfect plans to relocate to Canada.

The reaction by some readers who feel defending the people in power is their eternal duty will be to accuse one of not offering any solutions. To those, I call to mind the words of Chinua Achebe that “Writers don’t give prescriptions. They cause headache.’ But if one must offer an opinion, I will simply point to a country like Germany, a shining example, even in Europe, where youth unemployment rates dropped to around 7% and where Government has been able to improve economic opportunities for younger people. What are they doing right? Is it rocket science?

Before it’s all lost and the much talked about ‘future’ of the country is all gone, contributing to the GDP and good governance of other climes, we must wake up and arrest the tide.

This article first appeared on Olisa.tv

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Dear Stranded Emigrant,

It’s been ten years now.

I remember the day you announced with glee that you had finally gotten the Visa. “I am checking out for good”  were your words dripping with excitement.

I was happy for you, a cheerful climax to over a year’s hunt. In the period following our graduation, you had made looking for a Visa, any Visa, a full time job. You were obsessed by it, consumed by the promise of a better life on the other side, convinced that it was the only thing to do. So, from embassy to embassy you went, casting your net like a fisherman in shallow waters. For many moons you caught nothing, only tales of how on the balance of probabilities, some bored blue eyed consul did not find you worthy to visit their country.

Then, there was this miraculous catch and we celebrated.

What if that Visa was not for only six months?

‘I have it all worked out’ you had boasted. Your agent who you had paid huge sums had laid out a sure plan that sounded a little too grandiose. ‘That is how everybody does it’you reassured when I expressed some doubt. I did not push it. It was futile. No being born of a woman could have talked you out of it. You boarded the plane.

It’s been ten years now.

What if your going abroad dream has since become a nightmare? illegal

What if the sure plan was not so sure after all?

You became a cash cow for your agent. He fleeced you. For fake papers.For an arranged marriage.For cover from the cops. When you could not produce any more juice, he spat you out like chaff and left you to freeze in the cold. You became a shadow. Living in the backwaters. Fighting for survival.

You have done the rounds; from working as a nanny, keeping watch at night in the cold, to washing dishes in a fast food restaurant and driving a taxi. What you make is hardly enough to keep a cloth on your back. You have no savings. Your rent is late by many months. Your life has waned by many more.

But you refuse to beat a retreat still.

You keep putting up appearances, making like all is well. You post pictures of yourself in oversized jackets and basketball boots on social media. When we speak on phone, you speak like you were born there. Better comes out as berra. When I ask when you plan to visit home, you make excuses about being busy at work. When I visited on vacation and asked for your address so we could hook up, your phone became unavailable until my vacation period was over.

What if you’ve just been deceiving yourself?

What if it’s an open secret that all has not been well with you over there?

It’s been ten years now.

All of us your friends back home are not doing badly. We might not be millionaires but we can all afford annual vacations to the country where you are holed up and the government welcome us warmly because of the figures they see in our bank statements. There have been marriages and children. Higher degrees and Promotions; Appointments and awards; Savings and Investments.

What if the grass is greener on this side?

What if home is really sweeter than the deception you are currently living abroad?

In the news, we hear of austerity measures. Of your host country defaulting in loans.Of jobs being cut.Of taxes being raised. Of Immigration laws being tightened. Here, there are talks of a middle class re-emerging. People are starting new business, building Africa’s Silicon Valley. The cloud over our land is heavy with venture capitalist fund. There is plenty money chasing after talents and creativity. Even those who unlike you did not get in through the back door, who have enjoyed appreciable career success in that land are moving back home, taking over the juicy jobs.

What if you took the next flight home?

Admitting that your sojourn over there has been a mistake is not shame but bravery. Burying your head deep in the sand in that cold, cold land however is not just foolhardy but also pure cowardice. It’s not late yet, rush back home, son.

First published HERE

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