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Files: IOM and its quest to fight irregular migration, sexual slavery in Africa

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Files: IOM and its quest to fight irregular migration, sexual slavery in Africa

By Ifeanyi Nwoko

Data made available by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) showed that between January and May, 29,000 people of sub-Saharan African origin traveled to Europe via the central Mediterranean route, mainly to looking for greener pastures.

Unfortunately, their fate is uncertain, as they can end up as sex slaves, victims of organ theft, among others. Most irregular migrants were unaware of the dangers ahead.

Aside from those who “made it”, over 761 others died in the search for the crossing, around 13,000 were pushed back by the Libyan coast guard, while thousands more languish in detention centers.

However, the story is not only bleak in Europe, irregular migrants in Africa also suffer the same fate of forced labor and sexual slavery.

According to a 2018 report by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), more than 20,000 Nigerian girls worked as sex slaves in Mali.

According to Frantz Celestin, Head of Mission, IOM Nigeria, migration to Europe is mostly captured in the media space while higher numbers of migrants remain in Africa.

“Most people watch the media report on migrants trying to get to Europe, but the point is that the vast majority of migrants who decide to leave a place of habitual residence, they decide to do so on the African continent.

“In fact, less than five percent of people on the move make it to Europe, the vast majority of them staying on the continent.

“If you look at the citizens of ECOWAS, over 90% of them stay in the ECOWAS area.

“Considering the number of people on the move and knowing how vulnerable people tend to be if they migrate irregularly, the chances of them being trafficked or abused on their journey are quite high. .

“So if so many people are moving in the ECOWAS space, it is safe to conclude that many of them are trafficked with the ECOWAS space,” he said.

He said that according to the study that had been carried out by IOM, Mali remained at the top of the list of places for Nigerian girls trafficked in Africa.

“If we know all this and if ECOWAS tends to think that there might be a lot of trafficked women in its space, what do we do?

“This is to make sure we understand the pattern, look at the trends, see where they are going – and Mali has a number of young Nigerian women as sex workers in the gold mine district.

“So if I had to say, given the numbers we’ve seen, Mali is the number one destination in West Africa for Nigerian women who have been trafficked.

“But there is trafficking throughout the ECOWAS region.

Celestin, who recently interacted with the media to advance the work of the UN agency, said a significant number of the 29,000 people who made it to Europe were Nigerians.

The IOM chief, who did not give precise figures, pointed out that despite his campaign and awareness across Nigeria, many still choose to relocate because they are motivated by many factors that must to be taken into account.

Celestin said that “the drivers could be conflicts, socio-economic pressures, population pressures, disasters, climate-induced phenomena and we have seen a number of these with increasing severity and frequency.

“There are a lot of push factors and we are only seeing that they are increasing.

“So how can we move forward to alleviate the number of people migrating as well as the level of suffering that we see in this process? “

“It won’t stop unless the drivers are removed or mitigated, and those drivers are hardship, conflict, disaster and the fact that we have more people looking for work and a lot of people. underemployed.

“So the combination of unemployment and underemployment will definitely push people forward.

“You can tell them as much as you want, but if you can’t find something to hold them in place, they’ll migrate.

“All the work we do is to prevent, reduce and tackle the drivers of migration,” he said.

Celestine, however, clarified that IOM’s job was not to discourage migration, as he insisted that there was a need for migration to take place, stressing that the important thing was for migration to happen from the good manner.

Perhaps it is in its attempt to get the message of migration across Nigeria that IOM has continually sought partnerships with the Nigerian media.

In one of these dialogues held recently in Abuja, Celestin appealed to the media, as indispensable partners to help get the right message on migration across Nigeria.

“IOM wishes to use this dialogue to facilitate your direct involvement in disseminating credible information on migration in support of its efforts to ensure orderly, dignified and safe migration.

“Maintaining good relations with the media is essential and contributes to the daily work of IOM.

“IOM will continue to work with you to shed light on the plight of the population and the often hidden opportunities that flow from migration.

“Governments, migrants, potential migrants and average citizens are much more likely to hear about IOM’s work through the media than through official reports.

“The role of the media in achieving IOM’s goals is crucial. Hence the need for a flow of information based on cordial relations between the media and IOM Nigeria.

“IOM is committed to working with journalists who will be the carriers of the organization’s message,” he said.

Stakeholders believe that the ultimate solution to irregular migration lies in alleviating the drivers of migration, which in turn will alleviate trafficking, sexual slavery, organ theft, among others.

Celestin believes that the $ 150 billion trafficking industry that has been identified as having high returns and low risk for perpetrators can only end with concerted effort.

Referring specifically to Africa, he said: “What is required is a coordinated response from all member states and what we would call appropriate guidance from ECOWAS to effectively identify these networks and disrupt their criminal activities. .

“What we are going to do is systematically create bilateral relations with these governments.

“Last month IOM Nigeria and IOM Niger held a 10 day conference where we were with NAPTIP and immigration officials from Nigeria and their counterpart in Niger.

“We brought them together so that these two agencies, the Nigeria Immigration Service on the border part controlling who goes, then NAPTIP and their counterpart in Niger to coordinate and share information to disrupt these networks that put people in bondage and sell them like cattle. and abuse it.

“Coordinated efforts, bilateral relations and information sharing are therefore extremely important to stem the flow of people and prevent these criminals from using people as a commodity.

“No agency, no country, no person can do it on their own, it requires a lot of societal approach, a coordinated approach and putting in place the necessary mechanism to make it happen.

“IOM is a strong partner; we offer our support to our member states, governments and support direct assistance to those who have been victims of these criminals, ”he said.

Indeed, it remains a daunting task to convince people to stay in their countries of origin rather than migrate irregularly, especially when hunger, unemployment and insecurity persist.

It is therefore a clear call to governments, especially in Africa, to assume their responsibilities, take advantage of their human and material resources and exploit them for the betterment of their populations.

In the words of economist Amarachukwu Nwosu “Africa has more than the potential to be better than Europe and America. This potential must be exploited. (NANFeatures)

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