Post COVID-19: Trafficking, irregular migration expected to increase – IOM

*As Social media pushing more Nigerians into migration than insecurity, poverty

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has warned of expected increase in trafficking and irregular migration at post Coronavirus (COVID- 19) pandemic as a result of socio-economic pressure in some countries.

This, it said, would  make desperate migrants more susceptible to criminals.
Mr Franz Celestin, IOM Head of Mission in Nigeria,  disclosed this in a virtual interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Sunday.
According to Celestin, the socio-economic pressure post COVID-19, will  be so hard and will push a lot of people to migrate to countries with better economy as they always do.
He explained that once the fear of the virus no longer existed and a  vaccine was out and distributed, a lot of people would be on the move again.
Celestin said that following the official closure of borders by countries, there had  been a significant drop in the numbers of people crossing the borders unofficially at the humanitarian points, which also managed the unofficial borders.
“The official borders have been closed and what keep the people from moving is the fear.
“The official borders that have been closed will reduce the numbers of people travelling officially because smugglers do not use official borders
“Although, it is actually a different process with trafficking because 80 per cent of trafficked victims travel through official borders with official documents.
“But it is a different aspect as they usually travel through unofficial borders, the ones that are not guided by a border management agency.
“We have seen a significant drop in the numbers of people crossing borders unofficially at the humanitarian points because the humanitarian points also manage the unofficial borders.
“I think that it is calm before the storm and I think what is going to happen is that once the fear of COVID-19 is out of people and once we have a vaccine that is effective and widely distributed and the fear no longer exists.
“The socio-economic pressure is going to be so hard and it is going to push a lot of people so hard to migrate and we expect to see a lot more being trafficked.
“So, we have a lot of people who will migrate willingly, who will pay a smuggler to move them from point A to B but we also have a lot of people that will get a lot of people trafficked because they will be more susceptible to these offers that will be made by these criminals, ” Celestin said.
Celestin said that the COVID-19 pandemic had further increased humanitarian needs in Nigeria, which was already facing dire humanitarian challenges as a result of the conflict in the Northeast.
He said that pre COVID-19, the Humanitarian Response Plan was launched seeking to address the needs of 1.6 million people and following the COVID-19 pandemic, there were now 10.4 million people in need.
The IOM head of mission said that in other to effectively tackle the humanitarian needs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM Nigeria had initially requested for 20 million dollars from headquarters just for the COVID-19 response for specific sectors.
He said the IOM request was separate from the humanitarian response plan and was subsequently modified from 20 million dollars to 13 million dollars.
” The appeal is followed in two separate tracks, you have the humanitarian response plan, which was for Northeast Nigeria and that of  pre COVID.
“That particular plan is less that 32 per cent funded compared to last year and this is a key issue that we have seen because just the response to the North-east is in a deep hole right now compared to what it was last year.
“We have seen the increase in need and the reduction of resources. We were looking at addressing the needs of 1.6 million people and now it is 10.4 million.
“That can  tell you the kind of issues that we have with money and the fact that a lot of countries that are primary donors are experiencing recession themselves and that presents  a very big problem for us, leaving the humanitarian response plan behind, for the COVID-19 response,” Celestin said.

SOCIAL MEDIA

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said on Sunday that social media is a major tool influencing young Nigerians to want to migrate to foreign countries in search of greener pastures.

Speaking in a virtual interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on the impact of insecurity on migration, Mr Franz Celestin, IOM Chief of Mission, said that social media has influenced many more migrations than insecurity.

With specific reference to the number of Nigerian returnees from Libya, he said that the Southern states which accounted for the highest number were more secured and economically stable, thereby ruling out poverty and insecurity.

According to the IOM boss, aspiration was still the major cause of migration, adding that young Nigerians get easily influenced by ‘success stories’ of others posted on social media.

He said that in spite of the poverty and insecurity in the North-East in the past couple of years, statistics showed that less people were migrating from the region.

“One of the strongest push for migration is aspiration and not just poverty, conflict or disasters, it is actually aspiration.

“If you ask any young man or woman, do you see yourself here, if the the answer is no, they will dig tunnels, they will climb walls, they will swim and do whatever is necessary to get out.

“Yes the economic part of this is also a push factor. But of all the people returning from outside, and pretty much form Libya, less than 0.2 per cent of them comes from the North East.

“Why is it that over 49 per cent of them are from Edo and 17 per cent of them from Delta then Lagos, Imo and Ogun.?

“When you have these five states combined, they account for 89 per cent of those coming from Libya and if you look at these states, they are far ahead of the Northeast in any human development index.

“So, it is not the conflict because it doesn’t mean those in the Northeast cannot travel, it is not poverty because of the same thing in the Northeast, and it is not also lack of education,” he said.

According to him, when the five states that contribute to the number of migrants are considered, it is seen that social media is very prevalent.

“When we look at what is happening in those five states that i mentioned, so that is what we see as a major push factor and it so happens as social media is very prevalent in these areas too.

“So you have to cascade the effect of knowing that somebody who has left can make it then I can make it.

“So you see the instagram factor, when all these guys are posting pictures in London you say, oh I know this guy, he went to school with me and now he is abroad” and you will want to do the same thing,” he said.

He however cautioned that the pasture may not be as green as it appears, pointing out that one may have to work up to three jobs before they can be able to send money back home.

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