The high price of irregular migration

The price that Nigerians pay by travelling irregularly to Europe, where they believe the economic conditions are better, is extremely high. The price ranges from loss of hard earned money to smugglers and traffickers who pose as legitimate travel agents, to forced prostitution and slavery, kidnap for ransom, torture, imprisonment and death.

In his book ‘Chasing a Mirage…my search for an oasis’, Osita Osemene, who went from being a migrant himself to becoming an expert on migration, recounts how he lost a huge amount of money to Mr. and Mrs. Efosa in his first attempt to travel to the United Kingdom.

Efosa and his wife had promised to secure travel documents for Osemene if he could pay N600,000. The young Osemene, who had just left university and wanted to reach Europe in order to “make it big”, had to borrow the money from family members as well as friends.

In his own words: “After I had paid, I asked him how long it would take for the visa to be processed. ‘One month,’ he assured me. And one month sounded fine. I patiently waited for a month but there was no visa. And then, from two months, it began to slide into three months. Still, there was nothing. I knew something was wrong. Efosa stopped picking my calls. He would transfer them to his wife each time I called.”

Osemene had to get Efosa and his staff arrested by the police before he got his money back.

However, many other people were not so lucky. Many migrants have lost their life savings and have been forced to start over. For his part, Osemene did not give up. He made another contact that took him to Libya through the desert, where he narrowly escaped death.

Osemene recounted his experience at Agadez, “In the dead of the night, I was awakened by the ringing of sporadic gun shots; a robbery attack was taking place at that moment. I was chilled to the bone, and remained as quiet as I possibly could amidst the screams of terror as the armed robbers carried out their deadly operation. ‘Chineke,’ I heard, someone spoke Igbo loudly, and pleaded with the gunmen. A single gunshot was fired, and the voice was silenced forever. After about two hours, I heard the pattering of feet, more gun shots, and from my hiding place, I peeped and saw the armed robbers carrying AK47 guns and shooting into the air as they disappeared.”

In the desert, there are tales of people being sold into prostitution and slavery, as well as stories of those who were kidnapped so that their friends and relatives would have to pay ransom for their freedom. There are also stories of hundreds of migrants who have died from exhaustion, starvation and attacks by armed bandits in the desert.

The high financial, psychological and physical costs of irregular migration are reported daily in the news. Thousands of Nigerians have been repatriated from Libya since 2017 and more keep arriving with stories of abuse and exploitation.

TMP – 15/07/2018

Photo credit: zegabi.com. Photo caption: Migrants on the Mediterranean Sea crossing to Europe