Irregular migration to Europe: what is the cost for Nigerians?

Irregular migration to Europe: what is the cost for Nigerians?

Do you wonder how much it costs to travel to Europe irregularly? Here, you will discover how much irregular migration to Europe from Nigeria actually costs, from first-hand experience of Nigerians themselves. Warning: the answer may surprise you.

Many considered travelling irregularly from Nigeria to Europe could be a smart move. But many irregular migrants return to Nigeria poorer than when they left, as they had to spend more than expected on the journey, to return before reaching Europe or could not get a job once there. What is the real cost of irregular migration from Nigeria to Europe?

Irregular migration is expensive and a risky decision

Many irregular migrants from Nigeria choose to travel irregularly to Europe, because they want to make more money. However, many end up poorer and risk their lives when trying to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.

After facing smugglers and other risks, many migrants return to Nigeria. Their journey last for months, sometimes years, and many migrants return poorer than they were before they left Nigeria.

It is important to think about whether irregular migration is indeed a way of achieving a better life. For too many, leaving Nigeria for Europe irregularly has meant debts and poverty.

“I was a danfo (minibus) driver, but I sold it to go to Europe. My family had to borrow money to bail me out of the detention camp in Libya. I have nothing left. I came back empty.”

Nigerian returned migrant.

The high price irregular Nigerian migrants pay on the road

Migrants also get trapped in places like Niger and Libya and are unable to return, because they have no money to go home or continue their journey. The journey often costs more than people expect, because migrants get robbed on the way or smugglers lie about the costs and then demand more money.

In a year, from May 2017 to the same month in 2018, nearly 7,000 Nigerians decided to return to Nigeria, because life in Libya is very dangerous. Libya has started evacuating tens of thousands of Nigerians. For many Nigerians, Libya has been a dead end, often meaning bankrupt.

Interviewed in Libya, Nigerian migrants in Libya reckoned they had experienced:

  • Being trapped in prisons and detention centres with limited food, water and or electricity.
  • Regularly seeing other Nigerians and migrants being beaten and even murdered.
  • Slave markets and being forced to work for nothing.
  • Regular rape and violence.
  • Kidnapping by bandits who call captives’ families asking for money for their release.

How much does it cost a Nigerian migrant to reach Europe irregularly?

That is probably not the story you expected. Every would-be migrant has high hopes and dreams of wealth. They tell each other success stories while planning for the journey. But here is what many migrants tried to hide from their friends and acquaintances: the real cost they paid to make it to Europe.

Migrants often end up in debt and lose money when they try to travel to Europe. Smugglers say that the route is safe and cheap and promise jobs en route and in Europe. This is not true.

When migrants start their trip, they often do not know how much it will cost. Smugglers often ask for more money on the way or change the prices according to security risks, and many migrants have to pay ransom money to be freed or bribe smugglers and officials.

The real price of the irregular journey from Nigeria

Seefar spoke to many potential Nigerian migrants who said that they thought the journey would only cost around 1,000 US dollars, others estimated it to cost around 4,000 to 6,000 US dollars. However, the journey costs a lot more than this. In fact some Nigerian migrants have reported paying up to 24,000 US dollars.

Here is the detailed list of fees Nigerians who travel irregularly have to pay on their way to Europe.

The journey across the sea from Libya to Europe costs around 3,000 US dollars alone. A Nigerian migrant in Libya told Seefar that he chose to return home from Libya to Nigeria as he could not pay the 3,000 US dollars the smugglers were asking for in order to take him across the sea to Italy.

Travelling once you are in Europe is very expensive as well. A migrant told Seefar that smugglers are charging around 5,000 US dollars to travel from Calais on the coast of France to the UK, for example.

Trying to reach Europe through smuggling is extremely expensive, but it is also risky and unreliable. Smugglers lie to their clients: they cannot guarantee they will reach the European continent. Many irregular migrants die on the journey, are arrested by security forces, end up in detention centres or are forced to return.

Beyond the travel costs, migrants also need money for food and accommodation along the way as well as to pay bribes and ransoms. In some cases, migrants report only paying half the cost at the beginning of the journey with the rest due enroute or at the destination.

Migrants are vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking as the system of paying in stages places them in the smugglers’ debt. It can take many years to pay back borrowed money. Nigerian women are often forced to work as prostitutes in order to pay back the money.

Many migrants are being forced to return from Europe, because they have no legal right to be there. Without legal papers granting asylum or the right to live and work in Europe, Nigerians cannot get a job legally and may run out of money. Instead of supporting their families, migrants have to ask for money from them.


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