Speech delivered by Femi Awoniyi, Co-Director of Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria (MEPN), at the 12th Nigeria Media Nite-Out Award 2018 at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja, on Sunday, 23 September 2018.
Too many Nigerians are dying daily in the course of irregularly migrating to Europe. Too many are stranded in Europe, unable to obtain legal residency and obliged to return home. Too many are stranded in the transit countries such as Libya where they’re exposed horrendous human rights abuses. Too many are still bracing the risks and dangers to reach Europe through the desert and the Mediterranean.
These young men and women are mostly victims of human traffickers and smugglers whose main weapon is disinformation. Studies show that the majority of irregular migrants receive most of their information from traffickers and smugglers, who seek to mislead and manipulate them.
Irregular migrants are often unaware and without defences in the face of the false information given to them by human traffickers. These smugglers lure thousands of people to undertake journeys without any preparation or knowledge, journeys filled with extreme hardships and inhumane abuses.
Only the media can sustainably defeat traffickers’ campaign of disinformation and deceit by providing accurate and reliable information.
It’s in the national interest to help bring this ongoing tragedy to an end. If we say these are not my friends or families or they don’t even belong to my social class and choose to watch the tragic drama without acting, we will be poorer for it in spirit.
However, there are practical consequences that we all as Nigerians have to bear. Irregular migration damages the national reputation and it causes a backlash against legal migration from the affected countries.
For example, many events in Germany promoting German-Nigerian economic or cultural relations aren’t able to bring in Nigerian participants in the desired numbers because of the difficulties of obtaining visitor’s visa for them. Nigerian business people also have problems obtaining German visa.
Upon deeper reflection, one would understand why visas are not being issued as needed against the background of 30,000 Nigerians awaiting deportation in Germany.
Every visa applicant is defensively considered a potential irregular migrant until they are able to prove otherwise.
Moreover, irregular migrants discourage foreign investment in their countries of origin. People logically tend to conclude that if so many of a nation’s citizens are desperately leaving their land irregularly, there can’t be much potential for profitable business in that country.
The Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria therefore appeals to the media to, in the national interest, devote more attention to issues associated with migration as a way to further fulfil its cardinal duties of informing and educating society.
Increased coverage of migration will help promote a realistic attitude to migration in society and curb irregular migration from the country.
More on the Migration Enlightenment Project Nigeria at: http://lookb4uleave.info/