JIFORM Online Migration Summit

Keynote Address

Jorge Galindo IOM Nigeria Public Information Officer

4 April 2020

Distinguished colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honored to participate in today’s event and I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. Ajibola Abayomi for the invitation to join this online summit.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) began operations in Nigeria in 2001 with the assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR)programme. Since its inception, AVRR has helped more than 22,000 Nigerianmigrants return home from more than 20 countries across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

In addition to AVRR, IOM conducts migration health assessments, border management, assistance to vulnerable migrants, counter trafficking, transition and recovery activities and humanitarian assistance, among other interventions in Nigeria.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We live in an era of unprecedented human mobility. Mobility, an integral part of human development,hasalways been a method of adaptation to environmental, political, and economic developments. Itcontributesto the wealth, dynamism, survival and stability of the societies.

IOM estimates that one in every seven people in the world is a migrant. While it has been demonstrated that these migrants can benefit their countries of origin and destination, as well as their families and communities on both sides of the migration spectrum, the dominant media discourse today does not reflect the complexity of migration.

For years, migration has been largely illustrated by scenes of boats crowded with migrants risking their lives to reach Europe, theimpenetrable and mythical “Eldorado”.

The media and the dominant political discourses have contributed to crafting a shared vision aroundmigration. The media often convey the image of a massive and growing exodus of desperate peoplefleeing poverty, conflict and famine, thus raising the spectre of a threat to be contained to preservethe stability of industrialized countries. This alarmist message plays an important role in dehumanizingmigrants and refugees by depicting them as “invaders”, making it easier to justify racist acts as well aspolicies and repressive measures.

Does the media contribute, consciously or not, to conveying a false and negative image of migration, bygiving in to the stereotypes and conveying a biased point of view? And why? Is it a lack of knowledgeabout the issue? Lack of reliable data? Lack of time or means? Lack of thinking and boldness to challengethe actual clichés that could mainly be covered the media? Lack of imagination, analysis and desire tothoroughly “examine” the issue? Laxity? Negligence or sensationalism?

As key players in West Africa and beyond, journalists, reporters and editors alike must foster an in-depth discussion and introspection on their roles and responsibilities.

One main concern in migration reporting is the continuous use of stereotypes and other dehumanizing practices. To address this issue, we must ask ourselves a series of questions. How can we address migration issues without falling into the manytraps of infotainment, sensationalism and victimnarrative? How can we talk about migrantswithout stigmatizing them? What are the real issues underlying human mobility?

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the issue of stigmatization of migrants has risen with old misconceptions, both dangerous and degrading. Therefore, as journalists we have the responsibility to:

Obtain and share reliable information:

Getting information from the various local or international actors and following reliable sources of migration data such as IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).

We must also develop knowledge of the issue to avoid being manipulated and spreading false information. As journalists and editors, we must exchange and share ideas with colleagues, editorial staff and people around you. Thinking withothers and opening discussions help to better understand the subject.

Analyse:

Analyse the dominant discourse and the prevailing context.Anticipate the potential dangers and consequences of the media content on the audience andthe key actors.

Follow rigorously journalistic principles:

Check your data and information, cite sources, balance interventions, remain impartial andhonest. Make sure not to change the meaning of the speakers’ comments. Stand for diversityand pluralism of opinion. Ensure fair representation of views (including the voice of migrants).Use precise and appropriate wording to avoid confusion and prejudice. Process figurescarefully and put them into perspective.Give a voice to all actors: migrants, migrants’ families and their entourage, diaspora, hostpopulations, civil society, international organizations, politicians, specialists and researchers,local authorities, etc.

Give a voice to migrants:

Describe the context. Why do people migrate?Do not give in to simplification and caricature. Fight against “clichés” and stereotypes.Respect people’s dignity and consider the distress they may have gone through. Make thespeakers feel human by giving them a voice.Preserve the anonymity of stakeholders when required.Do not give in to sensationalism. Even if the theme appeals to your human instincts andreflexes, the journalist must keep the “distance” of reflection and abide by the principles ofthe profession.

Do not follow the “scoop”. This is particularly true with the use of social media which,despite its many advantages, also has the perverse effect of “immediacy”. Do not forget thatinformation relayed on social media can be spread around the world and cause cascadesof reactions, without you being able to easily fix it.Publishing inaccurate or incompleteinformation can easily happen and have disastrous consequences. Journalistic rigour must beapplied to all reports, even on social media.

Stay open positive and creative:

Consider migration in its multiple facets, at the national, regional and international levels.Do not consider the subject only through the lens of tragedy. There are manyexamples of successful integration or reintegration. Try to be positive without falling intonaivety and propaganda. Balance and approach all aspects by adapting your format.Stay creative and free your imagination! There is a variety of topics related to migration.

The United Nations Network on Migration, and IOM as its coordinator and secretariat, urges that all people – including migrants regardless of their migratory status – are included in efforts to mitigate and roll back the impact of Covid-19. To that end, migrants must be seen as both potential victims and as an integral part of any effective public health response. It is particularly important that all authorities make every effort to confront xenophobia, including where migrants and others are subject to discrimination or violence linked to the origin and spreading of the pandemic. COVID-19 does not discriminate, and nor should our response, if it is to succeed.

Migrants and people on the move face the same health threats from COVID-19 as host populations but may face particular vulnerabilities due to the circumstances of their journey and the poor living and working conditions in which they can find themselves. Migrants too often face needless obstacles in accessing health care. Inaccessibility of services; language and cultural barriers; cost; a lack of migrant-inclusive health policies; legal, regulatory and practical barriers to health care all play a part in this, as does, in too many instances, prejudice. If a migrant fears deportation, family separation or detention, they may well be less willing to access health care or provide information on their health status. 

It is crucial that government authorities at national and local levels take the measures necessary to protect the health of all those living in unsafe conditions and the most vulnerable regardless of status.

As media professionals we must move away from the premise that migration is a problem that must be contained and solved. Migrationis part of the history of humanity, whose primary wealth is its diversity. Migration haspromoted cultural, economic and social exchanges, sharing of know-how and skills.Migration in many so-called northern countries is more than desirable; it is necessaryand can help fill workforce deficits in countries with ageing populations. Rather than considering migration asa “problem” to be solved, we should consider it as a reality to be managed.Seeing migration as a “problem” contributes to the rise of a discourse that assimilates migrantsto “invaders” and, in times of global epidemics, “disease carriers”.

Only with an inclusive approach, truly leaving no-one behind, will we all be able to overcome this global crisis of unprecedented magnitude and proportions. Thank you!

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