REPORT OF THE 3-DAY SECOND EDITION OF THE ONLINE MIGRATION/COVID-19 SUMMIT ORGANISED BY THE JOURNALISTS INTERNATIONAL FORUM FOR MIGRATION (JIFORM).
JIFORM, formed in 2018, by a team of Journalists across Africa with Headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria, is a Foundation comprising over 150 media practitioners spread across the continent reporting migration and championing advocacy against irregular migration, human trafficking and crises leading to internally displacement of citizens in nations.
Bothered about the rate at which Africans especially traveled through dangerous and unapproved routes to other continents as irregular migrants, JIFORM in 2019 on November 26-28, 2019 held it’s first international migration summit in Abuja with 131 participants that included several international and local agencies.
The summit had in attendance participants from the Nigerian National Assembly, Nigeria Immigration Service, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants, and Internally Displaced Persons, Nigeria, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Nigeria Union of Journalists, The Migrants Project an arm of SEEFAR, a Hong Kong based social enterprise and others.
Following it’s drive for migration advocacy, JIFORM was invited to the World Migration Summit facilitated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Tunisia in 2019 December, where a charter was produced by Journalists for migration coverage.
Aside that, JIFORM had organised series of events to discourage irregular migration both within Nigeria and Africa.
Its members had also attended various training programmes since 2018.
JIFORM’s maiden online summit on April 4, 2020 had participation from the IOM Nigeria, Nigeria Immigration Service, Zambian Police Authority and National Agency for Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP), Nigeria.
Thus, in furtherance of the desire to continue advocacy on migration and COVID-19 matters, the foundation puts together the second edition of the virtual summit as parts of capacity building for it’s members and public enlightment strategy.
Summit Venue : JIFORM WhatsApp Platform
DATE: Thursday, 23rd – Saturday, 25th April, 2020.
THEME: Migration; Post Covid-19 Era: The Role of Stakeholders.
A. Deputy Comptroller of Nigeria Immigration Service and the National Public Relations Officer of the agency, DCI Sunday James.
B. Professor Kanu Ikechukwu Anthony, Rector, Villanova Polytechnic, Imesi-Ile, Osun State, Nigeria.
C. Abdur-Rahman Balogun, Head of Media, Public Relations and Protocol Unit, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM)
D. Miko Alazas, Communication Officer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Gambia.
E. AbdulWaheed Odusile, Managing Editor, The Nation Newspaper and former National President, the Nigeria Union of Journalists.
F. Shingirai Vambe, Journalist and the Publisher of The Post on Sunday, Zimbabwe.
Welcoming participants to the summit, the Vice President of JIFORM (West Africa), Abimbola Oyetunde, stated that the event came at a time when all hands should be on deck to stop the COVID-19 pandemic affecting all strata of the society, including immigration services as a result of the lockdown enforced in many countries. She noted that with the gloomy future already manifesting in job losses, the time to articulate the problems and identify solutions to minimize them is now.
In his opening remark, the President of JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi, commended the zeal of members towards the organization. He said the theme of the summit spoke volume of why members must be concerned as journalists covering migration, the need to end the pandemic, report the emerging global economic order and made the lessons being learnt count in the future was very important. Apart from that, he said there was the need to reappraise the migration policy in Africa in tandem with the new economic realities. According to him, JIFORM shall continue to provide avenues for its members to improve their capacity by working closely with developing partners while striving to advocate the wellbeing of migrants in the post COVID-19 era and kick against an attempt to stigmatize victims.
TECHNICAL SESSION (DAY I)
Presenting the first paper titled: Migration Management and the Economy: The Roles of NIS, DCI Sunday James harped on the statutory roles of immigration service regarding migration management and the economic implications in countries especially in times of crisis. He opined that the economy was the life wire of every nation and migration had a lot to contribute to the development and prosperity of nations either in the form of Foreign Direct Investments, FDIs or the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, which would not be possible with nations that closed their borders against migration. He encouraged the media to partner with JIFORM to institutionalise best international practices on migration issues.
The second paper, titled: COVID-19: Health of Migrants and the African Economy, delivered by Professor Kanu Ikechukwu Anthony, was in two parts: (a) Health of Migrants and (b) The Nigerian Economy. The paper highlighted the spread of the novel COVID-19, which had reached all the continents as 211 countries recorded more than 2,463,000 active cases, taking lives, overwhelming health systems and triggering lasting geopolitical change.
He submitted that with the pandemic, the global economy faced its worst downturn since the Great Depression as it was already having three impacts on Nigeria which included; economic suffering through loss of jobs, incomes, recession and deterioration in the financial sector.
In the second part of the paper; which was sub-divided into three (COVID-19 and Internal Migration, COVID-19 and International Migration; COVID-19 and Sustainable Development Goals) he averred that COVID-19 had brought more difficulties to the vulnerable migrants, who may not be able to get adequate support and access to basic necessities of life as governments were mobilizing resources to care for their citizens, and may found it more difficult to move into the countries of their destinations or return to their countries of origin as borders had been closed. The Professor emphasized that, the world could not talk about sustainable development without caring for the health and wellbeing of migrants. He therefore stressed the need for government across the world to ensure inclusion of migrants, whether regular or irregular, in their development programmes.
VOTE OF THANKS
The Secretary General of JIFORM, Juliet Makwama from Zambia, while summarizing the submissions and appreciating the participants, noted that migration issues would be more critical in the post COVID-19 pandemic as more people would be forced to migrate due to famine and acute hunger.
Thanking the audience for their countributions, she counselled that migrants should ensure that they were not putting their lives at risk because their respective governments had failed them.
SUMMIT DAY 2
The event commenced with a Welcome Address by the Vice Chairman, Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Abiola Beckely. According to her, migration and COVID-19 required adequate reportage stating that we could not pretend not to be affected by either regular or irregular migrants. She urged nations to stop the spread of the coronavirus by working together to find permanent cure and advised that every stakeholder should get involved by observing safety precautions.
In his opening address, the Organising Secretary of JIFORM, Abiola Peters, reiterated the need for the media to discourage fake news and sensationalized reporting in order to minimize the psychological impact of COVID-19 on the people. He called for responsible journalism, provision of accurate information by government officials and stakeholders and the recognition of media professionals as front liners.
TECHNICAL SESSION (DAY 2)
In the first paper of the day presented by Abdur- Rahman Balogun of NIDCOM and titled: Evacuation of Nigerians from the Diaspora – The Nigerian Experience, he pointed out that the call for evacuation of the Nigerian students began in Wuhan, China in 2019 but eventually none of them agreed to return. According to him, the current evacuation exercise involved about 2117 Nigerians in 73 countries, ninety percent of whom were not residents abroad but comprised those who went on holiday, conference, tourism, business, visit, etc. As part of the repatriation plan, they were to carry out test to ascertain their COVID-19 status from their host countries.
He was quick to point out that each evacuee would pay for the flight back home and on arrival, they would undergo 14-day quarantine in Nigeria before reuniting with their respective families.
In the second paper titled: Migration Management During COVID-19, Mike Alazas of IOM, Gambia, affirmed that migrants were vulnerable actors in times of crisis as their movements were heavily impacted because of border and airport closures.
The presentation addressed the following thematic areas; irregular migration, return and reintegration, diaspora remittances, human trafficking, and cross border issues with migrants on the front lines.
Highlights of the paper included the need to pay attention to medicare for detained migrants and regular update on their safety, the need to ensure social or physical distancing.
He cited the need for media to beam search light on detention camps in in Libya and unprecedented other places with the decline in foreign remittances eighty percent of which flows to the low and middle income economies like Nigeria and Gambia.
He stressed that the value and benefits of having relatives in the diaspora would be heavily impacted by COVID-19 as seventy percent of remittances are used to cover essentials like food, school and medical expenses in countries that had little or no social protection or mechanisms.
He underscored the importance and contributions of migrants as economic developers with Germany as an example of where migrants had been employed and are active on the front line of health services to cover up for man power shortage.
Miko said given the current pandemic, all responses by the United Nations organisations, governments, civil societies and others should be migrants inclusive while journalists must be encouraged to raise awareness on pungent migrants issues.
The second day session ended with a closing remark by Charles Okogene, News Editor of Newdawn newspaper.
He commended the resource persons for their enriching presentations and acknowledged the untiring efforts of the JIFORM President, Abayomi Ajibola, in ensuring that the body remained active through the period of the lockdown.
SUMMIT DAY 3
The summit commenced with a welcome address by the JIFORM General Secretary, Juliet Makwama from Zambia who urged members, especially journalists, to use the knowledge and information gathered from experts to better inform their audiences on the relationship between COVID-19 and migration.
In the first paper titled: Media and Surviving Strategy; Post COVID-19, Waheed Odusile affirmed the role of media in respect to the enormity of problems faced by the migrants abandoned to fight for their lives all alone in this pandemic era. He submitted that the media should fight for them in the interest of humanity.
Odusile said: “For journalists, the possibility of working from home is now real and investment in ICT infrastructure and training is a necessity.
“The lockdown has shown that editorial meetings can be done via electronic or virtual conferencing.”
He averred that this could be “cascaded to the circulation and marketing strategies as it is now the practice with the publishing of e-newspapers, while journalists can make extra income working for different organizations by exploring and developing their potential.”
He called on government in Africa and across the globe to recognize journalists as front liners to be given adequate financial, health and insurance support during the pandemic.
In second paper titled: Food Solution During and After COVID-19 Lockdown, DCI James Sunday stated that food supply chain at this time was essential for those on medication, little children, the aged and to those who were healthy to avoid hunger and starvation.
While observing that the lockdown may impede farming activities leading to shortage of foods, he noted hike in prices of food stuff which was taking the products beyond the reach of the common man.
James suggested concentration on certain categories of food products like beans, vegetables and fruits.
He advised that the stated food could be farmed by individuals to generate extra income while the government also should step up production using existing Correctional Services Farmlands or to stock food.
He suggested purchase of tonnes of varieties of foods for distribution to the vulnerable citizens during the lockdown to avert hunger.
The last presentation of the day titled: Experiences of Zimbabwe Journalists Before, During and After COVID-19 Pandemic, dwelt on the hostile and unfavourable conditions faced by journalists in the country.
It was noted that institutionalised discrimination against private houses and media practitioners were predominant in the country whereas government owned media were allowed to cover and provide information on COVID-19 unhindered compared to others not government owned.
The Police authorities in Zimbabwe were also found wanting for effecting ban on journalists from covering the pandemic. Thus, it was established that there were deliberate efforts to push out inaccurate figures on COVID-19 amidst the economic challenges in the country depends on donor fundings and inadequate testing kits for COVID-19 (about 500) amongst others.
In the face of these difficulties, private journalists being labeled as enemies of state by government were taking risks to obtain information on COVID-19 especially from those who were affected.
Part of the challenges for media in Zimbabwe at the moment included poor remuneration for media practitioners forcing many of them to turn freelancers as a result of unfavorable working environment.
Vambe said post COVID-19 era posed challenges for the media in Zimbabwe with economic negative curve.
Giving the closing remarks, the Treasurer of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Lagos State Council and Manager News of Radio Lagos/Eko FM, Mrs Iyabo Ogunjuyigbe, expressed delight at the quality of presentations which she observed were in line with the current realities such as working from home.
According to her, colleagues, especially those who were still going out to source for news, need to be careful as journalists were not been considered by the government and other stakeholders as part of the front line workers. She appealed to media practitioners to make SAFETY FIRST BEFORE THE NEWS!!!, their watchword.
Vote of Thanks.
Giving the Vote of Thanks, Abel Orukpe, the Managing Editor, AbelNews.com appreciated all facilitators, JIFORM Executives and members for participating in the summit and making it a success.
The summit engendered great reawakening on migration issues among the participants. The consensus was that COVID-19 had considerable impacts on all migrants.
It was observed that Nigeria and indeed Africa may have to grapple with the effects of COVID-19 on long term basis except drastic, strong and coordinated strategies were developed and deployed to mitigate the negative aftermath of the economic bite of the pandemic. The summit propelled the need and focus on measures towards containing the spread of COVID-19 and to treat those infected so as to hasten relaxation of the lockdown in many nations and allow economic activities to resume in earnest.
In view of the extensive deliberations on the various topics, the summit recommended as follows:
- Nations should adopt inclusive approach on provision for the health care of migrants irrespective of their status whether migrants regular or irregular.
- Nations should avoid the stigmatization of migrants as carriers of the disease.
- Governments in Africa especially in Nigeria should ensure timely evacuation of citizens that had expressed the desire to return home during the current pandermic irrespective of their migrants status.
- Nations should go beyond lip service to agriculture development and evolve policies and schemes that would encourage farmers to grow food bank as alternative to importation of food especially in Africa.
- Media professionals must focus more on the impact of COVID-19 on regular and irregular migrants and raise awareness on the challenges that are under reported.
- Journalists must dig deep into issues of migration and report factual matters and embrace advocacy roles.
- Journalists must be wary of the politicisation of the pandemic towards xenophobic act.
- Governments and other stakeholders should consider media professionals as part of the front liners in the fight against COVID-19 and back them with adequate renumeration and protection.
- Workers’ Union in the media should use this COVID-19 experience to draw up and get a comprehensive insurance package for journalists and other media workers.
- There is urgent need to integrate new methods or trends of working from home and online engagements, etc.
- Nations should assemble quality minds to develop economic models peculiar to the present situation and capable of revamping the economy after the pandemic.
- In order to stem the tide of irregular migration, African nations should take advantage of the reality of the moment by encouraging local or home industrialisation to provide jobs for the teeming youths with focus on local consumption that would lessen dependency on foreign goods.
- Employers should explore possibility of employment terms renegotiation with loyal and dedicated employees instead of terminating their appointments. We must emphasize Employers’ loyalty as this has a great consequences on the future of every organization.
- Nations should intervene to provide economic stimulus packages for organizations, particularly the SMEs and tax holiday for manufacturers.
The summit was brought to a close with words of appreciation from the President, JIFORM, Ajibola Abayomi.