By Ajibola Abayomi

The Country Manager, The Migrant Project (TMP) Nigeria, an arm of SEEFAR, a global social enterprise based in Hong Kong, Clare Henshaw has suggested practical solutions to curbing migration challenges in West Africa and urged the media to be committed to them in the interest of the region.

At a recent international virtual summit organised by the Journalists International Forum For Migration (JIFORM), the manager and migration advocate while delivering a lecture titled confronting migration challenge in West Africa, noted that migration in the sub-sahara Africa was influenced by a myriad of negative factors.

She admonished government to create more opportunities for the people saying that many Africans (blacks) faced discrimination, abuse and exploitation, especially for women, children, harassment and lack of legal work, shame cum degradation of life, loss of lives and brain drain as migrants.

“Migratory pressures at Europe’s southern border, EU countries have attempted to “externalize” border controls towards the Maghreb countries by transforming them into a “buffer zone”.

“They have done so by pressuring certain North African countries to clamp down on irregular migration, toughening immigration law and to re-admit irregular sub-Saharan migrants from Europe and expelling them from their own nationals.

Henshaw however said, “as long as no more legal channels for immigration are created to match the real demand for labour, and as long as large informal economies will exist, it is also likely that a substantial proportion of this migration will remain irregular.”

On tactics to reduce irregular migration appeal, she advised that these could be achieved by educating prospective migrants on legal migration pathways and credible livelihood alternatives and other means, educational outreach cum community and women-focused campaign.”

Nevertheless, she urged the media to change the negative perception about migration and migrants stating there was need to play “dominant conversations in migration discourse conveying a situation and image of an increasingly massive exodus of desperate Africans fleeing poverty and war at home trying to enter the elusive European “El Dorado” crammed in long-worn ships barely staying afloat.

“West African media has an important role to play in reporting migration and associated trends, to shape it’s own narrative. This can only be achieved with proper reporting, research and funding.

“Tell more human angled stories about migration, give a human face to our stories and amplify the important role that African migrants contribute to other economies, particularly in EU countries” coupled with mainstreaming of  more migration issues.

According to SEEFAR’s findinds, an estimated 65,000 and 120,000 sub-Saharan Africans enter the Maghreb yearly overland, of which only 20 to 38 per cent are estimated to enter Europe.

While Libya is an important destination country in its own right, many migrants failing or not venturing to enter Europe prefer to stay in North Africa as a second-best option.

Despite that, Henshaw said majority of West Africans enter Europe legally. In recent years, the total annual increase of the registered West African population in the EU has been around 100,000.

“The total number of successful irregular crossings by sub-Saharan Africans should be counted in the order of several tens of thousands, according to our estimates 25,000 to 35,000 per year, which is only a fraction of total EU immigration of 2.6 million in 2004.

 “A striking number of Nigerians (50%) were interested in leaving their country of origin if given the opportunity. Ivoirians (27%), Senegalese (27%) and, to a lesser extent, Burkinabe, Malians, and Nigeriens were also interested in leaving their country if given the opportunity.

“Between 2015 and 2016, Nigerian asylum applications in the EU rose from approximately 30,000 to 46,100. Most of these asylum applications were submitted in Italy (26,550 applications in 2016).

“In the first three quarters of 2017, 31,200 Nigerians applied for asylum in the EU, the fourth-largest national group of asylum applicants.  Meanwhile, with 14,159 Nigerian arrivals in Europe via the Mediterranean Sea in the first half of 2017, there is also a far greater number of Nigerians arriving via this route than any other national group.

“Most Nigerian asylum seekers are viewed as economic migrants, and in the third quarter of 2017 a total of 77 percent of Nigerian asylum applications across the EU were rejected” Henshaw said.

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