Tony Osauzo, Benin
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has announced that Edo State accounts for 70 percent of migration from Nigeria.
UNHCR Liason Officer, Amah Assiama-Hillgartner disclosed this at the “Tell the Real Story (TRS) testimony dissemination meeting in Benin City.
He said although she might not be able to provide an answer to the root cause of it, “but data available to us show that a lot of departures, people who claimed to have left Nigeria, they claimed Edo State as being the place of origin.
“So, this is what had been recorded. In fact, we have an office here, and it is not recorded haphazardly. We do recognise that Edo State is one of the centres or places where processes for people to leave for overseas go on”, she said.
Admitting that though the agency may not be able to say whether all the people are from Edo State, Hillgartner pointed out that there seemed to be some kind of infractions which allow people to be processed or to be moved on for migration in the state.
She said the purpose of the “dissemination meeting” is to ensure that if people must move then they must do it in safety and with dignity.
“I am not talking only about Edo, but also on the risks on IDPs camps that the condition is such that the people who live like in Maiduguri for instance, could be at risk. But today we are here in Edo because this is where the whole thing seemed to have started. But right now we have concerns that we have to start work in our IDPs camps to tell it to the whole population in our IDPs who are at risk to be manipulated by the traffickers because of the harsh condition of living in the camps, and the difficult conditions they are going through.
“Look at the vulnerability of the people and the needs of the people who are likely to fall victim, and we need to go there and tell them the message that there are other ways of traveling safely.
“We are going to come out with dissemination strategy for people in the churches, mosques, schools, market squares for people to understand that they can travel without passing through the desert,” she said.
Also speaking, UNCHR Senior Protocol Officer, Markus Topp,
said the UN agency is trying to ensure that people who want to migrate do so with correct understanding of the conditions.
“We are focusing on telling the real story before people leave and not focusing on after they have come back. Some of the participants in the project are people who have left and come back to the country. But they are the messengers of telling the real story. It is about having people who actually moved, whether they made it to Niger, Libya or Europe, to have them come back and tell about their own experiences.
“To have a balanced shared of information because on the one hand we have people who we always refer to as traffickers who are painting one picture but we think of giving people a chance to make informed decisions. We get the story from those who actually went and when they come back and give their own experiences. How it was to cross the desert, what is actually like when you get to Libya? What are the conditions like in Libya? What are the risks of being detained in Libya?
“But the traffickers will say they are quite low. But when or if you get detained in Libya what are the conditions like? You have now crossed the desert but what was it like crossing the Mediterranean seas? What kind of conditions? What happened there? What happened on the way to Europe for those that made it? Did you get the kind of job that you were promised? Or did something else happened? These are the kind of information that we feel that there is a need for more balanced narratives,” Topp said.