• 900,000 enslaved, transported across borders every year
From Clement Adeyi, Osogbo
Stakeholders from the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), the legislature, government officials, public opinion leaders, policy makers heads of non-governmental organisations, traditional rulers, parents and guardians recently congregated in Osogbo, Osun State, to brainstorm on the menace of migrant smuggling, human trafficking and child labour and the way forward.
School pupils, students, National Youth Service Corps members and a teeming number of youths were also invited to witness the occasion.
Migrant smuggling, human trafficking and child labour have remained nagging phenomena across the globe, especially in the present generation. Nigeria is one of the countries seriously hit by the trend and its negative social and economic implications.
Research confirmed that despite the ideals of freedom and democracy being currently enjoyed in most parts of the world, including Nigeria, human trafficking and child labour continue to thrive, denying the victims their fundamental human rights and human dignity. It is appalling that tens of millions of men, women and children are exploited, abused and enslaved in the guise of human trafficking, migrant smuggling and child labour.
Trafficking in human beings, especially minors and young girls, especially teenagers for the purpose of sexual exploitation and financial gains have become a growing trend in the country. In most cases, illicit human traffickers deceive the unsuspecting and innocent minors under the guise of helping them to travel to countries like Germany, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Lybia, Ghana and Mali for greener pastures.
Unfortunately, when they take them to the ‘promised land’ they later throw them into prostitution and slavery through menial jobs and hard labour for financial gains. Not only do several of them die gruesomely in the Mediterranean Sea and the deserts while trying to cross over to the foreign countries, many more end up in prisons for failure to meet up with immigration requirements such as passport and visa.
The menace has posed serious challenges to the socio-cultural, religious and economic well being of this country as well as the dignity and integrity of the families of the victims. Despite all efforts by government and stakeholders to stop or eradicate the menace, illicit traffickers continue to perpetrate the crimes with a reckless abandon and impunity.
Research has shown that migrant smuggling and human trafficking take place for the following reasons which include employment opportunities, personal or familial betterment, escape from persecution, violence or conflict as well as prevailing poverty level in the country.
Investigations also indicated that migrant smuggling, human trafficking and child labour had been discovered to be one of the fastest growing criminal businesses in the world in terms of revenue generation for the perpetrators with an estimated income of about $32billion yearly, according to the United Nations Children Funds (UNICEF) report.
It has also been estimated that between 800,000 and 900,000 people are forcibly enslaved and transported across international borders every year, while 1.2 million children alone, according to UNICEF report, are trafficked every year.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM), also estimated that about 29,000 young men and women from Sub-Sahara Africa are illegally transported to Europe, with Nigeria majorly affected. It was also gathered that the NIS rescued about 114 child trafficking victims between January and October 2017.
The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), rescued about 21 million victims in 2012, with 500 deported from Libya, eight from Mali and eight from Ghana.
Report also indicated that bodies of 26 Nigerian women were recovered at sea in Italy in the first week of October 2017, while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in search of greener pasture.
It was against the background of these gruesome and inhuman developments that the Osun State Command of the NIS recently organised a seminar seeking proactive measures with a view to curbing the monster.
Comptroller General, NIS, Mr. Muhammad Babandede, said the NIS had started collaborating with international organisations to tackle human trafficking. He warned those desperate to travel abroad through illegal means to desist, insisting that with determination and hard work, they could succeed in Nigeria.
He lamented that some parents and guardians use their children and wards as street hawkers, marketers and custodians of house chores which expose them to suffering and child trafficking options. He urged them to send them to school and keep them off the streets and illicit human traffickers who are always on the prowl for less privilege children to take advantage of them.
The Comptroller of Immigration, Oyo State Command, Mrs. Victoria Isangedighi, lamented that perpetrators of migrant smuggling and human trafficking kept devising new ways to beat security agents.
She disclosed that the NIS empowered and directed all state commands to vigorously embark on enlightenment campaigns against the menace and intensify surveillance and monitoring activities as well as intelligence gathering to beat them to the game”
“I can assure you that as a service, we will not relent in our efforts and will continue to synergise and cooperate with other relevant stakeholders since we cannot do it alone.” She tasked the Federal Government on the introduction of anti-human trafficking and child labour laws and legal remedies. She suggested parental, instructional, governmental and communal concerns as strategies to fight the menace.
She called on the NIS as the custodian of Nigerian entry and exit points and the agency responsible for the issuance of Nigerian travel documents to intensify efforts in patrolling and monitoring the porous borders with a view to ensuring that only authorized persons enter or exit the country.
She also called on the Federal Government to increase border security initiatives and improve legal immigration procedures and public diplomacy. She expressed the need for organized counseling, health and rehabilitation programmes for the victims:
“Efforts should be geared towards educating all girls child to avoid forced marriages, debt bonding and forced street hawking that are inimical to their bright future.” she added.
Comptroller, NIS, Ekiti State Command, Mr. Talabi, called on government at all levels to revisit and pump resources into technical schools and vocational studies to encourage child education: “It should increase appropriation of funds on poverty alleviation which is one of the major factors of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.”
Assistant Director of Intelligence, Lagos Zonal Command of NAPTIP, Mrs. Kehinde Akomolafe, called on Nigerians to join security operatives in the fight against human trafficking.
She, however, blamed parents and guardians as facilitators of the trafficking in their children and wards to countries she described at the land of slavery, exploitation and dehumanization:
“Human trafficking and child labour are becoming more endemic like never before. There are incessant reports from the police, DSS, and Immigration officers that people from Oyo, Edo, Osun, Kwara and many other states are trooping to Dubai, Italy, Libya and other foreign countries through migrant smuggling.
“A 300 Level Economics female student of a university told me that her father and mother were the ones who processed papers for her to travel under the guise of greener pasture only for her to end up in prostitution for the family to survive.”
She warned parents and guardians to preach the message of dignity of labour to their children and wards for them to earn a better living instead of pushing them into danger and dehumanizing tendencies.
Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly, Najeem Salaam, called on the Federal Government to equip the NIS with latest technologies and weapons capable of guaranteeing more successes in their battle against human trafficking. He also called on government to recruit more officers into the Service to increase border monitoring:
“It is a statement of fact that we have laws and international protocols to combat crime. But the migrant smuggling network appears to be so powerful that agencies are being compromised to look away and this is one factor that must be properly diagnosed and tackled.”
The Ooni of Ife, Oba Ogunwusi Adeyeye, called on the public to give information on human trafficking and migrant smuggling to security agencies such as police, Immigration officers and the DSS as a way of curbing the menace:
“The NIS, DSS, police and other relevant security agencies need the cooperation of the public through useful information on human trafficking and migrant smuggling. We can go to their offices or command and report such cases to them. People should not treat the cases as secret. The security agencies need our cooperation. This is one of the fastest ways we can fight the menace.”
Oba Adeyeye also called on the NIS to intensify awareness campaign through radio and TV jingles in local languages in the efforts to battle the menace.
Public affairs analyst, Yinka Salaam, told Daily Sun that one of the best ways to curb human trafficking and migrant smuggling was to make laws on life imprisonment for culprits, jettison rehabilitation programmes for the victims and spell out punishment measures for them to serve as a deterrence:
“Human traffickers, parents, guardians and people that encourage the illicit practice need serious capital punishment. The House of Assembly should come up with such laws as life imprisonment or appropriate jail terms for them.
Those that are desperate to travel abroad illegally for greener pastures and fall victims do not deserve rehabilitation because it would rather encourage the practice. They should be given appropriate punishment. All these will serve as a deterrence in winning the war against the menace.”