Abuja – As of late July onwards, nearly 4,000 Nigerian migrants, who become stranded in European or African countries and wish to return home, will receive reintegration assistance from IOM, the UN Migration Agency. By involving the migrants’ local communities, collective reintegration projects, such as business partnerships between returning migrants and members of their community, aim to discourage risky irregular migration through sustainable work and dialogue at home.
The European Union Trust Fund (EUTF) support is part of the EU–IOM Initiative for the Protection and Reintegration of Migrants, which was launched in Nigeria on 20 July. Roughly 3,800 Nigerian migrants will receive in-kind reintegration assistance to start businesses, study or cover medical and accommodation costs after they return home from other African countries (an estimated 3,000 migrants) and from EU member states (800 migrants) over the next three years. This represents a major scale-up in the reintegration assistance that IOM provided previously; the Organization supported around 300 returning migrants in the past year.
The timing of the initiative is critical as Nigeria continues to be the most common nationality of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Italy. Some 37,551 Nigerians arrived on Italian shores last year and this year, 9,286 have arrived as of May 2017. Tragically, many others never arrive; since January 2,207 migrants have died or remain missing at sea along the Central Mediterranean route, IOM reports.
IOM has helped more than 1,770 stranded Nigerians return safely from Libya this year. Many were victims of exploitation, detention and abuse during their travel to Libya, where the journey to Europe often ends. Nearly all of them are not forcibly displaced, but rather set out in search of better job opportunities. The most vulnerable among them, such as children, women with young children, victims of trafficking, those with disabilities or in need of medical attention, received in-kind reintegration assistance.
This support will continue under the EU Trust Fund project, but with a wider purview that includes the communities of returning migrants as well. Collective reintegration assistance will group returning migrants in work or training partnerships with members from their home community, in order to develop local support systems. It will also create more sustainable work opportunities by combining resources and engage unemployed youths, who might otherwise consider making dangerous journeys to Europe to find jobs.
These initiatives form part of IOM’s comprehensive approach to migration and displacement along major migration routes, working with concerned governments and civil society partners to ensure that those migrants who find themselves in situations of vulnerability along parts of their journey are able to benefit from adequate levels of protection and assistance, including upon their voluntary return in their country of origin.
IOM will work with governmental, non-governmental and religious organizations to develop new partnerships on reintegration delivery within communities. Key partners from the Government include the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI).
“Nigeria’s national migration policy recognizes the importance of the return and reintegration of Nigerian migrants and promotes the facilitation of their adapting to a new life in their home country,” said Sadiya Farouq, NCFRMI Federal Commissioner, at the project’s launch, and commending the important focus.
In addition to scaling up reintegration assistance, this project aims to inform young Nigerians about the risks of irregular migration; returning migrants will be paired with unemployed youth at home to warn them about the perilous journey through the desert and across the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe. “The EU stands with Nigeria and the West African region and we will have other, complementary projects related to the migration phenomenon. Some are already ongoing, others will start soon,” added Kurt Cornelis, Head of Cooperation for the EU delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS.
“Facilitating partnerships between returning migrants and their community members is also important to counter some of the stigma and shame migrants say they face at home, after failing to reach their destination or goals outside Nigeria,” explained John McGeoghan, IOM Nigeria Project Manager, at the project launch. “Community mapping under this project will start in six areas of Edo, Lagos and Delta states, from where very large numbers of Europe-bound migrants often leave, hoping to work abroad. This will identify priority socio-economic opportunities and needs, the local actors who can assist returning migrants and identify what reintegration initiatives are possible,” said McGeoghan.
The EU Trust Fund project is being implemented in 14 African countries. The participating countries are: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, the Gambia, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.
For more information, please contact IOM Nigeria: