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Stakeholders Lament Death Of Nigerian Immigrants On Sahara Desert Route

Illegal migration is claiming the lives of Nigeria youths as many now lose their lives daily on the Sahara Desert route. Worried about its impact on the family and the society at large, stakeholders are calling on the government to address the crisis by investing in the youths, writes Angela Onwuzoo

It is true that times are hard in Nigeria, but, that does not mean one should embark on a suicide mission all in the name of going abroad for greener pastures through illegal routes that turn out to be death traps.

Today, many Nigerian youths who leave the country in search of a better life abroad end their journey in a tragic manner while some don’t live to tell their story.

There are lots of stories about Nigerians who died of hunger, thirst, exhaustion and intense heat while trekking to Europe through the Sahara desert, yet, many people are still leaving the country through the same route believing their trip would be different and their mission impregnable.

The most worrisome thing is that, many of them are university graduates with high-grade certificates from notable Nigerian universities; still, they throw caution to the wind and embark on the frustrating journey, only to get on the way and become food for wild animals.

While unemployment is indeed a serious issue in Nigeria, the bottom line is that many people are still making it in this country.

Unaware that there are so many business opportunities available in Nigeria, which they can key into and become self-reliant, they choose instead to court death. Nigeria has a lot of untapped potentials, what is required is for her youths to look inward and then, think out of the box. And then, do away with the attitude of get- rich- quick.

The problem with many of Nigerian youths is that, they don’t seem to have learnt useful lessons from other people’s mistakes as they continue to make the same choices that have led them to an untold hardship and frustration all in the name of going to Europe. And as conventional wisdom teaches us, you don’t continue to do the same thing while expecting different result.

These essentially was the kernel of a One Day Training Programme for International Drivers organised in Lagos recently by the Patriotic Citizen Initiative(PCI) in collaboration with Human Support Services(HSS) to create awareness on the Dangers of Irregular Migration .

The programme which was sponsored by the ECOWAS Commission was essentially designed to create awareness on the risk of irregular migration and to also fashion out a proper and proactive information channel that will fast track the dissemination of information to the youths at the grass roots. The programme designed for Lagos and Edo states respectively, is basically targeted at the youths so as to sensitise them on the inherent dangers in going abroad through irregular routes especially through the desert.

Speaking on the programme themed: “Dangers of Irregular Migration”, Executive Director of PCI, Comrade Osita Osemene, said curbing the menace of irregular migration among the youths required a concerted effort ,especially among government agencies like the police, immigration and customs because they come in contact with these irregular migrants on a daily basis.

To give realistic structure to the conference, participants and returnees from Europe shared their experiences.

First, was Victor Davis from Delta State who told the The UNION what his eyes saw at the Sahara Desert en route Spain and how he ended up in Libya instead of Spain after spending one year on the road.

His said: “ I travelled to Libya in 2011 through the Sahara desert. It wasn’t a nice experience at all. Well, it was out of frustration that I went because after my graduation, I could not get a job. I am a graduate of Business Administration from the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu State. I was doing petty things to survive until, a friend of mine, came and told me that there were great opportunities in Spain that I should go there and make cool money without much stress.

He promised to take me to Spain but that, we have to go through Libya. But, he did not tell me what I will go through or the dangers ahead before getting to Spain.

“The only thing that he told me was that, he will take me to Kano and from there to Niger and from Niger a bus will take us to Libya before getting to Spain.

“But, when we got to Niger, he told me that he was coming, that he wants to go and get me a passport that I will use in Libya .But he never came back. All of a sudden some people came to me and started threatening me to release all the money that I had on me to them.

So, they collected all the money that I had. The worse was that my friend was nowhere to be found. That was when I knew that something wrong somewhere”

Davis went on: “ Then, a lorry came and about 70 of us in that camp were told to enter into the lorry and we left for Libya. Unfortunately, the vehicle broke down on the way. The situation became so bad and life threatening for me because as at that time, the Libyan authorities were searching for Nigerians. They said Nigerians were committing a lot of crime in their territory. So, if they get you, they could grind you, or give you to a crocodile to eat. Apart from the killing by the Libyan authority, what frightened me most was the way people were dropping dead like on the way. Of the 70 of us that left for Libya, I watched 40 die out of hunger and starvation.

“Well, I concluded that, if anything happens to me, so be it. But if I survived the experience, fine and good. I knew there was nothing to live on anymore. It was hell for me. I spent over a year trying to get to Libya not even Spain.”

According to him,” the original plan was to get to Spain. But I could not continue my journey because of fear of the Mediterranean sea.”

They brought a small boat for me to cross it, but I refused and pleaded with them to bring me back to Nigeria. So, that was how I came in 2012. I thank God I came back alive. Out of 70 of us that left Niger for Spain, only 30 people got to Libya as the remaining 40 died on the way.”

Another Nigerian returnee, this time from Switzerland, Mr. Anthony Imade, from Edo State, who shared similar experience with our correspondent during his sojourn to that country, said going abroad without legal document remains an effort in futility.

Imade said : “I travelled out of Nigeria in 1993 to Cairo, Egypt, but I boarded a plane with a visa. When I got there, I moved from Egypt to Istanbul in Turkey. I stayed there for about seven years before I now left for Bulgaria. I had no document in Bulgaria because my passport had expired. So, what I did was to stay in their refuge camp for one year to avoid being arrested.

From the refuge camp, I left for Macedonia. I still trekked by road to get to Macedonia. Later, I left for Greece from where I now got another passport. The passport is Portuguese passport, which I used to move to Italy. From Italy, I moved to Germany before I had a problem. I was in prison for about six months. When they later released me, they sent me back to Italy where I had documents. So, I worked in Italy for about 12 years and at the end, made a little money. Finally, I came back to Nigeria in 2013. You can imagine what I went through”

Imade noted that going abroad through illegal means in the name of greener pastures is not worth the risk as it can lead to death and untold hardship.

He added: “ Even if you succeed because you don’t have the documents, you can’t even get a job and that’s the problem.

” The two returnees, therefore, urged those who have vowed to go to Europe by all means, to learn from their experiences while also appealing to government at all levels to invest in the youths and also create job opportunities for them.

Osemene, who is also a Project Coordinator of the programme, appealed to the government not to abandon the returnees so that they don’t become a problem to the society.

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