By Miriam Humbe
The European Union, through political dialogue and development cooperation, is supporting Nigeria to improve her capacity to deal with drivers of irregular migration, including the long-term and structural root causes and forced displacement.
It is also working closely with local communities to create alternatives to migrant-smuggling based economies and to facilitate the sustainable reintegration of returning migrants, says the Head of the European Union, (EU) delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Ketil Karlsen.
In April 2017, the European Union, through its Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), launched the Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in Africa with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Within the framework of the Joint Initiative, 12, 974 stranded Nigerian migrants have been assisted to return to their home country, including 1,158 in 2019. The Initiative, which is wholly funded by the European Union, aims to improve migrant protection, voluntary return and reintegration. It is being implemented by the IOM, in close collaboration with the Nigerian government.
The Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in Africa is anchored on the principles of saving lives, protecting and assisting migrants along the migration routes. It employs actions that are rights-based and protection-focused, to ensure the dignity and safety of the assisted people in line with international standards.
Also, through its policy and capacity building actions, the Initiative ensures that the migration process is safer, more informed and better governed for both migrants and their communities of origin.
“Saving and protecting the lives of migrants and refugees, breaking the business model of smugglers and traffickers and providing legal pathways, while addressing the root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement are at the very heart of the EU’s policy,” the Head of the EU Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador said in Lagos on Tuesday.
He spoke shortly after the 64th charter flight bringing back voluntary Nigerian returnees arrived in the county.
Insisting that the EU does not want to stop migration, Ambassador Karlsen said: “What we want to stop is dangerous, unprotected, and exploitative forms of migration. Migration should happen out of aspiration, not desperation.”
The EU is working in all areas of migration in Nigeria, including migration management, labour migration, irregular migration, return and reintegration, mobility and international protection.
Nigeria is a source, transit and destination country for women and children victims of sex trafficking and forced labour in the forms of prostitution, domestic servitude, begging and sometimes trafficking in human organs.
The IOM has identified 749 victims of trafficking among the returnees, and more than 3,172 with vulnerabilities.
The EU is also working on the prevention side in the country of origin as well. Trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants in Nigeria are targeted under new EUR- 10 million programme focusing on these two issues for a period of five years.