If anyone guessed that the current COVID-19 pandemic will have a long drawn impact on illegal migration to Europe, one will be dead wrong. A BBC News report on 12 May 2021 put the number of migrants that landed at the Island of Lampedusa, in the Mediterranean Sea, Southern Italy, this year at 13,000. The number, according to the report, is three times more than the same period in 2020. And more than 500 have also died within the period.
The island of Lampedusa is one of the main arrival points for migrants trying to reach Europe The Island’s migrant camp, which was designed to hold fewer than 300, now has five times that number.
On arrival, the report states that most migrants are quarantined in a camp with high fences. Many Nigerians and West Africans are always part of the crowd that arrives each time.
According to one Hidaya Ahmed from Nigeria, “I want to work. I want to feed my family. They are dying. I lost about four sisters all because of hunger. Then we came to Libya and they put us in prison for three months. They treated us like slaves. Sometimes, they gave us money; other times nothing.”
Hadiya revealed that she paid smugglers 8,000 Libyan dinars (£1,300; $1,800) for the three-day deadly boat crossing to Lampedusa. It is estimated that between 50-70,000 people may be on Libya’s shores waiting to take a similar deadly journey that could be their last.
Aljazeera in its report on 24 February 2021 declared that more than 20,000 migrants and refugees die at sea while trying to reach Europe from Africa yearly.
According to International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the number of migrants who drowned on the Mediterranean Sea, off the Libyan Coast on 22 April 2021 while travelling in a Rubber Boat was placed at 130. Apart from those that die and accounted for, countless others are always missing.
Despite reports, pictures and videos showing how deadly it is to undertake this adventure, it is a wonder why thousands still risk their lives daily on this note.
Needlessly, there are certain push-and-pull factors that attract people to another country to make them want to leave at all costs.
The push factors are that which compel people to migrate. These factors include and not limited to pollution, poverty, religious persecution, political victimisation/instability, drought, famine, disease, crime, flooding, lack of social amenities, genocide, natural disaster, insecurity, leadership crisis and war.
Some of the pull-factors are employment opportunities; the need for career/educational advancement; low crime rate; good climate; and political stability.
These are factors that compel people to risk their lives to cross the desert and the ocean as they seek better lives. Many migrants who do not die lose a lot of valuables, while others are either maimed, sexually abused or trafficked. Such is the disturbing situation about illegal migration.
In the case of Nigeria, poverty and conflict are the two major factors that make good numbers of her citizenry cling to the plan B option.
Million of Nigerians are extremely poor. The World Poverty Clock by World Data Lab puts the number of people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria at 89m (43%).
On a daily basis, the poverty rate increases in Nigeria. This explains the rising rate of crime such as kidnapping, banditry, internet fraud and others. These security problems were initially prevalent in Northern Nigeria. Now, these problems happen frequently in the hitherto peaceful South.
The biggest problem home countries of migrants have to deal with is brain drain: the emigration of highly trained or qualified people from a particular country. Some of these migrants whether educated or not could have contributed their knowledge to their countries’ development if they were empowered to prosper.
The problem is not what a country, regional organisation, leader, or concerned party can deal with alone. It is one that requires collaboration.
Global cooperation can help minimise the trend and preserve the integrity of migration as a whole. It can also contribute to regional and global development goals by improving human capital through sustainable development and ensuring longer-term economic growth.
Analysts have said that beyond border control, countries can address the issue from a holistic point of view which seeks to take advantage of its potential to boost countries´ economy, while also addressing the risks of the process and the causes that drive people out of their countries.
According to IOM’s Migration Governance Framework, countries should promote stability, education, and employment opportunities, as well as reduce the drivers of forced migration, including promoting resilience.
Ultimately, the collection, analysis and use of credible data and information on such phenomena as demographics, cross-border movements, internal displacement, diasporas, and seasonal trends, is essential to create policies that will avert the opprobrious trend.