The rising case of ‘illegal immigration’ globally is not a secret. It is a problem that has been exacerbated by extreme poverty, war, corruption, wealth inequality, and famine. While it has its obvious consequences as seen in Europe and United States, the circumstances leading to migration have not been addressed and this has created a never-ending malaise that has now thrown the global community into turmoil.
Citizens in host countries who publicly engage in racial profiling consistently point to the rising number of ‘illegal immigrants’ as the reason for their slowing economy, job cuts, increased national spending, crimes and diseases. As a result, it has become difficult for honest Nigerians with appropriate qualifications to travel effortlessly. Harsher punishments for migrant criminals are approved and implemented, and sometimes even innocent Nigerians find themselves at the mercy of a populist government that has to play into the fears of an angry citizenry.
The Migrant Resource Centre (MRC), an initiative created from the collaborative effort of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, the International Organisation for Migration and the United Nations Migration Agency has consistently worked to ease the process for migrants.
For many years, the Centre has provided services ranging from pre-departure briefing to providing information on emigrant qualifications, with the primary purpose of informing and educating people, who are either planning to leave or enter the country, on foreign and national immigration policies. Counselling is another core focus area of the MRC, and it is completely free and confidential.
It is widely important that migrants familiarise themselves with certain information on foreign migration policies so that they can make informed decisions, as that would ultimately work in their favour when they settle in a foreign nation with alien laws. Even when migrating legally, one has to be familiar with international laws and migrants’ rights, so the Migrant Resource Centre equips people with information on migrants’ rights, safety and health at workplace, general working and living conditions in the destination country. Counselling also includes key challenges one might encounter, the coping strategies and a detailed list of important contacts in case of an emergency.
Another important goal of the MRC is to redefine Nigeria’s image among the global community. While it is true that certain Nigerians do engage in criminal activities, it is also worth taking into account that this is not a clear representation of the country, and such labels cannot be used to describe the entire nation and its citizens looking to explore better opportunities.
The Migrant Resource Centre has tackled issues in illegal immigration such as forced prostitution, trafficking, slave trade, etc., by offering services that inform and educate people planning to leave the country illegally, especially while deploring certain routes. Many Nigerians who travel illegally leave with the promise of a better life, but are often dehumanised and forced to do things they never imagined they would have to do.
Working to address unemployment in foreign countries and reduce illegal immigration, the Centre has explained that there are opportunities in foreign countries, a situation which has been consistently leveraged by millions of Nigerians in Diaspora legally. With information from migrants, the centre also plays an investigative role by checking the credibility and verifying information of the companies for those relocating for employment purposes, and also helps with formal complaints against fraudulent employment abroad.
Irrespective of the views in many countries, Nigerians are not criminals, and innocent citizens should not have to be punished for the crimes of a few people. The Migrant Resource Centre is strategically positioned to address this misnomer by providing support throughout Nigerians’ migration – the legal way.