Illegal Migration in Nigeria


Marcus Amudipe

“Either we stay here or we die” this is usually the case or narration for most youths in Nigeria as they after dropping sight of everything called hope and faith with everything called Nigeria, and they decide to embark on the dangerous trip to Europe in a bid to find greener pastures outside the shores of the country. I decided to start this article with the phrase, “Either we stay here or we die” a phrase which was used by Olusegun Adeniyi in one of the editions of the platforms which he later used in one of his books,” from frying pan to fire”. The phrase summed in perfect words the despair of many, their hopelessness after trying all they can to make ends meet in Nigeria, but all their efforts has been nothing but futile and if they should linger on any more it is definitely death for them, and if they leave they get the luxury of two outcome which is death or survival.

With the numerous contents of reports of dead bodies which are always shown on the various media outlets in Nigeria, the stories of those that came back after almost losing their lives on the sea or the ones who found themselves in the hands of pirates, smugglers etc. where they are made slaves to undergo various inhumane experiences, these reports are enough to convince a sane man to stay back and nod against a trip trying to cause through to Europe. The sheer determination of someone who has made up his or her mind to undergo these trips shows nothing but complete despair.

The quest and drive for survival outside the shores of a country which has offered no hope for its people has made millions of Nigeria with the words, either I stay here or I die gamble their lives with death. This quest to escape poverty, hunger, unemployment and insecurity among other reasons caused a major segment of Nigeria’s population to seek alternatives for better livelihood prospect for themselves and their families.

Many leave home with the hope and expectations of getting to Europe and other destinations perceived to have better economic prospects for them, but unfortunately they meet more harsh realities than the one they left. Many of them end up in the nets of human traffickers in Northern Africa. The victims are put in camp and sold in open markets where they are auctioned like piece of artifacts while the international communities watch or do so little to curb these trends.

Quite unfortunate  that with the bulk of the nations’ wealth which was majorly derived from crude oil after its discovery in Oloibiri Rivers state in the year 1958, the nation has failed to live up to international expectations.

Despite the immense wealth being generated by the nation’s resources, the various cases of corruption and embezzlement from different politicians who as exploited the mandate given to them. The constant promises and fail of its various leaders which has created an uneven society in terms of growth and development has created a system where the fate of the youths in the nation has been left hanging as jobs opportunities in Nigeria have been hard to come by. Every year graduates in their thousands are chunked out like grains to compete for the limited job opportunities in Nigeria, the lucky few gets to find job while the unlucky ones are left on the street trying hands on anything they see. While some have the audacity and mental strength to try out doing small and medium scale enterprises which in most cases are left frustrated and killed by the harsh economic policies of nation.

With the decline in the nation’s wealth which is largely contributed to by the decrease in the demand for crude oil which is chiefly caused by the outbreak of the novel virus, the fortune of the nation looks bleak which will definitely has it toil on the future of its youth as well as other aspect of its national development.

Nigeria to Europe Migration:Facts and Figures

Information provided by our missions abroad indicated that, apart from those held for simple immigration offences, the majority of those in prison are being held for drug-related offences. Reports had it that over 10,000 migrants has died between 1999 and 2002 while trying to cross over from North Africa to Europe. The circumstances of their departure such as using unofficial routes and without proper documentation have made them vulnerable to criminal gangs. These gangs recruit them into all manner of illicit business, with long jail sentences as consequences when they get caught. In 2007 alone, almost 6,500 Nigerian citizens were apprehended in the European Union for illegal immigration. This number represents – after Senegal – the largest population among the countries of the ECOWAS region. The large majority of apprehensions were carried out in Italy (2,523) and Spain (1,243). In the same year, 1,422 Nigerian citizens were removed from the European Union. As in the case of apprehensions, removed Nigerians represented the largest number – after Senegal – in the ECOWAS region although the figure had decreased from the 2,113 carried out the previous year .Internal apprehensions refer to the illegal presence of aliens in the territory of European Union.


Illegal immigration routes

The official routes for persons leaving Nigeria are most likely the routes taken by the majority of irregular emigrants. The major departure areas of the trafficked persons from Nigeria are Edo, Kano, Kaduna, Calabar and Lagos, through the neighboring border countries and onward to further away destinations. The latter comprise the ECOWAS Member States of Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, as well as Chad, through routes along the south-eastern and north-eastern borders to the Central African countries of Cameroon and Gabon and to northern African countries through Mali. Those who travel to Europe over land can be on the road for months, or even several years. Migrants going to Central Africa and Europe use the Lagos axis routes, while those bound for southern Europe and northern Africa cross Nigeria and Niger between the States of Sokoto and Borno.

There are many routes through the Libyan Desert; while some have existed for centuries as part of an ancient network of trade routes, others are newer- with little opportunity for alternative sources of income, most are now being used predominately for trafficking of illegal immigrants and other commodities such as drugs and weapons.

One of such route from Mali, which passes from Niger and then into Libya is frequented by an array of migrants seeking to reach Europe as well as members of Boko Haram and other extremist groups.

There are other routes for illegal immigration convoys from the Sudanese and Egyptian borders into Libya. There are also some strange immigration routes, mainly used by extremists coming from Iraq and Syria. These extremist mysteriously arrive at points near the Libyan border, especially from Tunisia and Sudan.




Ills of Illegal Immigration 


  1. Exploitation by people smugglers

Smugglers are criminals who pretend that both the journey and settling in Europe are easy in order to get money. Smugglers often lie about the safety of the route and modes of transport, particularly boats. The United Nations sanctioned human traffickers in Libya for their many crimes. Even if they know the migrant’s family and friends, smugglers still exploit them and put them in dangerous situations.

  1. Kidnapping and theft

There are many stories of migrants being kidnapped when crossing Mali, Mauritania and Niger as well as while trying to leave Libya. Kidnappers capture migrants and then call their families and demand a ransom. This often happens in the Sahara Desert and is sometimes planned in advance with drivers selling the migrants to kidnappers for large sums of money. Kidnappers often torture migrants and call their families so they can hear what is happening,

  1. Abuse and exploitation of children and adolescents

African migrant children are at the most at risk of abuse. More than three in four children and young adults trying to migrate from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe through the Mediterranean face various forms of exploitation on their journey. The irregular migration journey is extremely dangerous for children. Children go without education and face isolation and abuse.

More than 1,200 migrant children died from 2014 to 2018 as recorded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), nearly half of whom perished while attempting to cross the Mediterranean.


People smugglers in sub-Saharan Africa are now injecting underage migrant girls with a harmful contraceptive, due to the very high risk that they will be raped on their journey from Africa to Europe. There have been many reports of children going missing during irregular migration journeys who are then at risk of sexual and labor exploitation and are forced to work to pay back smugglers for the costs of their journey.


  1. Violence and exploitation of women

The irregular migration journey is particularly dangerous for women and girls. Many women experience physical abuse, torture, rape, enslavement and other forms of psychological abuse. Perpetrators include criminal gangs, smugglers, traffickers, border guards, police and fellow migrants.

  1. Rejected from Europe, Nigerians return

Once in Europe, thousands of Nigerians are being forced to return, because they have no legal right to be there. Many arrived irregularly and applied for asylum. However, as Nigeria is not at war and the government is not systematically persecuting citizens, Nigerians are often not eligible for asylum. Nigerian applications for asylum have one of the highest rejection rate of all African nationals arriving in Europe.

In 2016, over 20,000 Nigerians were denied asylum in Europe and told to return home. In 2018, Germany announced it would be sending tens of thousands Nigerians home. The German government added that 99 per cent of Nigerian asylum claims would likely be rejected, because Nigeria is not at war and the government does not politically persecute its citizens.

Implications of illegal Migration in Nigeria


  1. On the Economy: – there are numerous implication of illegal migration in both the destination countries and source countries involved. While many might say that it both has its positive and negative impacts, however the negativities surrounding it far outweigh its positive impacts.  Arising from the high numbers of illegal migrants from Nigeria, which majorly consist of the youth who in all countries of the world constitute the major force required in building a nations’ economy in the wake of the large manpower which they possess. The Nigeria nation and its economy has lost a great deal of these manpower which it could have channeled into building and growing its economy. The best brains of the country having been left frustrated at the lack of opportunities in the country have left the country illegally for other countries. Their brilliance and wealth of ideas could have been utilized to advance the country for good.


  1. On Mortality Rate: the death rate of the nation’s youth has continued to increase with the unending cases of illegal migration. The routes of these illegal migrants are always filled with dead bodies and skeletons of long dead people that cannot be accounted for. There are various dangers associated with these hazardous and illegal trips as they are always filled with thieves, pirates, human organs harvesters etc. The dangers of illegal migration by Nigerians to Europe and other countries are unquantifiable. For instance, such as in this particular case, women among the illegal migrants have been sexually abused and murdered by those described as people-smuggling gangs that charge each migrant about $6,000 to get to Italy. There have been cases of those left to drown while some are still missing several years after travelling out of Nigeria. The incalculable dangers Nigerians migrating illegally abroad expose themselves to are not only avoidable but also do not worth the risks involved.
  2. On National Security: The crisis of illegal migration has exposed the ruthless human trafficking, smuggling and criminal cartels that profit on the hopes and dreams of young people. Many of these unscrupulous groups are organized by Nigerians (Vanguard News, 2017). It has rubbed off on the future of hapless Nigerians and has nonetheless attracted global concern especially about the face of the Nigerian National Security.

Curbing the Menace

While the ever increasing numbers of illegal migrants in the country has become a major source of concern for the Nigerian government and populace at large, and the ever rising numbers of dead bodies on the illegal routes and activities of bandits, pirates, human organ hargag



harvester among many others have become an eyesore and worrisome trend in the international communities, the Nigerian government as well as it populace needs to get its acts together to curb this ugly realities. More than advising the youth in the country to embrace the nation and be patriotic citizens, it needs to re-address it inadequacies in order to restore or regain the trust of the people especially its youth who have lost hope in the system that anything good can come out of the system. This it must do by setting its priorities right by setting up initiatives that can go a long way in empowering its youths which constitutes a major part of its populace.

It is not just enough to create more universities to educate the youths; it must also create an environment that also engages them upon graduation. Also there must be conscious efforts by all to ensure that the best individuals are placed at the helms of decision making for the nation. The nation’s elites have sat back in recent years in the political administration of the nation; it is high time they take their place. A recently published article by Mr Debo Onifade talked about the need for Elites to rise to the need and affairs if the nation. This he stated in his article titled,” Nigerian Politics, Conspiracy of the Elites” Adding to this the youth must ensure that they are actively involved in the nation’s politics positively. It has become a worrisome trend among the youths to be used as election’s thug. It is high time they begin to look after themselves by not only demanding good governance but also whenever given the opportunity to serve, they must seize the opportunity to effect good and positive change. Election in Nigeria and Youth Participation must take a new positive turn.

Also another way of curbing these menace is the legislation of strict laws against illegal migration in Nigeria, this when done and fully enforced will go a long way in discouraging others who are interested in embarking on such activities. The national security agencies must also ensure that the nation’s borders are well secured and protected.

Furthermore non-governmental organization must step up in their advocacy against this disturbing trend. The media must also be used as a veritable tool to discourage the youth against embarking on these trips. Youths    in any nations of the world are important as well as largely significant to the growth and development of any nation, their future must not be toyed with because the sustenance of any society no matter how sophisticated it is rest on them. They must be treated right and given the necessary atmosphere to thrive.


July 28, 2020

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