The Federal Government has unveiled the National Policy on Labour Migration aimed at protecting migrant workers; promote their welfare and that of families left behind.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who unveiled the policy recently in Abuja, also inaugurated two committees, the Technical Working Committee and the Social Partner Advisory Committee, to ensure faithful implementation of the policy, which has been described as the first in Africa.
According to the minister, the development is another major step by the Federal Government to boost decent job opportunities and surmount the challenges of countless Nigerian illegal immigrants, many of whom lose their lives while trying to cross into Europe through the Mediterranean Sea or Sahara desert.
The event had in attendance the Chief of Mission of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Enira Krdzalic; Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union (EU), Richard Young; the Country Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Dennis Zulu; Labour Migration representatives from the Ministries of Finance, Justice, Women Affairs, National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and other relevant government agencies.
Delivering the keynote address, Senator Ngige said the risk associated with irregular migration and its impact on Nigeria’s human resources and development necessitated the development of “this coherent policy on labour migration which aims at promoting decent work and respectability of migrant workers, as they would be accorded regular immigrant status in their countries of destination.”
He stated that the international migration ostensibly represents an opportunity for Nigerians to provide a better life for themselves and their families, pursue educational aspirations, improve their professional skills and prospects, or satisfy a desire for personal development through the adventures and challenges that come with living abroad.
However, Ngige pointed out that it be embarked on out of choice and not compulsion, adding that unfortunately, “most migration from Nigeria in the past decade has taken place because of high unemployment rates and the inability of the economy to generate adequate number of decent work to absorb the rapid new entrants into the labour force, which has actually ballooned the Army of unemployed.”
The minister regretted that as a result, many unsuspecting Nigerian migrants frequent in fall prey to human traffickers, human smugglers or even get trapped in exploitative, non-decent and abusive jobs, including forced labour.
“In recent months, several Nigerians and international news media published reports about citizens of this country who lost their lives while attempting to cross into Europe through the Mediterranean Sea in boats. Others have been reportedly lost on desert routes in the Sahara.
“This is of utmost concern to the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as no responsible government would sit back and watch the depletion of its country’s most critical factor of production and national development,” he said.
According to him, the objective of the policy was to promote the good governance of labour migration, protect immigrant workers as well as their welfare and optimise the benefits of labour migration on development.
The minister said the policy conferred Regular Immigrant Status on persons in their countries of destination, saying that the policy was developed with technical and financial support of International Organisation for Migration and the International Labour Organisation.
He added that the framework for achieving the implementation of the policy included “the establishment of job centres for the placement of job seekers into genuine vacancies, notified by employers from across the country and abroad.”
“Towards this end, the Ministry of labour and Employment with technical and financial support from ILO, and IOM and funding from the European Development Fund equipped six functional job centres in Bauchi, Kaduna, Delta, Anambra and Abuja. The job centres provide the platform for matching demand and supply in the labour market.”
Giving the internet web address of the National Electronic Exchange (NELEX), the minister further said that Migrants Resource Centres (MRCs) for the provision of migration related information has also been provided at two of the Job Centres in Lagos and Abuja.
In her remarks, the Chief of Mission, International Organisation for Migration, Ms. Enira Krdzalic said the policy was the product of the 10th European Union Development Fund project entitled, “Promoting Better Management of Migration in Nigeria,” revealing that the policy” which commenced in 2008 with technical support of IOM and the ILO through the participatory process, involving national stakeholders.
He said IOM has been supporting the Nigerian government in the development of initiatives for effective migration management and further described the inauguration as a landmark. She urged the ministry to ensure wide dissemination of the policy and build synergy with relevant stakeholders.
Also, the Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union, Richard Young said Nigeria was one of the top five countries of the world with the highest global remittances; about $21 billion by 2012 estimate, noting that Nigeria would benefit immensely from a robust implementation of the Labour Migration policy.
Similarly, the ILO Country Director, Dennis Zulu, restated the commitment of the ILO to the success of the policy in Nigeria and re-emphasized the importance of labour Migration policy in the generation of universally acceptable labour practices.
“The launch of the Labour Migration policy marks an important milestone in as far as efforts of the Federal Government of Nigeria are concerned to have in place an appropriate policy for Labour Migration governance.
“In the ILO we believe that the human desire to seek decent employment and livelihoods is at the core of the migration-development nexus. As more people cross borders to work in the coming years, fair and effective migration policies such as the one being launched today that protect the rights of migrant workers and reduce the costs of labour migration will be essential for achieving economic growth and enhancing development outcomes for migrant workers and their families, and for countries of origin and destination.
“Globally, the ILO works with governments, employers’ and workers’ organisations to improve labour migration policies that can achieve more equitable development with a focus on the needs of working men and women who generate the benefits towards development and who support their families and communities in countries of origin and destination,” Zulu said.