This report analyses migration politics in Nigeria, where there is growing concern about the high levels of irregular migration and human trafficking. The research follows a holistic understanding of migration, encompassing diaspora migration, irregular migration, displaced people, Nigerian refugees and asylum seekers, refugees and asylum seekers from other countries in Nigeria and immigration (primarily from neighbouring Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries). It analyses these forms of migration on three levels—governance, political stakes and societal discourse.
The high number of Nigerian asylum seekers in Europe is a concern for the European Union (EU) and its member states. Hence, Nigeria is one of the priority countries to be selected for the implementation of the EU Migration Partnership Framework (MPF). However, The MPF is failing because of the difference in interests between the EU and Nigeria. The EU wants the return of Nigerians (irregular migrants, including failed asylum seekers). The EU’s interest, however, does not live up to what Nigeria wants, which is to see regular migration pathways and sustainable developmental support. The continued domination of the EU’s interest in asylum situation with less regard for Nigeria’s interest may lead to Nigeria showing less interest in Nigerian asylum seekers in Europe and cooperating less with the EU on the return of Nigerians from the EU by EU member states.
Furthermore, we found the following:
Migration governance. It is theoretically comprehensive in Nigeria, but the implementation of migration related policies is very low. However, the existing governance framework for implementing the National Migration, Labour Migration, and Diaspora policies is very promising in terms of coordinating all forms of migration in Nigeria in a holistic approach. Nevertheless, lack of funding and conflict over mandate are among the challenges facing migration governance in Nigeria.
Political stakes of migration governance. Migration is not a political issue. Nevertheless, the major political stake of migration in Nigeria is diaspora migration mainly because of the potential contributions from the diaspora via remittances. Meanwhile retaining highly qualified skills in Nigeria and enforcing voting rights for Nigerians in diaspora is low on the government’s interest. Moreover, the EU and EU member states are actively engaged in efforts to reduce irregular migration and trafficking to Europe, but without practical corresponding increase in regular pathways and being actively involved in the return and reintegration of Nigerians.
Societal discourse. Migration is not a political issue in Nigeria, but people talk about migration with emotion. Societal discourse on migration is embedded in the broader discourse on social challenges like corruption, unemployment, inadequate infrastructure and miss-management of public resources. In addition, the government’s inability to retain highly skilled professionals is blamed for the high emigration of skilled Nigerians. Migration issues, especially on the treatment of Nigerian diaspora in other countries and irregular migration and trafficking, are increasingly becoming a huge part of societal discourse in Nigeria.
We therefore recommend the following:
- Nigeria should fully implement all the migration related policies and frameworks.
- The role of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in migration governance in Nigeria should be well captured in the existing governance framework.
- Nigeria should be clear and consistent on its interest from any potential migration agreement.
- Nigeria should pay more attention to good governance to motivate diaspora investments.
- Nigeria must stop the instrumentalization of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees.
- EU and EU countries should:
- Consider a mix of conditions for regular migration such as scholarships, vocational and skill training programs to allow those outside the socioeconomic class to compete for regular pathways.
- Invest in vocational and skills trainings that are useful for both Nigerian and European job markets which can lead to future labour exchanges.
- Consider increasing the number of student visas and expand existing regular pathways (Erasmus, Blue card).
- Reconsider the existing restrictive visa regimes as it encourages irregular migration.
- Consider Nigerian’s interests on diaspora and labour migration seriously.Reconsider initiatives that undermine mobility in the region, since such actions can lose out on Nigeria as a partner for migration governance and have adverse effects on the region.
- Partner Nigeria to retain its skilled persons who can further create jobs for unskilled Nigerians.
- Support Nigeria without undermining efforts to implement existing migration governance structures.