The Tragedy of ‘Irregular Migration’

Exactly a week ago today, an Associated Press (AP) wire report, published in the Washington Post and many other major news outlets entitled, “56,800 Dead and Missing: The Hidden Toll of Migration” revealed how thousands of migrants have in the past four years remained unaccounted for. “Barely counted in life, these migrants rarely register in death — almost as if they never lived at all. A growing number of migrants have drowned, died in deserts or fallen prey to traffickers, leaving their families to wonder what on earth happened to them” wrote AP.

According to the report, anonymous bodies of these unfortunate migrants, mostly from our continent, are filling cemeteries in South Africa, Italy, Greece and Libya. “An Associated Press tally has documented more than 56,800 migrants dead or missing worldwide since 2014 — almost double the number found in the world’s only official attempt to try to count them, by the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration…The AP came up with almost 28,300 additional dead or missing migrants by compiling information from other international groups, forensic records, missing persons reports, death records, and examining data from thousands of interviews with migrants”, the report stated.

As depressing as the story was, it does not even reflect the depth of the tragedy. Sadly, even when immigration has become the defining political issue of the day in many Western countries, it is hardly ever discussed within the continent and certainly not in Nigeria. Yet, amid shrinking opportunities and a distortion of information about life in Europe, especially for undocumented immigrants, thousands of our young people have for years been embarking on desperate journeys that most often end in sorrow, tears and blood either in the Sahara Desert or on the Mediterranean Sea.

That is the focus of my coming book which captures the human drama of ‘irregular migration’ with compelling stories by those who have gone through the harrowing experiences. The book, I believe, will necessitate the conversation on migration and associated issues that we need to have in our national interest.

However, I am here this morning not only to announce that a date has been set for the public presentation of the book but also to thank Ford Foundation for providing the financial resources that enabled me travel in the course of researching into the ugly phenomenon. Let me specifically thank my brother, Innocent Chukwuma, the West African Director as well as Ms Tamila Vatcharadze, the Global Portfolio Advisor, Institute of International Education (IIE) for their support on the project.

Titled, FROM FRYING PAN TO FIRE: How African migrants risk everything in their futile search for a better life in Europe’, and published by Bookcraft in Ibadan, it will be presented on 22 November, 2018 at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja. Chair of the occasion, the Emir of Kano, His Highness Muhammad Sanusi II, will also speak to the issue of ‘irregular migration’ while Governor Godwin Obaseki, who has been battling the ‘Edo connection’ to the ugly drama, will present the book after a review by spoken word and performance poetry artist, Mr Dike Chukwumerije.

Olusegun Adeniyi,

Chairman, THISDAY editorial board

8th November, 2018