Equipping NIS officers to better engage issues of migration in the media

Participants at the workshop

Participants at the workshop

To ensure that the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) engages the issues of migration better, a workshop with the theme ‘New Media Strategies and Communication Tools for Combating Organised Crime Related to Irregular Migration,’ was recently held for officers of the NIS drawn from the various commands and its headquarters.

The Country Representative of United Nations Office for Drug and crime (UNODC), Mr. Koli Kouame, in a message delivered by Project Coordinator, Response to Drugs and Related Organised Crime, Mr. Glen Prichard, stated that with the new developments around migration especially to Europe, the world stands at a threshold of history, as it is confronted by a new wave of migration challenge defined by a complex shifting pattern and attendant human toll.

He further said that the political, social and economic crises in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia were reshaping migration trends, particularly in Europe. “The most recent surge has been attributed to the growing numbers of Syrian, Afghan, Pakistan and Eritrean migrants and asylum seekers”.

According to Kouame, while thousands have perished trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to Italy in recent times, the drowning death of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian toddler, not only drew intensified world attention to the refugee crisis, it remain a sad reminder that the world needs to rise to the challenges of migration.

“Especially irregular migration operated by criminal elements taking advantage of vulnerable and hapless fellow citizens. This workshop, the second in the series, is therefore timely as it empowers Public Relations Officers of NIS to relate with diverse publics while also using communication strategies and tools to combat criminals engaged in irregular migration.

“We are pleased with the efforts made so far, especially in the area of prosecution and supporting trafficked victims to return to a normal life. We remain committed to supporting NIS, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and Network Against Child Trafficking, Abuse and Labor (NACTAL), a network of about 100 Civil Society Organization as they reinvigorate their activities in combating trafficking in persons.”

The Controller-General of Immigration, Mr. Kure Martins Abeshi, said that the NIS has through its Human Trafficking Units located in all commands of the country and officers at the International Airports have put in much effort to reduce the menace. In spite of these efforts, which include counseling of young Nigerians who seek non-existent employment abroad, young Nigerians still fall victim to organised syndicates.

“It is my belief that this workshop which I understand will also dwell on analyzing tools and techniques for managing strategic information in line with national interest will go a long way in shaping a new Public Relations outfit for the service because there must be a careful balance between national interest and strategic information to the new media or social media which is not yet fully developed in Nigeria”

He thanked the UNODC for organizing the workshop, as it would further improve the capacity of its officers to manage information and the media.

While speaking on the topic, ‘The Role of the Media in Curbing Irregular Migration in Nigeria,’ Editor-in-Chief of EnviroNews Nigeria, Mr Michael Simire, after providing conceptual definition of some key words like ‘migration,’ ‘migrant,’ ‘irregular migration,’ said the role of the media is to create awareness, disseminate information on the ills of irregular migration, assist and collaborate with the Federal Government and international organisations in the fight against TIP and SOM, collaborate with government and its MDAs to investigate and prosecute all individuals suspected of recruiting and using child soldiers and perpetrating other trafficking abuses against women and children, effect behavioural change and influence policy decision, change and implementation.

He, however, observed that most irregular migration stories were routine – emerging from press briefings, release of reports and workshops with limited efforts to produce quality investigative/research stories as well as coverage on children and female gender issues generally. The way forward, he said is to initiate a network on irregular migration to focus on and boost reportage on the issues; take up a campaign to educate Publishers/Editors/Reporters on the aspects and dynamics of irregular migration; encourage articles/columns/broadcasts in the media to propagate the issue; boost the capacity/knowledge of media practitioners on the issue; create an incentive to encourage more reportage on the issue; organise a story completion, and/or offer grants for journalists to do investigative stories and utilise the vast potential of the social media to propagate the issue.

A senior lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Afe Babalola University, Sesan Fabamise, who spoke on the legal framework for combating human trafficking and migrant smuggling in Nigeria, noted that the Immigration Act 2015 aims to strengthen the Nigeria Immigration Service’s capacity to tackle issues of migration by focusing on human trafficking, migrant smuggling and border security, observing that most of the provisions are geared towards satisfying the requirement of the Convention and its Protocol.

“To a large extent, this has been achieved. There is the need for the Immigration Service to make the provisions of this new Act known to the public through her Public Relation Unit so that the public will be aware of the stiff penalties that await offenders and also to sensitise the general public about the need to give information to the service concerning the activities of Immigrant Smugglers.”

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