In Dialogue with Nigeria, Experts of the Committee on Migrant Workers Commend the State for Recognising the Committee’s State Party Complaints Mechanism, Raise Issues Concerning the “Brain Drain” and Persecution of Nigerian Migrants Based on Sexual Orientation
The Committee on Migrant Workers this afternoon concluded its consideration of the first and second combined periodic reports of Nigeria on how it implements the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, with Committee Experts commending Nigeria’s recognition of the Committee’s State party complaints mechanism, and raising issues concerning the “brain drain” phenomenon and the persecution of repatriated lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex migrants following a refusal of asylum status in other countries.
Fatima Diallo, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, welcomed that Nigeria would make a commitment to recognise the Committee’s competence to receive complaints on State parties pursuant to Article 76 of the Convention. This was commendable, she said.
Another Committee Expert asked about the brain drain, known as “japa” in Yoruba, due to highly qualified migrant outflows. The country was losing skilled labour such as doctors and technical workers. What measures were taken to limit the loss? How would the Government ensure the country could meet modern challenges? Did the State party consider that such migration was a good thing? What steps were taken to ensure that those migrants were in a regular situation?
One Expert noted that legislation in the country criminalised homosexuality and there was reportedly a death by stoning recently because of it. Some Nigerian migrants tried to seek asylum in other countries to escape persecution for their sexuality. How were migrants who were refused and sent back to Nigeria affected by this legislation?
Imaan Sulaiman Ibrahim, Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, in opening remarks said that, as a source, transit and destination country, managing migration was a priority for Nigeria. Its 2015 National Migration Policy was undergoing review and a raft of measures had been adopted to strengthen protections for migrant workers in line with the Convention. The State party took a firm stance against slavery, exploitation, and requested that countries receiving migrants in states in the Global North, Persian Gulf, India and South Africa ratify the Convention in order to adequately protect the rights of migrant workers residing in their countries.
In the ensuing discussion, the delegation said that young people often migrated for school. The Government could not restrict movement of its own people because that would be a restriction on human rights. When Europeans migrated to Nigeria, they were treated as expatriates, but Nigerians abroad did not receive the same treatment. They would work menial jobs even though they might have graduate degrees or other qualifications. In Málaga alone, 5,000 Nigerians were working legally; in London over a million worked legally. Nigeria focused on protecting the dignity and security of those who did “japa”.
Nigeria did not reject people based on sexual orientation or religion. It was alarming to think that someone would ask what a person’s sexual orientation was and then discriminate against that person. Perhaps this occurred in other countries, but not in Nigeria. There was also no salary disparity between men and women in Nigeria.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Ibrahim thanked the Committee for the fruitful dialogue. It was a priority of the Government of Nigeria to ensure that the rights of migrant workers and their families were protected.
Can Ünver, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, in concluding remarks, expressed hope that the constructive dialogue contributed to the State party’s regulations and legislations. If it did, then the dialogue would have been beneficial. The Committee remained available for help and advice going forward.
Ms. Diallo, in her concluding remarks, thanked the delegation, saying that the Committee looked forward to further dialogues on these issues. The common goal was improving conditions for migrants both in Nigeria and abroad. It was positive that such a constructive dialogue could take place. Nigeria would certainly be a driving force in issues relating to migration in Africa.
The delegation of Nigeria was made up of representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Employment; the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants. and Internally Displaced Persons; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Federal Ministry of Justice; the Nigeria Immigration Service; and the Permanent Mission of Nigeria to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee on Migrant Worker’s thirty-sixth session is being held from 27 March to 6 April. All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage. Meeting summary releases can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed via the UN Web TV webpage.
The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m., Thursday 30 March to begin its consideration of the third periodic report of the Philippines (CMW/C/PHL/3).
The Committee has before it the first and second combined periodic reports of Nigeria (CMW/C/NGA/1-2).
Presentation of the Report
IMAAN SULAIMAN IBRAHIM, Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, noted that the timing of the meeting was appropriate as the worlds’ attention was on migrants. For the Government of Nigeria, a source, transit and destination country, managing migration was a priority. Its National Migration Policy, passed in 2015, was undergoing review. Legislation relating to labour migration was amended in 2020 to address and prevent human trafficking and irregular migration practices while strengthening protections for migrant workers. The International Labour Migration Division in the Ministry of Labour and Employment was established and many measures were enacted to that end as well. Regular work inspections were conducted to ensure safety compliance. The Technical Working Group on Migration and other stakeholder groups were established to promote collaboration between State and non-State actors within the country, as well as Migrant Resource and job centres. A manual for the reintegration of returning migrant workers was released and the Government worked to mainstream gender parity in its legislation.
The Country recognized the benefits to development of international migration both in and out of the country and supported the rights of undocumented workers and their families, as their rights were violated often in their host countries. It advocated for the protection of equal treatment in respect to wages, trade unions, and access to justice. The State party took a firm stance against slavery, exploitation, and requested that countries receiving migrants in Western Europe, North America, Australia, Arab States of the Persian Gulf, India and South Africa ratify the Convention in order to adequately protect the rights of migrant workers residing in their countries.
Furthermore, the Government advocated for effective protection of migrants and their families from violence, threats and intimidation, xenophobia and discrimination. It called for equity and parity regarding remittance charges on migrant workers and their families issued by international financial systems, to ensure uniform charges irrespective of destination.
Questions by Committee Experts
CAN ÜNVER, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that the number of labour migrants leaving their home country seeking better conditions had grown and they faced human rights violations at almost every stage, unfortunately. He underscored the importance of the dialogue and wished for a successful one.
FATIMATA DIALLO, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked about the legal framework related to migration and labour within the country. Was information available on the international instruments to which the country was party? Some national legislation conflicted with the provisions of the Convention, particularly that which prohibited “idiots” or persons with disabilities from entering in the country. Could the delegation address this? A World Bank report noted an absence of bilateral agreements assuring safe pathways for Nigerian migrants working abroad. Was there an update on the issue? Responses were expected in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar on bilateral labour agreements for Nigerians. Where did they stand currently? Why had Nigeria not attempted to establish bilateral agreements with countries of the Global North?
What were the “clear and responsible” procedures ensuring that the human rights of vulnerable migrants were protected? How were they delivered? Were they operational? What was the strategy to care for migrants at borders? The Standing Committee on Diaspora Issues, the Working Group on Labour Migration of Migrant Workers, and the Working Group on Migration-Related Data Management were notable. Could more information be provided on their human resources, mandates and work thus far?
The 2015 law on migration gave migration services the right to monitor migrants and develop statistics. How did the agency collect data? Why was the focus on returning migrants? What data was currently available and was it disaggregated?
The National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria was important. How many cases on migrant workers had been dealt with by the body overall and in the past two or three years? What solutions had it proposed for migrant workers? Did the body submit reports to the Government? What did the Government do in response? Could more information be provided on procedural safeguards on detention and deportations?
Access to justice for migrants was an issue. Though it was specified that migrant workers could benefit from free legal aid, such as from the association of women jurists, were there interpreters to ensure comprehension during trials? What were the responsibilities of recruitment agencies for migrant workers?
A Committee Expert asked about how deportations took place. What was the due process in these cases? Was the person detained during deportation proceedings or were they in alternative situations? What was the situation of children returned to the country through either deportation or repatriation following exploitation in Libya. How were they received? What services were available for nationals abroad in irregular situations? What happened to those who had filed for asylum abroad on the grounds of persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation or religious beliefs but were returned to the country?
Another Expert requested data on migrant flows by age but also by direction: flows to the country and those from the country.
Another Expert asked if the State party had ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and if so, was there a mechanism to implement it? What was the status of the National Human Rights Commission? How had civil society been involved in creating migration policy? Broad consultations were important in its creation.
CAN ÜNVER, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked about the education of migrant children. Would equivalence be granted for diplomas obtained abroad? Were all children of migrant workers given access to education, including those in irregular situations? What was being done to prevent education institutions from discriminatorily blocking migrant children’s access to education? It was a difficult task to protect migrant workers abroad through consular services. Had the State party taken any measures to expand protections for its nationals working abroad?
A Committee Expert asked about the reasons for prohibiting people with mental impairments from entering the country. These persons were in a vulnerable situation. How was the prohibition implemented and had there been cases of refusal of entry on those grounds?
What procedural safeguards existed for foreign migrant workers within the country? Did they receive free legal assistance or consular services from their home country? What consular assistance and protection existed for the Nigerian diaspora? What category of employment could migrants have access to and under what conditions in Nigeria? What were the numbers of migrant workers in Nigeria and Nigerian migrant workers abroad? Were Nigerian workers mainly documented or undocumented in their host countries? What assistance was given to undocumented workers? Did any bilateral agreements exist with host countries? How did civil society participate in the management of migrants? In many other countries, civil society organisations and actors participated in country reviews, but no such organisations or actors were participating in this review. What was the reason for this?
Terrorist attacks were a challenge in the country. How did it affect migration? How did the attacks affect women migrants? How was the country dealing with these attacks?
An Expert noted the delegation’s comments on private recruitment agencies. Were there any public institutions ensuring their adherence to the international labour standards and instruments that the State party had acceded to? Was disaggregated data available on Nigerian migrants around the world? Many countries receiving workers had not signed the Convention, so bilateral agreements could help to protect the rights of Nigerian migrants. Reports had been received of human rights violations against domestic workers occurring in the Middle Eastern countries that the State party was creating bilateral labour agreements with. Were any checks carried out within the countries to ensure the absence of exploitation?
Another Expert noted that Nigeria was the most populous country in Africa and it was predicted to grow to the third largest country in the world in terms of population. It was a transit, destination and origin country for migrants. There was a great deal of internal migration in recent years. Did most migrants come from the south of the country, rather than the north? What was the State party doing to meet the challenges of migration but also involve the Nigerian diaspora in development opportunities in the nation? What did the State party do to pursue cooperation with countries in the region and also in the entire continent? How was the country implementing the Marrakesh agreement?
Another Expert noted that the State party ratified all the key conventions of the International Labour Organization. Would it ratify Conventions 143 and 189? Given the prevalence of domestic work in the region, ratification would be important. Were there mechanisms for appeal for migrant workers in deportation processes? How were trade unions involved in the implementation of the Convention? Did awareness raising take place for all stakeholders such as law enforcement, labour inspectors and judges? Could migrant workers freely join trade unions?
EDGAR CORZO SOSA, Committee Chairperson, noted that Nigeria’s human rights institution had fluctuated from A-status to B-status, and back to A-status under the Paris Principles over the years. The National Human Rights Commission Act was amended in 2010 to bring it in line with the Principles, but specific information on the amendment was lacking. How exactly was the Act amended? An increased budget for the human rights institution supposedly increased awareness of the body nation-wide. How was awareness raising pursued? Did it cover the rights of migrant workers?
Migrant workers and their families with valid residency but whose contract had been terminated were “eased out” or deported by immigration services if their former employer no longer took responsibility for the National Immigration System. Did such workers have time to find another job within their valid residency period? The migrant e-registration tool was a measure to regularise irregular migrants. Regularisation was important. How would the Government use the tool?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that a long-standing bilateral agreement existed with the United Kingdom. Further talks with South Africa and the European Union had reached an advanced stage. The three mentioned thematic Working Groups would be better funded following a review.
Civil society played an active role in Nigeria. They led thematic groups and were key to implementing the Global Compact for Migration. It was true that terrorism, banditry and climate change had affected migration greatly. The review of the migration policy was an opportunity to address gaps.
The 2010 National Human Rights Commission Act indeed ensured that the Human Rights Commission was brought in line with the Paris Principles. Prior to this, tenure for officials on the board was not assured. The Act guaranteed security and tenure for the board following their appointment by the Senate. The powers of the Commission were also strengthened. It had the power to summon any party in their investigations. Further, its findings and reports were enforceable in the judiciary and had the same effect as a court decision. An example was that the Government had to pay damages to persons who were brutalised by security forces following a Commission report calling for such a payment. These changes had led to the upgrade back to A-status. Recently, the Commission had summoned the chief of the army following allegations of forced abortions for women carrying children of the Boko Haram group. The B Commission was powerful and respected.
Nigeria allowed for non-nationals to seek employment through visa applications. First, they would declare their intent to enter the country for work, then the intended employer would sign the terms of employment. Employment visas had limitations that differed, and some were renewable. They would be controlled at the border and regularisation would occur within 90 days. If the authorisation had expired, the person would be advised to return to their home country. If the authorisation was revoked, the migrant worker and their family would be allowed to stay in the country until their visa expired.
Nigeria was surrounded by francophone countries and communication with these countries was an issue. For effective communication between Niger and Nigeria for example, communication efforts were made in three languages at the border: English, Hausa and French. Immigration registration was an approved programme with the aim to regularise migrants within six months. Some foreign nationals in Nigeria were undocumented simply through expired passports, which their consulates could not renew. Nigeria gave such people the opportunity to return to their country, renew their passport and come back. This scheme provided more information on migrants and helped the Government address gaps in policy.
Electronic border management systems were in a pilot phase among main migration pathways such as highways and would be expanded following their evaluation.
Immigration officers could not effectively profile a person who was mentally unstable to obtain their immigration status. It was a difficult rule to implement as the criteria reached beyond a simple travel document. Migrants coming into the country were assets.
The State party enacted awareness raising campaigns broadly following the ratification of international instruments. Bodies such as the National Orientation Agency worked to that end. Nigeria was a massive country and despite its size, work was in progress to spread awareness.
The National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons was charged with dealing with migration-related issues in the country. A Working Group and Thematic Group bolstered its governance. The National Bureau of Statistics was responsible for storing all data related to migrants. Only disaggregated data was allowed to be made public because of confidentiality concerns. Unaccompanied minors were not allowed to enter the country, but pre-departure counselling and a guardian were provided. Once within the country, the minor was placed in a shelter and looked after through follow-ups and referrals with the help of civil society organisations.
Civil society organisations were involved at all levels and were part of both working groups and thematic groups. The review of migration policy was taking time to include all relevant elements such as the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the Rabat Process and gender mainstreaming.
Nigeria had ratified 42 International Labour Organization Conventions and 26 were enforced. Four had been ratified in the past 12 months, including Convention 143. Management of migrant workers was undergoing changes. The Human Capital Association of Nigeria was an umbrella organisation of private employment agencies. 1,302 employment agencies were registered and operating. The Association oversaw ethical regulations for recruitment, regardless of whether agencies were recruiting within or outside of Nigeria. Skills were important in the labour market and Nigerians and migrants were evaluated without discrimination. An electronic platform assisted in “skills-matching” for migrants and Nigerian nationals to job vacancies.
Migrants with the requisite qualifications could freely apply for any position within the labour market. Forced labour was not permitted. As soon as conventions were ratified, the Government conducted awareness raising for all relevant stakeholders and a complaints mechanism existed in case of violations. The Industrial Arbitration Panel and National Industrial Court decided on cases of alleged rights infringements in workplaces. Membership to trade unions was unrestricted to those working within the union’s industry. The Nigerian Employers Consultative Association was an umbrella organisation wherein practices were standardised. It also settled disputes. If it could not settle a dispute, the case was sent to the Industrial Arbitration Panel, a tripartite body made up of employers, workers and the Government. Cases were decided within a set time frame or would be referred to a higher legal body for a final decision.
In all Nigerian missions abroad, consular and migratory services were offered to those identified as Nigerian who were detained in prison or camps. For those who had been denied asylum, pre-counselling to provide proper documentation occurred through bilateral agreements. Assistance was provided to settle such migrants. Those who came back while awaiting trial in the former host country were not allowed to stay within Nigeria, however. Often, civil society organisations provided them with further assistance.
The State party was an active participant in all national and international forums that addressed migration. A framework existed nationally to implement all the objectives of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Measures were taken to ensure multi-stakeholder approaches to review legislation. The county was fully committed to protecting the right of Nigerian migrants abroad and migrants within the country. Nigeria did not reject people on the basis of sexual orientation or religion. It was alarming to think that someone would ask what a person’s sexual orientation was and then discriminate against that person. Perhaps this occurred in other countries, but not in Nigeria.
There was no part of the country that did not witness migration. Different destinations appealed to different people. No country could sign bilateral agreements on their own and Nigeria was open to them.
Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert noted that 80 per cent of entrepreneurs were in one region. What difficulties remained to put in place protections and mechanisms for all migrant workers? What measures protected the right to health in prison and detention facilities? A service called “ Servicom” allowed for migrants to submit complaints and reports. Were more details and statistics available regarding it? How many National Resource Centres were opened and where were they located? How were they distributed and what were their protocols in managing data? How was civil society involved?
The installation of pharmacies and dispensaries in prisons was encouraging. Was mental health support also provided for detainees? What was the situation of detainees who were mothers or pregnant? Could more information be provided on the plan for the elimination of child labour?
FATIMATA DIALLO, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked if there was any intention to ratify International Labour Organization Conventions 97 on migrant workers and 131 on minimum wage. Ratifying the convention on domestic labour was of great importance for the country. Could the delegation confirm that the bilateral agreements existing with the United Kingdom and South Africa were indeed on labour and migration? How were policies and strategies coordinated? Would the State party consider having a single unified policy in line with the Convention?
How was civil society consulted during the drafting of a human rights report? Which Ministries were involved in drafting the report that was submitted? Were others involved that were not present in the discussion? What measures were taken to prevent corruption related to the Convention? How did they specifically target border patrols? Bribes to enter a country was commonplace. Had complaints been received from migrants?
Climate change was a pressing issue for Nigeria. Ms. Diallo said the country was dear to her heart as she travelled there every year to assess climate change. What information could the delegation provide on the Ogoniland recovery project, as well as the internal and external migration occurring due to the situation?
Another Expert asked about the bilateral agreement with the United Kingdom signed in 2022 that aimed to expel those that the United Kingdom considered to be dangerous. What details were available on it? What value did it add to migration? Had any Nigerians been deported under the agreement? What happened to them upon their return? Were any Nigerian migrants involved in the events in Melilla in June 2022? What assistance was provided to them if so? Were any repatriated? How were they reintegrated? Did they receive psychological support?
Information available in the media indicated that a brain drain was occurring in Nigeria. The middle classes, particularly highly qualified workers such as doctors and technical workers, migrated to other regions. What measures were taken to try to limit the brain drain? How would the Government ensure the country could meet modern challenges? Did the State party consider that such migration was a good thing? What steps were taken to ensure that those migrants were in a regular situation?
One Committee Expert said his question was not about discrimination in the labour market, but about Nigerians migrating abroad to escape persecution for their sexual orientation. Legislation in the country criminalised homosexuality and there was reportedly a death by stoning recently because of it. How were migrants who were refused asylum status to escape persecution for their sexuality and sent back to Nigeria affected by this legislation?
Another Expert asked about women in international sex trafficking. Women who organised the trade were often former sex workers themselves. The State party had worked to combat this by entering into agreements with countries such as Ireland and Switzerland as well as establishing national programmes to support victims. However, once victims had been returned, it was reported that they could again be criminalised under a law bringing dishonour to the country. Was this true, and how was this in line with the country’s obligations under the Palermo Protocol?
EDGAR CORZO SOSA, Committee Chairperson, noted that the report stated that no migrant or their family had been deprived of their liberty. Could migrants be detained under administrative offences such as being undocumented? Chapter two of the Constitution protected migrants, but it was understood that migrants could not invoke it in court. Were any regulations that migrants could invoke in courts for their protection? What measures had been taken by the Government to address the mass displacement in the north of the country? What action had been taken to address smuggling of persons?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that entrepreneurship was indeed concentrated in certain regions, but the figure of 80 per cent in one region may not have been correct; it might have been closer to 60 or 65. Entrepreneurship was concentrated because of proximity of resources and funding. Further, many businesses that were concentrated in the region were not owned by people in that region.
Shell, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Government were partners in the clean-up in the Ogoni region. The oil spill would soon be a thing of the past and the environment would be respected.
Not only young people were participating in the brain drain, known in Yoruba as the “shiapa” or “japa” phenomenon. Young people often migrated for school. 1.3 million passports were printed last year. The Government could not restrict movement of its own people because that would be a restriction on human rights. The country had enough people on the ground. Since the beginning of civilisation, people had moved around, and they would continue to.
No Nigerians were involved in or affected by the unfortunate incident in Melilla in June 2022.
Nigeria did not discriminate based on sexual orientation. There was no salary disparity between men and women in Nigeria. Some people would say anything to gain residency in another country.
Nigeria was open to bilateral agreements as long as they were win-win, however the rights of migrants, especially Nigerian migrants, had to be protected. When Europeans migrated to Nigeria, they were treated as expatriates, but Nigerians abroad did not receive the same treatment. They would work menial jobs even though they might have graduate degrees or other qualifications. The Government focused on Nigerians abroad to ensure their security and dignity. In Málaga alone, 5,000 Nigerians were working legally; in London over a million worked legally. Nigeria focused on protecting them. Bilateral agreements, especially with countries around the Mediterranean, existed to combat sex trafficking and provide victims of it with support.
Infants were allowed to be with parents in detention centres up to 18 months. Afterward, the child was either placed in a foster home or with a guardian. Pre- and post-natal care was given to pregnant women in detention centres as well. “Servicom” services were available at borders, along with the possibility to lodge a written complaint.
The periodic report was written with the collaboration of civil society actors, as was Nigeria’s Universal Periodic Review report, which was currently being drafted. Civil society organisations worked in tandem with the Government at almost all levels.
Women were the hardest hit by exploitation during migration and forced displacement. Nigeria’s shelter system for women was important in this regard and trials were also victim centred. The trafficking act had been reviewed recently to address sexual and gender-based violence.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said that rather than a brain drain, it would be useful to think about a skills drain. It was not only doctors, but also artists, football players, musicians and academics who were affected. How would the country encourage them to come back in a circular way? These people could also contribute to the country even if they did not live there.
The Expert noted that there were seven agencies for victims of sex trafficking throughout the country. Were victims charged with the crime of “tarnishing the reputation of the country” after they were returned to Nigeria from the country from which they were deported?
FATIMA DIALLO, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, noted that reports were received that the bill on the national human rights institution was adopted and had it come into effect. Could the delegation confirm this? Judicial appeals against expulsion seemed to imply a suspension of deportation. Was this the case? What was the policy on cross-border and seasonal work? How was it regulated? What were the responsibilities of private recruitment agencies in regard to a breach of contract? What was the status of the current bilateral agreement with South Africa?
Nigeria would make a commitment to recognise the Committee’s competence to receive complaints on State parties pursuant to Article 76 of the Convention, and this was commendable. Article 77, which allowed for complaints to be received from individuals, was equally important. Would the State party consider recognising it? In many European countries where a high number of Nigerian migrants were employed, migrants’ employment was still temporarily, and they were underpaid or paid as interns. At the end of their contracts, they were often forced to leave the country if contracts were not renewed. This trend concerned the State party because its people were in effect cheap labour and undervalued. The ratification of the International Labour Organization convention on minimum wages would bolster their security. Further, however, their situation returning to the country was ambiguous because their experience abroad was not necessarily valued. World Bank reports indicated that Nigeria was not always advantaged by bilateral agreements. Migration was not just a security issue but one of development. Could the delegation address this?
A Committee Expert asked what mechanisms were available to lodge appeals for deportation orders, specifically after a job loss tied to a visa. “Girl-maids” working in private homes were of concern, as labour inspectors did not always have access to private homes. What safeguards were available for them? Labour inspectors were the front line for enforcing labour law. Were they given training on the corresponding International Labour Organization conventions?
Another Committee Expert noted that migrations were important to sustainable development in Africa. Nigeria had a wealth of skills in its diaspora, and it was the hope of the Expert that the great country could integrate those skills through South-South cooperation.
CAN ÜNVER, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked about unaccompanied minors, who suffered great violence and exploitation. Girls especially were vulnerable to gender-based violence and sexual exploitation. Did the delegation have any plans to remedy this issue or collect data about it?
EDGAR CORZO SOSA, Committee Chairperson, said regularisation processes were still unclear. Were migrants detained based on administrative offences? What was the Government doing about internally displaced persons? Figures indicated that millions had been displaced in the north? Could the delegation comment on people smuggling? This entailed migrants paying networks to be moved from one place to another.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation agreed that the phenomena was more akin to a skills drain. The country did provide very cheap labour to Europe and other parts of the world. The Nigerian Diaspora Commission ensured maximum benefits from exported labour. Of course, various companies made billions of dollars through migrant labour. It was a complicated issue, but the State party would continue to address it.
The so-called “tarnishing” laws did not seem to reflect the very liberal nature of Nigeria. It was the hope of Nigeria that its citizens abroad would uphold certain standards, and the onus was on all Nigerians to do so. There was no crime related to tarnishing the reputation of the country.
A migrant was required to register with a local immigration office if they intended to stay longer than 90 days. Immigration offences were not criminal offences. Detention centres did not exist for migrants, but scrutiny centres did. Migrants would usually stay for a maximum of three days, during which they were offered free legal assistance and the opportunity for bail by their embassy. Smuggling of migrants was criminalised. Cross-border labour was coordinated through fluid communication with bordering State parties such as Cameroon. Deportation orders were handed down by judges and occurred through communication with the concerned State within agreed upon security guidelines.
Information received from outside sourced from non-governmental organisations needed to be verified. The United Nations sometimes could receive incorrect information. Recognising the Committee’s competence was not a problem.
A bill to regulate non-governmental and civil society organisations failed. They were free to operate freely. The position of the Human Right Commission was not final and could be appealed in any court.
The Convention on Domestic Workers was adopted in 2011 but due to Nigeria’s cultural orientation, the concepts of house help, domestic servitude and child upbringing were blurred. It was a complex process to integrate this Convention into Nigeria’s framework. This year at the National Labour Advisory Council, the convention was again considered but the Council decided against ratification. Three National Resource Centres existed within the country, in Lagos, Abuja and Benin City. Expansion was being considered in the six geopolitical regions in the country. There was a mechanism for workers to meet with employers electronically. Private recruitment agencies were regulated. A fee was required and if a “default” was experienced, the Government would step in to pay the balance. Contract renewal was of course performance based.
If a Nigerian had been convicted of a drug offence abroad and they have served their sentence, then they were free. It was only if the two countries had an agreement for the convicted to serve their sentence in Nigeria that they would continue it, but they would not be convicted twice.
Talks were ongoing with South Africa on bilateral agreements. Issues discussed in the talks included duration of visas, consular issues, polygamy and trafficking. Talks were inconclusive. The Government provided a toll-free number to report domestic servitude. A rapid response squad dealt with arrest and rescue and then cases were dealt with in court.
In regard to the brain drain issue, the delegation and Committee did not necessarily have the same position, but the most important thing was to protect everyone’s rights.
Various agencies aided internally displaced persons. There were challenges, but efforts would continue to be made to protect migrants and their families. It would be important for the European Union countries and the United States to ratify the Convention, which would give it more meaning, especially for those countries that had already done so.
Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert noted that Nigeria was an economic colossus. It was one of the largest economies in the world and the country’s cultural influence was enormous. The epithet “the Giant of Africa” was well deserved. Nigeria could play an even more important role, however. Would the country consider a forum on migration? Morocco had the idea of an African ambassador for migration. The Committee looked forward to seeing the State party’s innovations.
FATIMA DIALLO, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, noted that the State party had reported that there had not been a single expulsion of a migrant worker in Nigeria. The Committee wanted to confirm this. She clarified that her previous question was about the bill of 2022 on the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria. Had the President signed this bill into law? Did an appeal of a deportation suspend the process?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said the bill on the National Human Rights Commission was currently being considered by the President.
The right of stay for an irregular migrant existed until a court decided that they were to be deported. In these cases, migrants were “eased out” of the country, provided with a limited period before their departure, called a “stay of passion”, to settle their affairs.
IMAAN SULAIMAN IBRAHIM, Federal Commissioner, National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons, thanked the Committee for the fruitful dialogue. It was a priority of the Government of Nigeria to ensure that the rights of migrants workers and their families were protected.
CAN ÜNVER, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, expressed hope that the constructive dialogue contributed to the State party’s regulations and legislations. If it did, then the dialogue would have been beneficial. The Committee remained available for help and advice going forward.
FATIMA DIALLO, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, thanked the delegation, saying that the Committee looked forward to further dialogues on these issues. The common goal was improving conditions for migrants both in Nigeria and abroad. It was positive that such a constructive dialogue could take place. Nigeria would certainly be a driving force in issues relating to migration in Africa.
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