SINCE April 2017, the International Organisation for Migration, in partnership with the United Nations Migration Agency, has offered training to 2,051 Nigerian returnees from Libya as part of efforts to reintegrate them into the society.
The twenty-first of such training exercises held between August 27 and 31, 2018, in Lagos, and it involved 273 returnees.
“Before I travelled to Libya, I was into phone sales and repairs and palm oil production, but I left my business to migrate due to challenges like power outages,” said Onyekachi, one of the beneficiaries of the recent training.
“With this training, my dream will come true because I have been grouped into an agriculture-based business,” she added.
Another beneficiary, Blessing, said she was a fish trader in Benin, capital of Edo State, before she sold up her wares, raised half a million naira and went off in search of greener pastures in Italy, only to end up in Libya.
“I travelled on 26 May 2017 and paid a total sum of 500,000 Naira from proceeds of my fish business in Benin City,” Blessing said.
“I wanted to travel to Italy but was arrested at sea, spent a month and one week in prison and was assisted to return back to Nigeria in June 2018.
“Now because of the training I know that I have hope again.”
The training on business skills and cooperatives for returned migrants has held in several states of the federation including Lagos, Edo, Nassarawa, Kano and Kaduna States, where the returnees learn about the types of businesses they intend to launch, whether individually or in groups.
In addition to collective reintegration schemes, some of the, especially those from the South-South region of Nigeria, have benefited from several community-based projects, such as fruit juice, palm oil, palm kernel and plantain processing factories in Edo and Delta States — where most assisted returnees originate from.
These projects are intended to benefit not only the individual returnees but also their communities of origin.
“The training is now focused on having more sustainable businesses and not just regular trading, buying and selling. We are concentrated more on agriculture-related businesses because they are more sustainable and will add more value to the returnees’ communities,” said lead trainer Osita Osemene.
“We also have stories of returnees like Anita from Benin City, who has started her palm oil produce business under the individual reintegration scheme, and another group of returnees who started a fish farming business,” she added.
Technical sessions focused on entrepreneurship, bookkeeping, supply chain management, as well as recommendations to develop a business idea. Returnees also attended sessions on ‘mindset reset’, where they had the opportunity to share experiences about their journeys abroad.
This training was organized under a joint initiative funded by the EU and implemented by IOM in collaboration with the Government of Nigeria, which offers in-kind reintegration assistance to help some returning migrants start their businesses. Some of the businesses already in motion include poultry farms, beauty salons, and grocery shops.
The Public Relations Officer of IOM in Nigeria, Jorge Galindo, told the ICIR that all returnees are entitled to some kind of support from the organization. He, however, clarified that not all of the opt for business training, some, especially those who are educated or possess some skills, are assisted to get job placements, others are supported to further their education, while those who require medical treatment are also supported in that regard.
For those who undergo business training, Galindo said the IOM also follow them up by providing technical and financial assistance to help them take-off on their own, as well as appoint mentors to guide them to enable them succeed.
By the end of September this year, the IOM, in partnership with the Ministry of Labour and the Lagos Chamber of commerce and Industry (LCCI), will organize a job fair where returnees will have the opportunity to meet private sector leaders in Nigeria and search for job opportunities to match their skills.
The EU–IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration is a three-year programme which is aimed at encouraging illegal migrants who got stuck in Libya to voluntarily return to their own countries.
According to the IOM, close to 10,000 Nigerian women, men and children have returned to the country voluntarily as a result of the initiative which is funded by the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.
The programme has been set up in close cooperation with a total of twenty-six African countries, including thirteen across West and Central Africa.