Switzerland and Nigeria have robust and progressive migration cooperation – Jolanda Herren 

12th November 2021

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The growing number of deceived, daring, and risky voyages, increasing dangers, and swelling cases of gory demises trail illegal migration across the world is alarming.

This scourge has now become so disturbing that it continues to generate polemics and problems among the powers, platforms and people concerned.

Whether we accept or not, or taking actions or not, the truth staring us in the face is that irregular migration and its devastating outcomes have become another worrisome source of avoidable deaths the global managers must deal with as soon and as much as they can. It is indeed a hard bone that requires strong teeth to crack.  

Now, new patterns and passageways of unauthorized journeys are regularly discovered in Africa as more illegal migrants and trafficked persons falls into dungeons of dangers and destructions. And, while these victims and their loved ones are mired in the murk of mourning and misfortunes, illegal migration merchants are ‘merrying’ as they continue to mounting up blood monies. Something must therefore be done and very quickly too to address these troubling issues and rid the continent of bereavement, gloom and loss.

Sadly, Nigeria is not spared of the attacks of this fiendish monster as some of its citizens have already become victims of its venom and voracity; but, the good news is all hope is not lost, as some of the country allies have risen to lend helping hand toward an enduring redemptive process,

Towards this support for the country, Acclaim Nigeria talks to Ms. Jolanda Herren Pfister, a dedicated Swiss diplomat in Nigeria, whose roles as Migration Adviser are advancing Switzerland-Nigeria Immigration pact.

Enjoy the interview with the quintessential Swiss diplomat!

You will agree with me that migration is a global issue that has both positive sides and negative ills. The positive gains are geared towards productivity, enlargement and national progress and every progressive minds wants to be a part of what is praiseworthy and profitable for humanity, and so is Switzerland too. But, the global ache that every responsible nation and government MUST rise to confront and surmount is illegal migration and its negative impacts. The loss of human lives and huge humanitarian crises emerging from it cannot be left unattended to. And, as a responsible and responsive country, we cannot close our eyes to these problems, as no nation is spared of its harmful effects and spill overs. The developed nations are daily confronted unauthorized influx of migrants too large to manage, while the developing and under-developing nation are threatened with mass                                          During the interview session with Ms. Jolanda at the Embassy

exodus of people, who otherwise could have helped in national development activities, with several other nations either becoming transit nations or refugees grounds with serious catastrophes to cope with.

So, if we look at it from all perspectives, we all have the responsibilities of contributing our quotas in the human and societal betterment, and as a nation committed to a safe and improved world, Our country an interest and stake in this. Since, the permanent solution to this enormous problem cannot be achieved alone, joint efforts are thus frequently needed to realize the desired outcomes. Switzerland is t among the frontliners that have resolved to join hands towards putting a stop to the spread of illegal migration scourge through wide ranging approaches, and one of them is strategic and beneficial partnership.

Our migration partnerships address the various challenges emerging as well as opportunities of migration in a comprehensive manner, and aims to achieve an equitable balance between the interest of Switzerland, its partner country and the migrants through an approach based on partnership.

The contents of our migration partnership varies from one partnership to another as it reflects the specific interest of the involved partners. So far, several migration partnerships have been established by Switzerland, including Nigeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Tunisia and Sri Lanka, and others. Essential aspects of our migration partnerships include schemes that have a specific bearing on questions related to immigration and emigration, such as:                                                                                                                                          

–     Fight against smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings.                                                                                            

–     Return to home country and reintegration.                                                                                                                                         

 –     Migration and development.                                                                                                                                                                  

 –     Protection of refugees, internally displaced persons and vulnerable migrants.                                                                        

–     Regular migration (e.g. visa policy and basic further training).                                                                                                                   

As Switzerland Migration Adviser in Nigeria, how significant is the migration partnership between Switzerland and Nigeria and how has it fared?                                                                                                       

Firstly, Switzerland and Nigeria are two allies with long-standing ties bothering on democracy and good-governance, economic growth and trade, security and defence alliance, socio-cultural exchanges and other shared growth values. Nigeria is certainly an important partner of the Swiss on many significant fronts.

As Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria deals with a range of migration issues; from massive internal and regional migration and displacement to brain drain and a large well-educated diaspora in the West that it sees as a key to future development.

Towards transforming the huge potentials of its migratory population into economic dividends and ensuring better protection of migrants, the Federal Government of Nigeria is working assiduously to enhance its migration governance. Within the framework of Switzerland’s migration partnership with Nigeria, Swiss Development Corporation decided to accompany Nigeria in developing comprehensive approach to better manage migration and to help instigate safe and secure migration patterns.

Without mincing words there exists an excellent bilateral cooperation in migration affairs between Nigeria and Switzerland with attendant benefits.

Nigeria is the first African country Switzerland has migration dealings with and this was institutionized by a Migration Partnership established between the two governments in February 2011,in the form of a Memorandum of understanding (MoU). The relationship between the two countries is getting stronger and more beneficial each day.                                                                             

The main partners in this pacts are the Nigerian and Swiss governments. On the Nigerian side are the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRM), the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons (NAPTIP), as well as the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA). While, on the Swiss                                                                                                                         side are The Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) is the focal agency for migration issues and works closely with the Swiss agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Human Security Division (HSD), and the Sub-Saharan Africa and Francophone Division (SAFD) of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) as well as the Federal Office of Police (fedpol) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO)    

As the first African country with established migration partnership with Switzerland and in order to coordinate the implementation of common projects, the MoU establishes a Joint Technical Committee (JTC), which is composed of high level representatives and technical experts from both countries and meets regularly on a yearly basis.

  i. Capacity building in immigration administration                                                                                                                                    

 ii. Return assistance, readmission and reintegration                                                                                                                             

 iii. Fight against smuggling of migrants, trafficking in human beings and drugs                                                                               

 iv. Protection of vulnerable migrants, IDPs, and refugees.

 v. Prevention of irregular migration.                                                                                                                                                                  

 vi. Migration and development (including, remittance, diaspora, brain drain and gain)                                                                                             

 vii. Regular migration (including visa, consular affairs, exchanges in the field of education and training)                                                      

viii. Promotion and protection of human rights

ix. Regional cooperation.

So far, it’s gladdening to say that our migration partnership is progressing with encouraging outcomes; irregular migration and its activities are gradually scaling down, more awareness are being

Ms Jolanda with Acclaim Nigeria Crew.

created on the dangers of its activities, there is strengthened synergy among various partners involved and a win-win-win pursuits (Nigeria, Switzerland and Migrants) on course.

Can you share with the public some of Switzerland commitments in the joint projects and programs in this migration partnership?

Yes, there exist various projects and activities within the existing partnership, which have so far been realized or are currently being implemented in the migration cooperation. Some of these includes:

Capacity building in immigration administration

Switzerland funded the establishment of a Document Fraud Unit of Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in Lagos in order to tackle illegal migration and smuggling of migrants. The project was implemented by the International Organization for Migrants (IOM) and involved the provision of equipment and specific training. Another project implemented in 2013 in close cooperation with NIS involved in the development of a new curriculum and the training of 170 NIS officers in Modern Border Management.

Switzerland also supported the installation of the new Migrant Data Analysis System (MIDAS) and solar panels in Illela border control post Sokoto  State through IOM (International Organisation on Migration). A training of the NIS officials working with this installation was part of the project. A new project aiming at the implementation and institutionalization of the new training strategy for the NIS is being planned and will be implemented by IOM in close cooperation with NIS.                                                                                                          

Capacity building in access to justice and victim support:

In order to improve the organizational, operational and management capacities of law enforcement officers, Councellors and social workers to deal with cases of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants in Nigeria, Switzerland supports a project of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) supporting and building capacity to NAPTIP on strengthening access to justice and victim support.                                                                                                                 

Awareness raising campaigns and Implementation Organisations:

In close cooperation with NIS, Switzerland is supporting an IOM implemented programmes and project aimed at preventing irregular migration from and through Nigeria by the production and airing of a television mini-series titled “The Missing Steps”. We are also hugely collaborating with Local Media, Civil Society and NGOs, International Commission on Refugees, International organization on Migration, NDLEA, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. UNODC, IOM, States Governments.

Regional migration

The Global Program on Migration and development in West Africa launched in 2014 by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) supports at the regional level the ECOWAS Commission for the reinforcement of regional migration dialogue through its Migration Dialogue for West Africa (MIDWA) process; as well as on the national level in Nigeria, Benin and Burkina Faso the implementation of coherent migration policies and activities. Switzerland supported the first national migration dialogue in Nigeria in 2014.

The second national migration dialogue was held in December 2016 in Abuja.

Voluntary return and re-integration for the victims’ and the vulnerable

The Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programs aims to contribute to a more comprehensive management of migration through return assistance and sustainable reintegration for Nigerian returnees.

The AVRR project supports the social and professional reintegration of the returnees through financial reintegration assistance and the funding of revenue-generating projects (delinquent returnees are excluded from the program)                                                                                             

Capacity building in agricultural education, vocation and empowerment

Representatives of four different Nigerian agricultural institutes were invited to Switzerland by the school of Agricultural, Forest and Food Science in Zollikofen (HAFL) for a study tour during which they could observe and learn about Swiss agricultural education and research on subjects like value chain, small farm management and development and new student –centered teaching concepts. The study tour resulted in a transfer of knowledge and the development of “Train the Trainer” workshop.

Swiss is also working with other platforms in the establishment of centers and provision of funds for skills and vocation, business training and access to micro-credit to develop their business. Within the past one year, we are working with four NGOs, Three in Edo and one in Lagos, to help in the creation of skills acquisition and 

sustainable integration for the returning migrants.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Scholarships: Switzerland provides annual scholarship to seven students from the Nestle Technical Training Centre in Ogun State. Five of the best students from each year have the opportunity to go to Switzerland for an internship of three months to participate in the training programmes at Nestles international headquarters.                                                                                                                                                                            

Exchange Program Nigeria: Switzerland promotes vocational training in the hospitality sector in cooperation with the Swiss firm Rainbow unlimited, its local branch based in Nigeria and the Boma College in Kenya. 8 students started in January 2017 their training in Kenya, financed by Switzerland.   

You recently visited Edo state, why is the state a focus point in Switzerland migration efforts in Nigeria?

Eventhough, we have a partnership presence that is felt across the nation, there is an increased focal attention in Edo state, because it is one of the states with an endemic case of illegal migration and human trafficking in Nigeria. It is a region that has over 60% of migration challenge, and all hands should be on deck to support the development of the state, especially in the eradication of migration challenge.

Thankfully, the present government acknowledges the seriousness of this problem and has stepped up efforts to tackle it headlong and sustain solutions achieved. His Excellency Governor Obaseki is engaging active collaborations with other strategic partners in making sure the state is again restored to respectability on migration issue. One of his initiatives is the creation of the Edo State Task Force on Human Trafficking (ETAFHT), and its significant roles in curbing irregular migration, ridding the smuggling in persons and drugs, and bringing to justice all those involve in this unlawful acts, among other efforts.

trafficking-OBASEKIGovernor Obaseki government is also working to provide capacity training for the returnees, investing in education and skill acquisitions, reinforcing legal systems, acceleration of economic prosperity and efforts to enhance voluntary assistance, readmission and reintegration of migrants.

Switzerland through its Nigerian Embassy’s small scale project is supporting the government and people of Edo state to stem down illegal migration activities in the state. Presently, we are working with three NGOs to achieve this. In Benin City, we are partnering with the Society for the Empowerment of Young Persons (SEYP), to provide capacity supports and enterprise development for the returning migrants and other youths.

Ms Jolanda led the Swiss delegation to Edo State Government House

With Governor Godwin Obaseki

In Ubiaja, we are also working with the Global Initiative Against Illegal Migration (GIAM) towards the same exploit. Here, we recently inaugurated the production center government has provided to aid entrepreneurial and capacity growth. Through these NGOs support, we have helped procure equipment to be used in the various government provided centers; Varied equipment in different categories of skills learning were bought by the Embassy, and are usually rented and used at token fees, and kept at these government protected facilities. These interventions have helped to reduce the payment of utilities and other sundry bills that could affect their profits, given the entrepreneurs and/or apprentices the opportunity of more commercial engagements.

We also assist in training and access to micro-credit for economic development purposes. Through all these, more migrants are now equipped and empowered, and can take care of themselves and families, and in the days ahead can effectively plan for proper migration when the need arises. I am happy to see smiles on their faces again, as our efforts have greatly aided to add meaning to their lives and help reduce unlawful movement

We are thus encouraged by all these results and are expanding efforts in the region and surrounding states.

Do you have any advice to the various migration components in the country?

Yes! This is important to the:

Government.

The managers of the land from the federal, states and local levels should at all times continue in the following:

  • Provision of good governance, investment in infrastructure, creation of jobs and employment, securing peace and stability, enhancing enabling business environments and citizenry comfortability.
  • Emergence of integrated actions and platforms that will continue to encourage legal migration and discourage illegal immigration making it less attractive and unprofitable, and reassuring illegal migrants to return home and contribute to nation building and sustainable developments.
  • Creating continuous awareness on the dangers of illegal immigration and enlisting various information avenues and mediums to achieve this..
  • Promotion of positive partnership to fight this scourge, ensure stricter punitive measures for perpetrators.

As first responders to migration crises, governments should continue to develop policies and programmes in addressing the various problems victims of illegal migration faces and work towards effective and enduring re-integration.

Parents

Parents and guidance should as a matter of obligations be upholders of moral societies. They must train their children and wards according to societal expectations, and prevent them for exploitation, undue exposure and vulnerability. Children, either son or daughter should be taught patriotism at all times, encouraged to place country before self and be content with what providence has endowed them with. They should do way

unhealthy competition, ungodly comparison, indiscipline, get quick rich syndrome, bad friends, peer pressure and evil doctrinal practices. They should imbibe in their children good values and help nurture them rightly, these will help shaped their choice, decisions, foster intimacy and prevent them from untimely deaths and dangers lurking around in every corner of migration negativity.

Prospective migrants;

Any Nigerian citizen willing to travel abroad owe it a responsibility to seek information. We are in an informed and technological world now, and information is just at your fingers tips. Your life is precious, therefore do all you can to protect it. Someone who has not travelled outside its town, state or country being promised of better life abroad should be careful. All that glitters are not gold, and it is better to look before you leap.

Seek correct counsel on international travelling matters, and be quick to report to appropriate authorities anyone promising trips that are not the legal and authorized routes. If we must fight the business of illegal migration it must be collectively.

You should know that as a legal migrant, you are safe and free to live anywhere desired in as much as the host countries is willing and welcoming to migration programs, and most countries of the world do including Switzerland. But, you must be prepared, eligible and fulfil all criteria involves, such as:

Acquiring legal status through proper channelization,

Learning the language of host nations in order to enhance your relations and societal adaptation.

Acquiring Skills to help you adjust and prepare in the very competitive and developed environments you are going especially for work opportunities.

Being witty to know when to call for help in the eventuality of crises faced in foreign lands, which may sometimes be caused by wars, violence/uprising, hatred, natural disaster, refusal of migrant/residence status by host governments.

Generally, It will be very painful and a colossal waste to travel illegitimately, when better opportunities awaits you in your homeland.

Victims and the vulnerable

For those who are already victims of prohibited movements (illegal migrants) and those who voluntarily wants to return home, help is available and accessible, and so many platforms and institutions are well positioned to address the situation.

Nigeria is a partner of so many international organizations on migration issues, so no Nigerians should suffer on these. Nigeria and Switzerland are working Hand-In-Hand to ameliorate the sufferings of victims and the vulnerable, and provide efforts that will strengthen and sustain their lives back to normalcy and re-integration. Almost all states has one agency of the other in this area and at the national level, governmental agencies and our various partners are doing fantastic jobs to stem down the negative tides caused by illegal migration in Nigeria. Therefore please take advantage on these. 

International Partners/Host Countries

Global partners should escalate commitments to continually assist Nigeria. More funding, establishment of development facilities, capacity building initiatives, increased legal migration channels, and integrated growth supports should be regularly made available.to solve the crises of irregular migration in Nigeria and across the world.

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