The International Labour Organisation says West Africa is among the largest contributors to irregular migration into Europe and other western parts of the world.
The ILO Country Director to Nigeria, Dennis Zulu, said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Sunday.
Zulu said: “West Africa is one of the largest contributors to irregular migration into Europe and many countries in the west.
“I think there is need for government to ensure that irregular immigration is stopped.
“We are losing a lot of young lives across the Mediterranean Sea that are out to seek greener pasture, which in most cases are not there.
“So, I think we can deal with this problem to ensure that we improve the well-being of young Nigerians, Ghanaians, whoever that is crossing the Mediterranean.
“We need to provide them with the requisite skills, job opportunities to start and operate their own businesses, so that they can have good life of some sort back home so that the urge to go abroad to seek greener pasture is curtailed.”
The country director noted that there were measures that could be taken by governments to stop desperate movement of youths to Europe and elsewhere.
He said young people who migrated to Europe and other places saw their moves as the only option available to them.
Zulu commended efforts being made by some governments to better understand the drivers of irregular migrations.
He said: “If we can understand what the real drivers are, perhaps we can then put in interventions.
“We can then ensure that young people stay at home rather than subject themselves to cross the Mediterranean seeking greener pastures in Europe.”
He, however, said there were enormous challenges in having reliable statistics of irregular migration in Nigeria and West Africa, saying “statistics is difficult to come by because such movements are mostly done secretly as trafficking cases, so it quite difficult to come up with figures”.
Zulu added: “Some people have come up with figures but I believe that those figures are not accurate because the practice is irregular and hidden.”
He said ILO has a number of conventions that focus on labour migration to ensure that the rights of migrants are the same, irrespective of which country they migrate to.
The ILO was working with ECOWAS and respective ministries of labour in different states to ensure the possibility of social security for migrant workers in the West African region, he noted.
He said: “For instance if a Nigerian works in Ghana, he or she will get same pension rights and social security right as he will have if working in Nigeria.
“That is ensuring portability and of equal access to job opportunities across West Africa as ECOWAS has Free Movement Protocol that facilitates free movement in the region.
“With these, we are ensuring that if everything is in place, the people who move about looking for jobs have the rights to enjoy the same privilege in those countries.”