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Hardship: Northern youths seek relief in Middle East, North Africa

Nigeria’s economic crisis has plunged millions of its citizens into poverty. The situation is dire in the northern region, where insecurity, poor infrastructure and low…

Nigeria’s economic crisis has plunged millions of its citizens into poverty. The situation is dire in the northern region, where insecurity, poor infrastructure and low human capacity development have worsened living conditions. In this report, Daily Trust Saturday captured a migration trend among northern youths who leave the shores of Nigeria in search of better living conditions in the Middle East and North Africa.

Hassan Dantsoho, a graduate of the Yusuf Maitama Sule University in Kano State plans to relocate to Kuwait, one of the world’s oil-rich countries in the Middle East.

Five years after his graduation from the university, Dantsoho remains unemployed but anticipates a better life across Nigeria’s borders.

With a well mapped out plan and an anticipated N40million in fortunes within two years, the 30-year-old is optimistic that by the end of February 2024 he would bid farewell to his family in Kano, North West Nigeria, for a new life in Kuwait.

“My plan is to start a travel agency when I make it to Kuwait,” he told this reporter in December 2023.

“I will then focus on health personnel and other skilled and unskilled persons in Nigeria who want to migrate.

“If you take plumbing for example, the Arab do not delve into such menial jobs, but if you take our people to Kuwait they will do it and earn at least N600,000 as monthly income,” Dantsoho said.

Dantsoho is already building a network and scouting for big companies in Kuwait that require employees from Nigeria, especially from the medical field.

“As a doctor in Kuwait you can earn a salary of at least N6million a month. So, with that you won’t need to return to Nigeria; instead, you can invest by building a hospital in the country,” he said.

Faced with unemployment at home, Dantsoho is one of many Nigerians from the northern region whose dream for a better life is pushing to seek better opportunities in foreign lands, such as Kuwait, Qatar, Algeria and other Middle East and North African countries.

Records show a growing migration trend in Nigeria, with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) tracking about 243, 121 persons who migrated from Nigeria to different countries in 2022.

The record, which is based on migrants’ health assessment, shows that 196,695 Nigerians migrated to the United Kingdom, while 40,706 persons migrated to Canada and 2,428 persons to the United States of America in the same year. It also captured 3,280 persons who migrated to Austria, while 12 persons migrated to unspecified destinations.

The data shows an increase of 127.5 per cent in 2022, which is twice the 102,503 migrant assessments conducted in 2021, especially across the UK, Canada, USA and Austria.

The growing migration trend is similar to findings of a 2023 research by the Migration Control.Info, which revealed that the number of Nigerians living outside the country had almost tripled between 1990 and June 2020. The figure rose from 447,411 to 1,670,455, with majority of Nigerians in the diaspora from the country’s South-South, North-Central and South-West geo-political zones.

However, this report by Daily Trust Saturday captures another largely undocumented migration pattern among many youths from the northern region in search of better opportunities travel to the Middle East and North Africa.

northern youths seek relief in middle east, north africa

 

‘I came back home smiling after my first voyage’

From the narrow streets and alleys of Madigawa in the metropolitan city of Kano State, where tradition and modernity intersect, a 27-year-old Hassan Abdulsalam, a tailor found his way across Nigeria’s borders to Algeria in 2021.

A year later, he returned home with “accomplished wealth,” after which he bought a plot of land and built a house in Kano. He now plans to migrate to Qatar, where he hopes to find a more lucrative job.

“I travelled through Niger Republic and didn’t pay money to anyone,” he told this reporter with a smug, while pedaling a manual sewing machine with keen concentration.

“It was with the use of phone calls and the assistance of my brother that I went to Algeria successfully, and within one year of my stay, I made a lot of money. I am grateful to God,” he said, even though he admitted that Algeria, like Nigeria, faces security challenges.

Abdulsalam explained that tailoring was highly lucrative for emigrants who have no professional qualifications in Algeria. “Sewing clothes is the main work people go there to do because Algerians leave such work to foreigners living in their country,” he said.

This demand among northern youths to migrate to the Middle East is real, said Aliyu Ibrahim, who owns Alkiswa Hajj and Umrah Travel and Tours in Kano.

He told this newspaper that his travel agency receives numerous inquiries daily from youths who are eager to leave the shores of Nigeria to various destinations for job opportunities.

“A lot of people come to us because they want to migrate. We get at least 30 in a month. The major challenge we face is that most of them do not have the money. Secondly, many of them do not have specific reasons they want to migrate. Their main reason is that they are tired of the hardship in Nigeria and they want to search for wealth elsewhere,” he said.

He explained that some of the popular destinations are Dubai, Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Findings by this newspaper revealed that northern youths pay between N700,000 and N3million to agents like Ibrahim to make their migration dream come true. However, it was gathered that the fee depends on the country of migration, type of visa, duration of stay, job agreements and expected salary.

But Ibrahim of Alkiswa Hajj and Umrah Travel and Tours explained that his agency accepted an average fee of N1.8million for migration processes, including business visa costs. Following this, he said the client could find a cheap air ticket, sometimes one way for the journey.

“Many of those that have migrated to Dubai are now into cargo related works, some in lollipop companies and others in chocolate companies. Those who migrated to Jordan are now working in shoemaking companies. Those in Saudi Arabia are working in car washing companies and restaurants. In Qatar, some of them are working as barbers,” he said.

The travel agent said there were several jobs available for Nigerians who have no professional qualifications, ranging from driving, waitressing, car-washing, gardening and even as stable hands.

“We have people in Jordan. There is a travel company there we relate with. We help them look out for people willing to migrate to work in a shoemaking factory. So, we search for these people and link them with the agency, who in turn link them to the companies looking for workers,” he added.

Nigerian migrants in despair – Qatar immigrant

Ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 2022, the Qatari government had predicted that hosting the World Cup would create more than 1.5million new jobs in key sectors like construction, real estate and hospitality.

The Charge‘d’ Affaires of Qatar’s embassy in Nigeria, Ahmad Al-Horr, had in August, 2022 sought collaboration on labour migration with the Nigerian government. Al-Horr was quoted as saying, “Qatar needs more Nigerian components in its labour force because the number of Nigerian workers in the country is limited.”

However, though the end of the World Cup had slowed down Qatar’s labour migration needs, the appetite for northern youths to migrate to the country has not been quenched.

Abdulwahid Ibrahim, a Kano State indigene has in the last 16 years mastered the art of hand embroidery for traditional and royal attires. The 29-year-old plans to emigrate to Qatar for a better life by the end of February.

Having made a deposit of N600,000 for his ticket and visa, he is banking on a promised job in a beverage company in Qatar, where he hopes to earn enough money to pay back his debts and support his family.

“From here, you can pay all the money for processing or you can make a deposit on the condition that they withdraw some percentage from your monthly salary until you complete the payment. I have made a deposit payment and I will complete the remaining when I start work.

“Some of my friends are already working there, which is why I plan to go there. What we are only waiting for is our visa,” he said.

But life in Qatar may not be as rosy as Ibrahim and many northern youths envisage. A Qatari-based Nigerian emigrant, Yusuf Isah said many youths from northern Nigeria had become stranded.

“I swear, many people here are stranded without jobs. In the last three days, over 70 Nigerians, including four of my siblings, have left Qatar to return home because they were stranded. They applied for exit to be deported back to their country at no cost,” Isah told this newspaper through a phone conversation in early January.

Having lived in Qatar for at least a year, Isah said, “Here, they have a government agency for those who are stranded and want to return to their country at zero cost. All they need is to fill some forms and make applications on the condition that they will not return to the country for at least five years.”

He said the number of migrants into the country was far greater than the available job opportunities, but added that despite this challenge, Qatar was more receptive to migrants from Uganda, Ghana, Kenya, Sudan, Bangladesh and Philippines.

“In Qatar, they prefer people from other countries, not Nigeria. If you are from any other African country, not Nigeria, you will easily get a job,” he said.

He said that unlike Ugandan migrants, who are allowed to work before the medical commission issues them permits, Nigerian migrants have no such opportunity as they need to be cleared by the commission to work in Qatar.

We are not against migration – NIS

The Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) has said that it is not against migration as long as people do it the right way.

“Migration is part of our lives. Humans must move from one place to another for one reason or another; it could be economic, security, environmental, education and so on. Migration is not bad at all, as long as you do it the right way,” said the spokesperson of the NIS, Adedotun Aridegbe.

Reacting through WhatsApp, Aridegbe, a Comptroller of Immigration (CIS), urged migrants to fulfill the requirements of the country they are travelling to, stressing that the Service frowns at a situation where migrants travel without valid travel documents and through unrecognised points of entry.

“Irregular migration is a crime against nation-states. It undermines sovereignty and national security. It is the root of all evils associated with trans-border criminality. Therefore, if we must migrate, we should do so in a regular manner, adhering to national and international laws on migration,” he added.

“It was with the use of phone calls and the assistance of my brother that I went to Algeria successfully, and within one year of my stay, I made a lot of money. I am grateful to God,” he said, even though he admitted that Algeria, like Nigeria, faces security challenges.

Abdulsalam explained that tailoring was highly lucrative for emigrants who have no professional qualifications in Algeria. “Sewing clothes is the main work people go there to do because Algerians leave such work to foreigners living in their country,” he said.

This demand among northern youths to migrate to the Middle East is real, said Aliyu Ibrahim, who owns Alkiswa Hajj and Umrah Travel and Tours in Kano.

He told this newspaper that his travel agency receives numerous inquiries daily from youths who are eager to leave the shores of Nigeria to various destinations for job opportunities.

“A lot of people come to us because they want to migrate. We get at least 30 in a month. The major challenge we face is that most of them do not have the money. Secondly, many of them do not have specific reasons they want to migrate. Their main reason is that they are tired of the hardship in Nigeria and they want to search for wealth elsewhere,” he said.

He explained that some of the popular destinations are Dubai, Qatar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Findings by this newspaper revealed that northern youths pay between N700,000 and N3million to agents like Ibrahim to make their migration dream come true. However, it was gathered that the fee depends on the country of migration, type of visa, duration of stay, job agreements and expected salary.

But Ibrahim of Alkiswa Hajj and Umrah Travel and Tours explained that his agency accepted an average fee of N1.8million for migration processes, including business visa costs. Following this, he said the client could find a cheap air ticket, sometimes one way for the journey.

“Many of those that have migrated to Dubai are now into cargo related works, some in lollipop companies and others in chocolate companies. Those who migrated to Jordan are now working in shoemaking companies. Those in Saudi Arabia are working in car washing companies and restaurants. In Qatar, some of them are working as barbers,” he said.

The travel agent said there were several jobs available for Nigerians who have no professional qualifications, ranging from driving, waitressing, car-washing, gardening and even as stable hands.

“We have people in Jordan. There is a travel company there we relate with. We help them look out for people willing to migrate to work in a shoemaking factory. So, we search for these people and link them with the agency, who in turn link them to the companies looking for workers,” he added.

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