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Expect trafficking, irregular migration to increase post COVID-19 - IOM warns

Mr Franz Celestin, IOM Head of Mission in Nigeria

By our reporter

Sept. 6, 2020 - The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have warned of expected increase in human trafficking and irregular migration post the Coronavirus (COVID- 19) pandemic as a result of socio-economic pressure in some countries.

Mr Franz Celestin, IOM Head of Mission in Nigeria in a virtual interview with the Humanitarian Post in Abuja said the Socio-economic pressure post the pandemic will make desperate migrant more susceptible to criminals.

According to Celestin, the socio-economic pressure post COVID-19 would be so hard and will push a lot of people to migrate to countries with better economy as they always do.

He explained that once the fear of the virus no longer exists and a vaccine is out and distributed, a lot of people would be on the move again.

Celestin said that following the official closure of borders by countries, there have been a significant drop in the numbers of people crossing the borders unofficially at the humanitarian points which also manages the unofficial borders.

"The official borders have been closed and what kept people from moving was the fear. 

"The official borders that have been closed will reduce the numbers of people travelling officially because smugglers do not use official borders

"Although it is actually  a different process with trafficking because 80 per cent of trafficked victims travel through official borders with official documents but smugglers is a different aspect as they usually travel through unofficial borders, the ones that are not guided by a border management agency.

"We have seen a significant drop in the numbers of people crossing borders unofficially at the humanitarian points because the humanitarian points also manage the unofficial borders. 

"I think that is calm before the storm and i think what is going to happen is that once the fear of COVID-19 is out of people and once we have a vaccine that is effective and widely distributed and that the fear no longer exists, the socio-economic pressure is going to be so hard and it is going to push a lot of people so hard to migrate and we expect to see a lot more being trafficked. 

"So we have a lot of people who will migrate willingly, who will pay a smuggler to move them from point A to B but we also have a lot of people that will get a lot of people trafficked because they will be more susceptible to these offers that will be made by these criminals," Celestin said.

Celestin said that the COVID-19 pandemic has further increased humanitarian needs in Nigeria which was already facing dire humanitarian challenges as a result of the conflict in the Northeast.

He said that pre COVID-19 there was the Humanitarian Response Plan was seeking to address the needs of 1.6 million people and following the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now 10.4 million people in need.

The IOM Head of Mission said that in other to effectively tackle the humanitarian needs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM Nigeria had initially requested for 20 million dollars from headquarters just for the COVID-19 response for specific sectors.

He said the IOM request was which is separate from the humanitarian response plan and was subsequently modified from 20 million dollars to 13 million dollars.

" The appeal is followed in two separate tracks, you have the humanitarian response plan, which was for Northeast Nigeria and that was pre COVID. 

"That particular plan is less that 32 per cent funded compared to last year and this is a key issue that we have seen because just the response to the North-east is in a deep hole right now compared to what it was last year. 

"We have seen the increase in need and the reduction of resources. We were looking at addressing the needs of 6.1 million people and now it is 10.4 million. 

"That could tell you the kind of issues that we have with money and the fact that a lot of countries that are primary donors are experiencing recession themselves and that present a very big problem for us, leaving the Humanitarian Response Plan behind, for the COVID-19 response," Celestin said.

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