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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 35-37

Is illegal migration on the rise among Nigerians? A wake-up call!

1 Department of Community Medicine, College of Medicine, Kaduna State University, Kaduna, Nigeria
2 Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, Kaduna State University, Kaduna, Nigeria

Date of Web Publication30-Apr-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Istifanus A Joshua
Department of Community Medicine, College of Medicine, Kaduna State University, Kaduna
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/archms.archms_12_18

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How to cite this article:
Joshua IA, Makama JG. Is illegal migration on the rise among Nigerians? A wake-up call!. Arch Med Surg 2017;2:35-7

How to cite this URL:
Joshua IA, Makama JG. Is illegal migration on the rise among Nigerians? A wake-up call!. Arch Med Surg [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Dec 11];2:35-7. Available from: https://www.archms.org/text.asp?2017/2/2/35/231626

  Introduction Top

The movement of human populations across the planet has characterized human societies throughout history.[1] Migration is a multidimensional phenomenon and deals with economic, social, and political factors,[1] and can be international or internal. International migration involves the movement of people across political boundaries to a different country than an area of origin, whereas internal migration is the movement of people within the national boundary of a specified country.[2]

Illegal migration is the migration of people across national borders in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destination country. Illegal immigrants are also referred to as unauthorized/undocumented immigrants. Recently, it has been noted that there is a rising trend in illegal migration worldwide, especially from poorer to richer countries. Most migrants within and outside Africa are illegal migrants. However, those found in Nigeria appear to be on the increasing in the recent time.[3]

Illegal immigrant workers are usually engaged in unskilled works/jobs which are not preferred by the native workers of the host country.

  Theories in Migration Top

For the human capital theory, migration occurs as a result of individual's attempt to maximize their lifetime income by relocating to a new place. In doing so, they make a cost-benefit analysis and decide to migrate if their expected discounted net benefit from migration is positive. As such, migration is considered as an investment to get a higher income in the future.[4],[5] However, it is extremely doubtful if up to 40% of migrants in Nigeria are in keeping with this theory. Although, this theory has limitation, it looks at only the probability of success in immigrating and finding employment and the increase in real income that can be expected.

The new economics of labor migration is developed to overcome the weaknesses of the human capital model. It shifts the decision unit from the individual to the family. It is the family who decides whether an individual should migrate or not in such a way that the family objective function is maximized. Among other things, households want to minimize risk by diversifying their source of income. To this end, they send some members of the household to another place where income is not correlated or negatively correlated with income at the origin. The migrant members help their families in bad times.[6],[7],[8] A significant number of migrants in Nigeria have been noted to have gone out in an attempt to get juicy income for their families here in Nigeria. Trafficking in girls is reportedly rampant in the so-called “Triangle of Shame” the Niger/Chad/Nigeria border. Hundreds of trafficked girls from Edo State, Nigeria, endup in the sex industry in Italy.[9]

For the social capital theory, migration is caused by social networks between the place of origin and the destination. Migration networks are considered as a social capital where members of the network have the right to get information and other supports that makes migration more beneficial by increasing the gains and lowering the costs.

  Causes of Illegal Immigration Top

The causes of illegal migration differ from individual to individual and from community to community.[2] Sociologists have long analyzed migration regarding the “push-pull” model. “Push factor” refers to circumstances at home that repel; examples include famine, drought, low agricultural productivity, and unemployment while “pull factor refers to those conditions found elsewhere (abroad) that attract migrants. These causes include the following:


While economic models do look at relative wealth and income between home and destination countries, they do not necessarily imply that illegal immigrants are always impoverished by standards of the home country. The poorest classes in a developing country may lack the resources needed to mount an attempt to cross illegally, or the connections to friends or family already in the destination country. Nigeria is the 6th largest producer of petroleum in the world, it is the 8th largest exporter, and has the 10th largest proven reserves.[10] In spite of the country's vast oil wealth, the majority of Nigerians are poor with 71% of the population living on [10]


Population growth that exceeds the carrying capacity of an area or environment results in overpopulation. Spikes in human population can cause problems such as pollution, water crisis, and poverty. Virginia Abernethy notes that immigration is a road that provides a “relief valve” to overpopulation that stops a population from addressing the consequences of its overpopulation and that exports this overpopulation to another location or country. The population growth rate of Nigeria is 2.61%, one in every five Africans is a Nigerian and it contributes 2.64% of the world's population (world population).[11] Based on the above indices, one may be tempted to say Nigeria is overpopulated and probably, it is gradually approaching the status of overpopulation as a cause of migration.

Family reunification

Some illegal immigrants seek to live with loved ones, such as a spouse or other family members. Family reunification visas may be applied for legal residents or naturalized citizens to bring their family members into a destination state legally, but these visas may be limited in number and subject to yearly quotas.

Wars and asylum

Illegal immigration may be prompted by the desire to escape civil war, repression, genocide, and religious persecution among others in the country of origin for example, Rohingya in Myanmar, 1994 Rwanda genocide, the insurgency in Nigeria.

Other causes include lack of employment, educational opportunities, lack of social safety nets, poor governance, corruption, lack of social justice, equity, and airplay, among others. Youth unemployment in Nigeria is 52.7%[12] which could be one of the push factors for illegal migration among this vulnerable group.

  Consequences of Illegal Immigration Top

Problems with illegal migration can be divided into dangers faced by illegal migrants and problems faced by the host or receiving country.

Host country

The problems in the host country could broadly divided into social, economic, political, and security challenges.

Social consequences

  • Poor identification of persons – A rapid influx of immigrants often lead to crisis of identification among the indigenous people
  • Cultural survival is endangered – Cultural dilution and disorderliness is a major challenge. Certainly, very unusual behavior could creep in and dilute the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous people
  • Environmental degradation – Land encroachment and degradation is the norm. Immigrants compete for space with indigenous people, thereby causing undue stress over social facilities
  • Community tension – The high level of unidentified persons in the community often lead to undue tension within that community.

Economic consequences

  • Increasing financial burden – Illegal immigrants often add to what the Government of the host community or nation could cater for, thereby increasing the financial burden of the Government, particularly, to very vital education and health sectors.
  • Displacement of native workers – Immigrants take jobs which would otherwise be taken by local people; in particular places and circumstances, there can be competition and conflict as follows:

    • Deprivation of native citizens
    • Lack of employment opportunities.

Political consequences

  • Population growth – An overwhelming increase in the population of the host country could bring about negative economic and social development of the country
  • Ethnic violence – A sustained civil disobedience and worst cases of ethnic violence are common in these situations
  • Illegal voters – The immigrants could get their names enlisted in the voting list illegally, thereby claiming themselves as citizens of the nation and creating a vote bank for the political parties.

Weak political control:

Security challenge

  • Increase vices – The host country could experience an increase in the crime rate that may be perpetuated by the illegal immigrants
  • Terrorism – It is alleged that among the illegal migrants there may be militants, who may enter the nation and carryout terrorist activities. Terrorism has become a global trend, and it is thought that illegal immigrants are in the forefront facilitating the act and also partake in terrorist activities.

Country of origin

Developing countries can suffer from “brain drain.” For example, there are currently more African scientists and engineers working in the U.S. then there are in all of Africa, according to the International Organization for Migration.

For sending countries, the short-term economic benefit of emigration is found in remittances. Remittances are funds that emigrants earn abroad and send back to their home countries, mainly to support families left behind. According to the World Bank, remittances totaled $529 billion worldwide in 2012, with $401 billion of that money flowing into developing nations.

Problems faced by illegal immigrants

Illegal immigrants may expose themselves and citizens of the countries they enter to dangers, for example, spread of infectious or communicable diseases. Aside from the possibility that they may be intercepted and deported, illegal immigrants may be trafficked for exploitation including sexual exploitation and some illegal immigrants are involved in criminal activity, slavery, prostitution, and death. Each year there have been reports of the death of several hundred of illegal immigrants along the U. S. Mexico border among others. Death by exposure also occurs in the deserts of Southwestern United States during the hot summer season.

Increased border controls have driven traffickers to use more dangerous and ruthless means to smuggle immigrants into countries. In March 2009, an ill-equipped boat from Libya carrying over 350 passengers in almost unbearably cramped and harsh conditions capsized on its way to Europe, drowning all of those on board.

Other problems include cultural barriers transcend every aspect of live for the immigrants, accessing health-care services could be a challenge because undocumented immigrants are afraid of being deported. The psychological trauma of leaving one's roots, friends, and familiar faces is very difficult to handle.

Cultural shock is another challenge encountered by immigrants and issues of discrimination, misunderstanding, and prejudice could exacerbate/sustain the psychological trauma already present in the immigrants. Many of them are working in low-paying jobs. These jobs do not have health insurance.

  Rising Trend of Illegal Migration in Nigeria Top

Nigeria had its fair share of illegal migrants to countries such as Libya, Spain, and Italy among others. The recent deportation of about 8000 Nigerians from Libya in the past 2–3 months and those that died under questionable circumstance is a cause for concern. This has prompted the public discussion on Illegal migration and human trafficking by a Senate Committee on 27 and 28 February 2018 held at Edo State, Nigeria to find a lasting solution. Nigeria cannot continue to be losing its youths at their prime in the name of finding a greener pasture abroad illegally due to lack of jobs, lack of adequate educational opportunities, lack of citizen diplomacy, natural and man-made disasters,[13] lack of justice, equity and fair play, lack of social security among others!

  Conclusion Top

Illegal migration in Nigeria is multifactorial, and it is on the rise in the recent time. It will continue to be a major, unstoppable factor of global life until the different push and pull factors associated with this migration, and including social and economic disparities are eliminated. Illegal migration has no doubt serious negative consequences on Nigeria and Nigerians, and there is need to mitigate and possibly prevent that urgently. The importance of this menace cannot be overlooked and the time for action for Nigeria is long overdue. This is a wake-up call for Nigeria!

  Recommendations Top

These include – Public awareness and sensitization by the National Orientation Agency, efforts should be at family/Community/State and National levels, Inter-sectoral collaboration, provision of opportunities for employment, schools, fight against corruption, poverty alleviation, citizen diplomacy, bilateral and multilateral collaborations, Public–private partnership, and use of peaceful conflict resolution mechanisms such as collective bargaining, mediation, adjudication,[14] and peace education in school curricula in Nigeria, and research on illegal migration among others.

  References Top

Bauer TK, Haisken-De New JP, Schmidt CM. International Labor Migration, Economic Growth and Labor Market-The Current State of Affairs. RWI Discussion Papers, No 20, 2004. p. 1-50. Available from: www://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=784548. [Last accessed on 2018 Apr 01].  Back to cited text no. 1
Mohammed YA. Cause and consequence of cross border illegal migration from South Wollo, Ethiopia. Arts Soc Sci J 2016;188:2-20.  Back to cited text no. 2
Yakeen A. Over 1,500 Migrants Have Died in Mediterranean in 20017 and Many are Nigerians, International Centre for Investigative Reporting; 13 August, 2017.  Back to cited text no. 3
Sjaastad LA. The costs and returns of human migration. J Polit Econ 1962;70:80-93.  Back to cited text no. 4
Lee ES. A theory of migration. Demography 1966;3:47-57.  Back to cited text no. 5
Lucas RE. Internal migration in developing countries. In: Mark RR, Oded S, editors. Handbook of Population and Family Economics. Vol. 1. part B, ELSEVIER; 1997. p. 721-98.  Back to cited text no. 6
Lauby J, Stark O. Individual migration as a family strategy: Young women in the Philippines. Popul Stud 1988;42:473-86.  Back to cited text no. 7
Taylor JE. The new economics of labour migration and the role of remittances in the migration process. Int Migr 1999;37:63-88.  Back to cited text no. 8
Adepoju A. Fostering free movement of persons in West Africa: Achievements, constraints, and prospects for intraregional migration. Int Migr Rev 2000;40:3-28.  Back to cited text no. 9
UNICEF. The Nigeria Situation; 2007. Available from: http://www.unicef.org/nigeria/1971_2199.html. [Last accessed on 2018 Mar 30].  Back to cited text no. 10
World Population Review. Nigeria Population; 2018. Available from: http://www.worldpopulationreview.com/countries/nigeria-population. [Last accessed on 2018 Mar 30].  Back to cited text no. 11
National Bureau for Statistics; 2018. Available from: http://www.nigeriastat.gov.ng. [Last accessed on 2018 Mar 30].  Back to cited text no. 12
Joshua IA, Makama JG, Joshua WI, Audu O, Nmadu AG. Disasters in Nigeria: A public health perspective. J Commun Med Prim Health Care 2014;26:59-75.  Back to cited text no. 13
Joshua IA. Politics, health and military diplomacy: A critical review. Ann Niger Med 2009;3:1-9.  Back to cited text no. 14

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