Corruption in Human Trafficking and Migration

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The just concluded campaign against irregular migration and human trafficking in Nigeria outlined corruption as one of the major barrier to curbing the menace among young people. The campaign project being funded by Institute for Public and Policy Research, Uk was implemented by Human Support Services – a non-governmental organization working at the grassroots level. The campaign objective was to change attitudes towards irregular migration and change the future behaviour of a group of female and male individuals who are designated as ‘at risk’ for irregular migration


Forty young people from local grassroots organizations, youth friendly organizations, gender based organization, church and community based associations were recruited for the campaign. They are members of disenfranchised communities with at risk youths and are between the ages of 15 – 30 years old. Majority of the participants have not participated in any anti- intervention and about half of them are currently engaged in a low income earning economic activity while others are either students or not employed. Majority of the participants are already considering migrating or desiring to travel out of Nigeria through any available means to improve their livelihood.


Nigerians constitute the largest population of migrants from developing countries in Africa to industrialized countries in Europe and elsewhere. The country has diverse migration configurations, including cross-borders movements, migration of contract workers, labor migrants and migration of skilled professionals. It is a migrant sending and receiving country. Nigerian migrants come from throughout the country, from diverse social classes, irrespective of age, educational background and ethnic origin. There is also a sizeable population of migrants in Nigeria (estimated in 2010 to be around 1.1 million people, out of a population of 140 million people) (UNPD, 2009).


Data on irregular migrants in Nigeria are not readily available and scanty yet hundreds of thousands of Nigerians have migrated to Europe, and many have also been victims of trafficking. Irregular migrants in Nigeria are those who enter the destination countries in a regular situation and overstay their visa and those who leave Nigeria without proper travel documentation and/or entered destination countries improperly or enter through the unofficial routes. Irregular migration occurs both out of and into Nigeria for variety of factors including poverty, deteriorating living conditions; persistent unemployment, conflicts, human deprivation, and the feeling of a dismal future in the country have created an environment conducive for human. More than 70 percent of Nigerians live below the national poverty line.


The trafficking network is based on a strong link, involving different categories of actors and contacts at the source, Nigeria, and destinations, mostly countries in southern Europe (Okojie et al., 2003). In 2009, the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons and Others Related Matters (NAPTIP) reported that 46 per cent of Nigerian victims of transnational trafficking are children; with the majority being girls trafficked for commercial sexual exploitation. In addition, women, girls and boys are trafficked between Nigeria and other West and Central African countries, primarily Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, the Gambia, Ghana and Niger, for forced labour in homes, on the streets and in quarries (IOM 2009).


The relationship between corruption and trafficking in human persons could be measured with instruments such as Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) and the United States Trafficking in Persons List (TIP). The CPI, together with TIP, permits one to determine the extent to which a country tolerates trafficking in or through its territory and the extent to which it is seen to be corrupt. The expected standards under TIP include (a) national laws prohibiting and punishing acts of trafficking; (b) laws prescribing commensurate punishment for grave crimes" (such as trafficking involving rape, kidnapping or murder); (c) actions sufficiently deterrent to prevent trafficking; and (d) serious and sustained efforts to eliminate trafficking. Nigeria was categorized in tier 2 of the Trafficking in Persons Country List for 2001 compiled by the United States government and the Transparency International.


TIP and CPI studies conducted by the U.S. government suggest strongly that corruption and trafficking are strongly related. Indeed, the US Anti-Trafficking Act flatly states: trafficking in persons is often aided by official corruption in countries of origin, transit and destination, thereby threatening the rule of law." Basically, trafficking can be linked to state corruption through the activities or non-action of agencies of law enforcement, customs, immigration, and banking.


The urgent need to bridge the gap between corruption and human trafficking becomes more apparent when we see that public officials and private actors scarcely prosecuted or charged for their complicity in cases of human trafficking. In order to end impunity there needs to be a consensus within the international community and among governments and non-governmental organizations to incorporate human trafficking into the anti-corruption agenda and vice versa.


Studies on human trafficking have gathered evidence of corruption occurring in a broad range of areas and sectors to facilitate victimization, including the media, hospitals, local and municipal authorities, law enforcement authorities (police, border patrols, prosecutors and judges), international peacekeepers and migration services. The direct or indirect involvement of these actors can as well vary in scale and gravity. In some cases, their involvement may be sporadic or single instances of corruption. In others, police and law enforcement officers may engage in rent-seeking or extortion on a systemic basis, accepting bribes and gifts from a trafficker in exchange for permitting the operations to continue.


Despite positive developments, Nigeria does not have a coherent institutional, policy or legal framework for migration management and development. Some provisions are contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999, while others are contained in a variety of national (such as the Immigration Act of 1963; the Labour Act of 1974, the Child Rights Act of 2003 and the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement Administration Act of 2003) and international instruments that the Government has ratified.[1] Several international agreements are yet to be translated into the national legal and policy frameworks regulating migration within the country.


[1] For an extensive list of the international legal framework consult NOMRA, Rights of African migrants and deportees, A Nigerian case study, JWB Project 2010. 

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