Migrant Resource Centres Making a Difference for Migrants and their Families in Nigeria

As I look out a broken taxi window as we drive through Lagos’ bustling and busy streets during rush hour, my attention is drawn to the numerous signs advertising job vacancies on walls and street lamp poles.

Significant labour demand, it would appear! I imagine myself as being a Togolese migrant who has come to Nigeria to look for greener pastures, as they say here, and I think it is great that job offers can be so easily available to me, and for any type of skills. I then imagine that I could easily convince my brother to join me as I could arrange a job for him also just by calling one of the numerous mobile phone numbers promising that longed for job, literally off Lagos posters.

To my imaginary Togolese self, and I am sure many other recently arrived migrants in Lagos it may all seem so easy to land that much sought after job and therefore imply that that migrants can effectively manage the whole migration process themselves without the support of anyone else.

Unfortunately, the reality is rather different and things are not as simple as they appear. A friend working for the Lagos State Ministry of Labour explains to me how most of those signs are scams. Once you call the number you are offered fake jobs and you are extorted money, at best. This constantly happens to Nigerian workers. So, you can imagine how much more vulnerable someone who is not familiar with the country, the city and the language - such as a migrant worker – would be.

It turns out that safe labour migration nowadays cannot be taken for granted after all, and certainly not for someone who does not have the right connections, information or skills.

Of course, this does not mean that migration is too dangerous and people should avoid it.

Migration continues to offer a wonderful opportunity to acquire additional experiences and skills, to contribute to one’s family income and ensure families who remain in the home countries to access better health and education services. However, migration is a force for development only as long as it is well informed.

Well aware of the challenges that migrants often face in accessing reliable and up to date information, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in partnership with selected governments, has supported the opening of Migrant Resource Centres (MRCs) which assist migrants to access services and to empower them to migrate in a legal, voluntary and protected manner.

MRCs also raise awareness regarding trustworthy recruitment agencies and legitimate jobs.

Nigeria is one of the countries that has realized the importance that reliable and up-to-date information play in the migration-development nexus.

Two MRCs have recently been established by the Federal Ministry of Labour in Lagos and Abuja, within the framework of an EU joint funded project implemented by IOM aimed at improving labour migration management in Nigeria.

As part of the same project, four job centres in Asaba, Kaduna, Bauchi and Awka States have also been established to cater for migrants and potential migrants.  Staff have been trained by IOM on how to effectively run MRCs.

“I am proud to serve as a labour officer in the Migrant Resource Centre in Lagos as I can make a big difference in people’s lives,” says Zikala Sylvester Jnr Youdiowei, a training participant.

‘Nigerians looking for opportunities abroad have the right to access accurate information as well as my brothers and sisters from ECOWAS who are trying their luck in Nigeria. IOM’s training has given me knowledge and motivation to provide high quality services to migrants,’ he adds.

Nigeria is a major country of destination for Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) citizens. It also experiences huge outmigration flows, primarily of youth looking for better lives in Europe often leaving irregularly and unsafely.