Illegal migration is often a hazardous process with all kind of constraints where the prospective migrants cannot do without assistance, and since they cannot rely on government institutions or official agencies, they usually turn to unofficial recruiters for support.
“These are the people that amplify clandestine migration because they sell dreams to the migrants that will never come true, their principal motive is to make financial gains.” Yves Tsala, president of a Non Governmental Organisation (SMIC) fighting clandestine migration told News Upfront.
Out of 10 Cameroonians who migrated out of the country illegally, 9 were motivated by the picture painted by their recruiters.
“My greatest fear leaving Cameroon had always been how to settle in a strange land with no documents, but in 2015, a recruiting agency succeeded to make me belief that the gains are more than the pains, I took the trip to Dubai, but after three months I could not secure a job and was forced return home.” Says Stanley, a one time illegal migrant.
On her part, Nancy, wanted to leave Cameroon at all cost but lacked finances. That is how she stumbled on a recruiting agent, a lady who proposed to pre-finance her trip to Libya promising her heaven and earth.
“Actually I don’t know how she did it, I just saw my visa but when we travelled, all she had told me changed, she confiscated my visa, and rather sold me to a family in Libya, and the rest of the story is what you must have heard on the media.” Nancy said.
Nancy is one of the Cameroonians who were recently repatraited from Libya in 2017. When we discussed with them, we understood that most if not all were encouraged to pick the Libya trip by either an unofficial recruiting agency or a middle man.
Middle men/women actually play a big role in clandestine migration. Often, the expertise and connections available to these intermediaries are due to their personal experience. Most have tried in vain to cross the border, or have been returned to the border.
In Cameroon, the range of emigration facilitators and mediators is wide. In the streets of Yaounde, posters offer assistance for visa applications requiring a bank statement from the country of destination, while others offer assistance to secure a job abroad.
“What do you expect us to do when all our clients just want to leave the country at all cost, and most don’t have the legal means. They see any connection with the western world as a great opportunity. We are just there to guide them live their dream.” Says, Victor Ndeh, a middleman based in Buea, South West region of Cameroon.
What is bad is that most of these middle men hide the dangerous side of travelling abroad illegally to the prospective migrants, and even if they are told, knowing the risk is different from living the risks.
Most often, what the middle men concentrate on is making gains, they care less about the fate of their clients.
“At my level, the deal ends when your passport, visa and flight tickets are out, once out of the country, they will have to handle the rest, but we can to an extend help link our clients with our contact abroad.” Says Victor Ndeh.
According to Yves Tsala, President of the anti migration organisation, SMIC, the unofficial migration agents master the situation in the country and knows exactly what to tell their clients.
“Most Cameroonians are desperate, and given that diplomatic representations have tightened conditions to obtain a visa, they see any opportunity to travel as a panacea.” He said.
The government of Cameroon is very much concerned about illegal migration and will stop at nothing to bring back home illegal migrants living abroad under inhuman conditions. But the government would gain a lot if measure to discourage illegal migration are multiplied in the country.
One of the best ways by which illegal migration can be discouraged is by providing opportunities for the youths at home, and create a condusive atmosphere to live in the country.
“The government is trying its best in providing jobs to the youths, only that most often, the job opportunities are not accessible to the desperate youths, at times those already with a job will be the ones to pick up a second and third job while others remain jobless.” Yves Tsala said adding that;
“A true strategy to provide opportunities for the youths should be put in place, where desperate youths would be identified plus their handwork. The government will equally have to communicate deeply on the existing opportunities because many travel out of ignorance of the existence of opportunities.”
There are more than 258 million migrants in the world. A growing proportion of them are migrating by irregular means, secretly crossing borders, scaling fences, or contacting smugglers who ship them across bodies of water, deserts, and conflict zones.