Nigerian Returnees Turn to Peer-to-Peer Advocacy to Address Pitfalls of Irregular Migration

Capacity Building, Others

Lagos – A group of 18 Nigerian migrant returnees, comprised of five females and 13 males from Edo, Delta, and Lagos States, recently gathered in Lagos for a workshop organized by IOM, the UN Migration Agency.

The two-day workshop (24-25/07) aimed to enhance the communication skills of returned migrants under the awareness-raising project Migrants as Messengers, by giving them information gathering, content production, videography and storytelling skills needed to alert potential migrants and their communities to the dangers of irregular migration.

“Migrants as Messengers will enlighten Nigerians on the dangers of irregular migration,” said Mary Owolabi, a returnee from Libya who attended the workshop. “The platform will help a lot of people, particularly the youth, to shift their focus away from dangerous journey,” she added. 

Owolabi travelled to Libya on 23 August 2016 and was among those helped by IOM to return home on 20 June 2017. “I was working with Diamond Bank PLC at Victoria Island Lagos when a friend introduced the idea of travelling abroad to me,” she recalled.

Mary intended to travel to London. She paid 600,000 Naira to fly to London but was tricked into going by road; she ended up in Libya where she was sold into slavery. To regain her freedom, Mary’s mother had to sell all of her properties, including land Mary bought while she was still working in the bank. “I am going to do my best using this platform to ensure that more youth are persuaded against this risky and regrettable journey,” she promised.

“We are using testimonies from returnees to make people who are active on social media aware of the dangers associated with irregular migration. Traffickers and bogas (smugglers) use social media to influence people to embark on the dangerous journey and we want to counter their narratives,” said Marshall Patsanza, IOM Digital Engagement Officer. “We want to ensure that we have an authentic narrative that provides factual first-hand information on the irregular migration journey. Based on their experiences during the journey, the returnees are the most credible voices and they are best fit to be advocates for regular safe migration.”

For Ikuenobe Jude, another participant at the training, Migrants as Messengers is a tool to fight against irregular migration and human trafficking. “We will use the App to discourage our people from this idea of travelling to Europe through the Sahara Desert because the world knows it is not safe, the Mediterranean Sea is not safe, Libya is not safe,” he lamented. “In fact, there is no hope in the sea, no hope in the desert, no hope in Libya. As messengers we will put in more effort to convince vulnerable potential irregular migrants of the danger inherent in the journey.”

The participants also took part in a practical exercise with their smart phones and recording kits; they recorded video interviews amongst themselves. They were taught how to create and produce advocacy material and how to help in the distribution of advocacy material via their social media platforms, online chat platforms and other offline channels.

The Migrants as Messengers project is targeted at potential migrants, community leaders, parents and relatives of aspiring migrants as well as returned migrants. It is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and it is currently being rolled out in Nigeria, Senegal and Guinea Conakry.

For more information, please contact IOM Nigeria:
Ikechukwu Attah, Tel: +234 903 889 1136, Email:
Jorge Galindo, Tel: +234 906 273 9168, Email:

  • Participants in the Migrants as Messengers training take part in a practical exercise. Photo: IOM/Julia Burpee