1. It is my honour to present the contribution of the Nigerian Parliament to the General Debate on the theme – Strengthening the Global Regime for Migrants and Refugees: the Need for Evidence-Based Policy Solutions.
  2. Migration is hardly new; human mobility has been with us since the beginning of time. Virtually all of us, or our forebears, have been on the move at one time or other in search of refuge or opportunities. As Dr. Mehari Taddele Maru of the Institute for Strategic Studies (ISS) in Addis Ababa rightly observes: “Migration remains, as it was for centuries, a source of integration, prosperity and propagation of cultures, ideas, and values.”
  3. Despite being just 3.4 per cent of the world population, migrants make up 10 per cent to the global GDP and contribute $6.7 trillion to world economy. 90 per cent of the economic gain goes to the developed countries, so it is not correct to say that there are no benefits to migration. On the contrary, there is a case to be made for migrants as key development actors.
  4. Honourable colleagues, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that, of 22.5 million refugees worldwide, the large majority – 84 per cent – are hosted in the developing regions. “Uganda has the most progressive refugee policies in Africa, if not the world,” according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The country is host to 1.4 million refugees, largely from conflict zones in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Already, 57,000 displaced persons have fled into Uganda this year; 4,000 refugees crossed into the country in just three days – from 10 to 13 March.
  5. And yet, the $180 million Uganda refugee response appeal remains poorly funded – it is the same with the $951 million appeal for Rohingya refugees hosted in Bangladesh. Thousands of Central African Republic (CAR) refugees are on ‘starvation diet’ in Chad – but, of the $149 million needed for the humanitarian response, only 2 per cent has been raised. Clearly, there is the need to build a more effective and inclusive global architecture for the management of migrants and refugees; and for the funding of the associated relief efforts.
  6. Let me relate my own country’s experience with irregular migration. Many here will have some sense of the scale of the problem, especially after CNN video reports of Black Africans – many of them Nigerians – sold into slavery in Libya. As one report from Nigeria’s Edo State noted, “This is the most trafficked-through destination in Africa.” The number of Nigerian females arriving in Italy by sea rose from 87 individuals in 2012 to 11,009 by 2016.
  7. Nigerian citizens were among the top four nationalities arriving in Europe via the Mediterranean Sea in 2016; and the largest number of migrants arriving in Italy since January 2017. The International Organisation on Migration (IOM) helped facilitate the repatriation of 6,806 Nigerians from Libya in 2017, but the number of our citizens still there stood at 44,608 in February 2018.
  8. We could not fold our hands in the face of this unfolding tragedy. Therefore, the Nigerian Parliament is spearheading a number of initiatives to stem the tide. Last month, we convened a Senate Roundtable on Migration and Human Trafficking. It was held in Edo State, the hub that has been a focus of attention with regard to irregular migration and human trafficking from Nigeria. Among participants at the Roundtable were Nigerian agencies and international partners including: the EU Ambassador to Nigeria, the UK Deputy High Commissioner and the IOM.
  9. The Roundtable highlighted the need to intensify collaboration and cooperation between governments in the origin, transit and destination countries – to strengthen legal frameworks, as well as sustainable and innovative steps for dealing with repatriation and reintegration. Recommendations were made which we are taking forward; and Edo State has passed a Law to Prohibit Trafficking in Persons. Furthermore, the National Assembly is at an advanced stage in the legislative process to amend the National Commission for Refugees (Establishment Etc.) Act to include internally displaced persons and other challenges.
  10. We are committed to the radical improvement of the Nigerian economy to enhance its capacity to provide quality education, jobs and other opportunities for our young people at home. Synergies are being built across the region with a view to advancing common fronts for the protection of migrants and refugees. The African Union (AU) and especially the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) remain a core component of our focus in this regard.
  11. Our appeal is for destination countries to meet us halfway, and come up with incentives that will encourage more Africans to opt for legal migration – for example, through the implementation of more creative visa regimes and other workable initiatives. Voluntary Return policies should equip migrants for better prospects in their home countries; we are heartened by initiatives in countries like Austria, where migrants are trained and given news skills ahead of repatriation. The Refugee Family Reunion Bill passed in the UK Parliament, is also a welcome development.
  12. In all, we wish to call for a more balanced and measured approach to the wider debate on migrants and refugees. We have also called for an international summit on migration; and it is our view that Global Compacts should be for the benefit of both the developed and developing regions.
  13. 67 per cent fewer migrants are arriving in Italy, but at what cost? We are concerned about measures to prevent migrants travelling onwards from Libya. And the fear remains that some ‘rescue’ boats have only one mission, and that is to intercept and return migrants to Libya, where in reality, there are no guarantees as regards their safety and human rights. We maintain that the human dignity of migrants and refugees must be protected in countries of origin, transit and destination. We further affirm the four pillars of the New York Declaration on Refugees and Migrants, which are: shared responsibility, multilateralism, solidarity and engagement.
  14. In closing, let me say that the drive for a global consensus on human mobility has come to stay. Decision makers must uphold regimes that give primacy to ideas, norms and institutions, to fully appreciate the acute problems faced by migrants and refugees. Therefore, this General Debate presents an opportunity to change the world by ensuring that a human face exists in the adoption of universal policies on migration and refugees.
  15. In the words of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, whose monumental work depicting 300 refugees on an inflatable vessel is on display at the Sydney Biennale: “The refugee crisis is not about refugees; rather, it is about us.” And, according to the poet JJ Bola who fled the DRC for the UK at the age of seven: “A refugee is simply someone trying to make a home.” We must put people first.

Thank you.


Abubakar Bukola Saraki MBBS CON (pronunciationⓘ; born on 19 December 1962) is a Nigerian politician who served as the 13th president of the Nigerian Senate from 2015 to 2019.[1][2] He previously served as the governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011; and was elected to the Senate in 2011, under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District, and then re-elected in the 2015 general elections