Illegal immigration is the migration of people into a country in violation of the immigration laws of that country or the continued residence without the legal right to live in that country. Illegal immigration tends to be financially upward, from poorer to richer countries. Illegal residence in another country creates the risk of detentiondeportation, and/or other sanctions.

Some people move in search of work or economic opportunities, to join family, or to study. Others move to escape conflict, persecution, terrorism, or human rights violations. Still, others move in response to the adverse effects of climate change, natural disasters, or other environmental factors.

Today, more people than ever live in a country other than the one in which they were born. According to the IOM World Migration Report 2020, as of June 2019, the number of international migrants was estimated to be almost 272 million globally, 51 million more than in 2010.

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) defines a migrant as any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a State away from his/her habitual place of residence, regardless of

(1) The person’s legal status

(2) Whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary

(3) What the causes for the movement are

(4) What is the length of the stay is.

The combined forces of inequality, insecurity, globalisation and advancement in technology, have created massive upheavals in many societies, in turn pushing people out of places they call home and into foreign countries, usually in Europe and America. While it is true that many people find success through migration, many others become victims of the cruel pitfalls of the migration process.

In Nigeria, various stories and narratives exist of everyday migration. These narratives, as well as reports from migration monitoring organizations and statistics also confirm that in fact, illegal migration is at an all-time high.

Illegal travellers include all those who travel to work in the underground economies of Europe and America, domestic workers who are denied their rights by their employers, individuals- mostly ladies who are trafficked to work in the highly racialized sex industries in Europe and Dubai, as well as individuals who have overstayed their visas and are hoping to rectify their status through one illegal means. Another class of individuals are those who are stowaways hoping to travel from one place to another illegally, having incomplete or no papers and funding.

Some Reasons For Illegal Migration In Nigeria And Its Implications

There are various reasons why people migrate illegally and these in turn have negative impacts on various aspects of their lives and the economy of a nation as a whole.

  • For many, it is due to the societal pressures from family, and friends, reinforced by the perception that those Nigerians living abroad are doing better economically. They abandon their businesses, careers, and even family in search of greener pastures. Young Nigerians always fall prey to this kind of pressure because of the mentality that living abroad is better than living in Nigeria and so they set out to achieve their goals by any means available.
  • Another reason why people migrate illegally is the feeling associated with the low rating of one’s immediate environment. There is a notion that Nigeria is not a suitable place for success either in a career, business or general standard of living. This leads to an assumption that other places even the most underdeveloped countries are better than staying and living in Nigeria. The state of living in the diaspora- as long as it means living outside Nigeria, has been hyped so much that it is safe to say it has become overrated. Everybody wants to live abroad without taking into consideration the numerous instances of abuse and inhumane treatment associated with illegal migration over the years. For instance, the overrated value placed on Dubai and the exaggeration of the economic potential have made many people, even those with a stable life and career resign and pack up and leave in order to pursue what they thought would amount to better living in the city. However, on arrival, it turned into the case of all those glitters not being gold. Not only are illegal migrants subjected to harsh living conditions worse than what they have ever experienced in Nigeria, the hopes of getting a dignified means of livelihood evaporates and the prospect of returning to Nigeria becomes unsure.
  • While some individuals migrate illegally in search of greener pastures, others migrate to escape unfavourable cultural practices in their locale. These include practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.

It is safe to say that as long as people continue to hold on to exaggerated ideas of places outside Nigeria, illegal migration will continue to be on the rise despite the high risks attached. These risks are often known to the intending migrant because information reaching the individual while still at home is designed to minimize the negative aspects of such travel because there is an existing market structure associated with illegal migration which includes smugglers, kidnappers, drug lords and others who profit of illegal migration of people. While some migrants are aware of the risks associated with such travels, they are never able to grasp its enormity until it is usually too late. For instance, to reach Europe, migrants are usually loaded into overcrowded and unseaworthy boats or in unsafe parts of vehicles not fit to carry humans. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), at least 2,000 people died in the Mediterranean Sea or went missing trying to reach Europe in 2019.

The Negative impacts of illegal migration cannot be over-emphasized. It leads to a high mortality rate as the organs of some illegal migrants are harvested for economic advantage. Unhealthy travel conditions and means of transportation abroad have led to boat wrecks and untimely deaths of many migrants in the Sahara Desert. Illegal migration poses a huge demographic pressure on European countries and other host nations as a result of ageing European societies. It leads to higher unemployment in the host countries and festers international disputes among countries. No doubt, it causes a serious image crisis as the Nigerian International passports is a suspect for citizens who have to cope with the embarrassment and antagonism of Immigration officers.


  1. The following solutions may be helpful in addressing illegal migration: Government needs to design economic policies that will ensure the economic and social wellbeing of Nigerian citizens to encourage nationals to stay at home and contribute to nation-building.
  2. Nigerian citizens must make demands of responsible leadership in government and display uncanny courage to resist corrupt leadership.
  3. Government must demystify fantasies surrounding the idea that life abroad holds a lot of promises when this is not always so.
  4. A friendly Immigration policy should be facilitated by source and host countries to encourage legal migration. This will foster friendliness and symbiotic relationships between the source and host countries.
  5. Immigration laws and strict enforcement should be strengthened to track illegal migrants and those found culpable should be made to face the full wrath of the law.
  6. The educational sector should be strengthened to ensure that graduates of our institutions are well equipped to take up entrepreneurship


The Negative impacts of illegal migration cannot be over-emphasized. It leads to a high mortality rate, and loss of identity, and no doubt, it causes a serious image crisis as the Nigerian for those travelling or migrating legally.

Prince Joel Esq

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