COVID-19, migration intentions and human trafficking in Benin City, Nigeria

Our latest report on the effects of COVID-19 on migration looks at how the global pandemic is changing attitudes and behaviours of potential migrants in Edo State, Nigeria – and what these changes mean for supporting them in their migration decision-making and reducing their vulnerability to human trafficking.

After exploring the impact of COVID-19 on migrants in transit, this study focuses on a country of origin: It provides a snapshot of current and future migration intentions and patterns in human trafficking in Benin City, Nigeria. We draw on the perspectives of 38 potential migrants and family members of potential migrants currently living in and around Benin City, key informant interviews, a desk review and social media content analysis. Three case studies in the report provide a more in-depth view on some of the emerging issues and findings.

Our findings include:

  • For most potential migrants and their families the sense of urgency to migrate had increased. This is because their incomes and economic situations had been heavily impacted by COVID-19. 
  • Key informants, potential migrants and their families predict a high number of Nigerians to leave the country once restrictions lift and funds have been, at least partially, regained. They also projected an increased reliance on smugglers and an anticipated rise in human trafficking due to the hardships brought about by COVID-19.
  • Some potential migrants and their families saw COVID-19 as a concrete opportunity with the potential for better migration outcomes at destination. They referred to increased job opportunities abroad due to fatalities and job losses, access to COVID-19 relief packages and social welfare.
  • The already thin line between irregular migration, smuggling and human trafficking has been further complicated as a result of limited in-person interaction and movement restrictions.
  • There appears to be an increase in ‘travel agents’ participating in online recruitment as well as an influx in online job advertisements for ‘legal’ migration opportunities that promise hassle-free visas and travel-now-pay-later schemes.

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