The refugee crisis as a young Nigerian doctor sees it

Nigeria Chad UNHCR

Nigerian refugees leave Ngouboua, on the shores of Lake Chad, on 11 February 2015. They are heading for a safer place, away from the border. UNHCR/Olivier Laban-Mattei.

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mr Imeh Michael, a young Nigerian, currently a 5th year medical student of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL), Nigeria. Mr Michael is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA). The opinion expressed in this piece belongs to the writer and does not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

There has always been a moderate level (most of this legal) of immigration into Europe and generally into more prosperous nations, but in recent times especially with the worsening cases of terrorism in Islamic states, this has changed.

There is now a heavy influx of people from countries with strife into more peaceful nations, so much so that these “peaceful nations” are being forced to shut their borders. The sad truth which the world is slowly starting to realize is that this phenomenon may very well be the beginning…

According to BBC news, over one million people migrated into Europe in 2015. Majority of this number came into Europe illegally. The most favoured route used by these migrants is water, only a few make use of land routes. Most of the migrants are pushed from their homes and places of comfort by strife and conflicts. The vast majority of these migrants into Europe are from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Also, for some of the other migrants, especially those from African nations like Eritrea, Morocco and Somalia; threatened security, poverty and human rights abuses are also forcing people to leave these countries in the hope of a better life in parts of Europe like Germany, Greece or the United Kingdom.

The Journey of these migrants can only be qualified as terrifyingly horrendous. There have been so many reported incidents of shipwrecks, missing boats, drowning, overcrowding; leading to starvation, suffocation, and these are only those mentioned. Survivors of these journeys, reveal molestations along the way. They report abuse especially by people traffickers. Some of them also get robbed along the way.

The migrants also have to contend with rapidly spreading diseases, especially ones that favour characteristics like overcrowding. These are infectious diseases and good examples include tuberculosis, HIV and hepatitis. A very real danger for them is their mental health. They deal with depression, post- traumatic stress syndrome, psychosomatic complaints and anxiety. Also, most of the migrants especially the children suffer from malnutrition and starvation.

The migrants’ situation definitely has a role to play in the rising tensions among European nations. Apart from Germany and Hungary, there has been a general reluctance in accepting migrants. Some countries have gone as far as putting up physical barriers to prevent the entry of migrants. An asylum policy has been passed but enforcing it has been a challenge. Only a few of the migrants get asylum out of the many that apply for it.

Settling in these countries could be difficult for the migrants as they aren’t immediately given treatment that normal residents or citizens of these countries would normally be given. There is bound to be a discriminatory sometimes even degrading treatment. More countries should also open their doors as well so that the burden on the few countries that grant asylum may be reduced.

Also even after settlement of these migrants, plans should be made for them to receive access to safe food, basic health care and their other primary needs. Multilateral organizations especially the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN), already are looking into helping these migrants fare better in their new places of abode. More countries however have to put in more effort and offer a helping hand.

About the author

I am Imeh Michael a young Nigerian, currently a 5th year medical student of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL), Nigeria. I hold no post in my student body but I am currently in the electoral committee for my Year Book Class executive council elections. I have also worked in several editorial boards and also currently a member of Writers’ Club CMUL. I am still a budding writer having just recently discovered my talent. I also have a flare for fiction as I was 1st runner up in a writing competition that took place earlier this year.

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