Migration, which is the movement of people from one geographical location to another has remained at the centre of West African history for several centuries. Its centrality has been attributed to its role in influencing the socio-cultural and economic integration of the sub-region. A migrant can be described as a person who uproots himself from his original home and moves to a new place where he settles and establishes new links. This paper examines the socio-cultural integration that occurs among ECOWAS migrants in Nigeria. In order to examine the extents to which migration promote socio-cultural integration and peaceful co-existence among ECOWAS nationals and Nigerian citizens; the paper began with conceptual clarifications of the key terms of migration, migrants, integration as well as socio-cultural integration were reasonably discussed. It then reviewed the Nigerian migration policy as it relate to ECOWAS protocol on free moment of persons. It specifically dwelt extensively on the impacts and consequences of socio-cultural integration of ECOWAS migrants in Nigeria. The socio-cultural integration variables discussed in the paper include local language, religion, intermarriage, friendships/social network, family organization structure or cultural values, traditional food and traditional mode of dressing, among other.
Key Words: Migration, Migrants, Integration, Socio-Cultural, Peaceful Co-Existence and ECOWAS Nationals.
Movement is an innate tendency of all living things and human beings have been found wandering (migrating) from place to another in search of basic necessities of survival since creation or evolution. These movements can be to short or long distance, for the purpose of temporal, semi-temporal or permanent residence. It is therefore a natural phenomenon, as such is not out of context to move (migrate) in search of life’s necessities or improvement, however, it is paramount to view this movement in the face of present realities to ascertain its benefits or otherwise. Migration, according to Nigeria’s National Policy on Migration (NPM, 2015), is a fundamental part of human nature as such it is not unnatural for man to move. It has always been part of human behaviour and one of the historical forces that shaped the world (International Organization for Migration, 2011).
Some evolutionary theorists postulated that the first evolved humans, homo sapiens, originated from Africa and move out or emigrated to the other parts of the world some million years ago (IOM, 2011). However, religious or faith based accounts of human existence (Islam and Christianity), began with the creation of the first man, Adam, followed by that of his wife, Eve, who later violated the instructions that their Creator (Almighty God) gave them, by eating the forbidden fruit and were sent out of the beautiful Garden of Eden (Paradise), that when migration began (Qur’an 2:35-36; and Bible 3:23-24).
Migration is not a homogenous phenomenon in Nigeria. This phenomenon has been in existing even before the independence of African countries and even before the idea of international boundaries which received prominence in 1884 that resulted in partition of Africa at Berlin. As a result of this partition by colonial masters, free movement of people and goods across the borders were curtailed and various regulations requiring certain formalities to be accomplished before admittance of non-citizens were introduced.
Recent years have seen an increase in the number of migrants in Nigeria, Nigeria has become so diversified, there are different nationalities and races that now live in Nigeria for one reason or the other. In modern Nigeria, there are Africans, Americans, Asians, Europeans, Latinos and so on now represented in Nigeria. There are also different ethnic groups like, the Arabians, Europeans, Indians, Chinese, Ethiopians, Nigerienne, Beniniose, Chadians, Malians, Ghanaians, Moroccans and so on. All these people have decided to make Nigeria their home for different reasons; some are job seekers, some refugees, some Asylum seekers, some students and so on. All these migrants have their own cultures, material cultures and also inmaterial cultures. They have different norms, values, traditions and so on which means a lot to them and most of the time they find very difficult to let go. In regards of these, Nigerian culture has also been a part of their life.
The importance of integration in a diversify society cannot be overemphasized, its importance is beneficial to the country both nationally and internationally as it has been noted that while people integrate easily in so many others ways, they find it more difficult to integrate culturally this is not to say they do not integrate at all culturally (Social Work Essay, 2018). A society is rarely culturally uniformed, this makes society an interesting place, and there are many ways of life in one society (cultural diversity). Cultural diversity makes a society interesting but more complex to understand as society develops, different cultures and traditions appear. Most migrants however, love to hold on to their own beliefs and traditions whether we accept it or not which sometimes lead to an in-cohesive society and an in-cohesive society is an unstable society. This paper however, aims at discusses on the issues of socio-cultural integration amongst migrants in Nigeria with particular reference to ECOWAS nationals. At this juncture, it is pertinent to state that this paper will firstly examine what migration is all about and who are the migrants and their types. Secondly, it would define the concept of integration and socio-cultural integration and then discuss some factors that are responsible for migrants’ integration with particular reference to Nigeria and ECOWAS member states. Thirdly, we shall examine the socio-cultural consequences of ECOWAS migrants living in Nigeria pointing out its benefits and implications. Finally, we have the conclusion and recommendations where we express our personal view on the way of strengthening mutual understandings and cordial accommodations as key ingredients for socio-cultural integration and peaceful coexistence among ECOWAS migrants and Nigerians.
For better appreciation of the issues raised in this paper, it is imperative that the following concepts are initially clarified:
The Concept of Migration
Migration is the movement of a person or group of persons from one geographical unit to another across an administrative or political border, who wish to settle permanently or temporarily in a place other than their place of origin (IOM, 2011). Migration is also seen as the movement of people either across international border (external migration), or within a state (internal migration). Migration is a fundamental part of human nature (Alkasim, 2018). People move from one place to another for various reasons, including poverty, unemployment, famine, political and religious crises, disasters and so on. Essentially, migration is the process of temporary or permanent relocation of a person from his or place of primary abode to another place, in search of better living, family reunification, studies or other reasons (IOM, 2011). Factors identified to have been causing this movement are generally or broadly classified into Push, Pull and recently Network/Globalization factors (Alkasim, 2018).
However, migration can either be regular or irregular; Regular migration is the type of migration that occurs in compliance with the laws of the country of origin, transit and destination. While irregular migration is the movement of persons that takes place outside the laws, regulations, or international agreements governing the entry into or exit from the State of origin, transit or destination (IOM, 2011). It also means a movement of people that do not have the permission of the country or borders they are entering into. The International Organization for Migration (IOM, 2019) further defines it as “movement of person(s) to a new place of residence or transit that takes place outside the regulatory norms of the sending, transit and receiving country”. It further stated that a migrant in an irregular situation may fall within one or more of the following circumstances:
He or she may enter the country irregularly, for instance with false documents or without crossing at an official border crossing point;
He or she may reside in the country irregularly, for instance, in violation of the terms of an entry visa/residence permit; or
He or she may be employed in the country irregularly, for instance he or she may have the right to reside but not to take up paid employment in the country.
Who is a Migrant?
Migrant is a person who lives temporarily or permanently in a country where he or she was not born, and has acquired some significant social ties to this country (International Organization for Migration, 2011). A migrant can be described as a person who uproots himself from his original home and moves to a new place where he settles and establishes new links (Labo, 2000).
The International Organization for Migration (IOM, 2011) 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; or (4) what the length of the stay is. Furthermore, a migrant is defined as a person who changes his usual place of residence and if this change of residence involves crossing a national boundary it is referred to as international migration. Migrant is any person who is not a citizen of Nigeria (Immigration Act, 2015).
Migrants can be broadly categorized into two; regular and irregular migrants. Regular migrant is a person who entered a country lawfully and remains in the country in accordance with his or her admission criteria. According to International Organization for Migration (2019) regular migrants refer to the people who legally enter a country with valid travel documents for temporary, semi-permanent or permanent residence. On the other hand, irregular migrants are the person or group of persons that violate the immigration laws of the destination country, with the intention to remain in the country. Irregular migrants are also referred to as unauthorized/undocumented immigrants. Irregular migrants are people who live in a place without permission and the authorities have no record of them. It also includes people who visit a country for tourism or education or health purposes legally, but do not go back. This means even though they went there legally, they are now irregular immigrants because they have over-stayed the period granted to them. In a similar vein, immigrants who have expired documents, or who came in with fake documents all fall under undocumented (IOM, 2019). In this paper, we refer irregular migrant as the person or group of persons that cross the Nigeria borders without documentation and reside in.
What is integration?
The term ‘integration’ has been used and defined in a variety of ways by both scholars and politicians. According Ellis and Almgren (2009) integration is defined as a process of developing a society in which all the social groups share the socio-economic and cultural life. The integration of the communities is facilitated by the factors that help assimilation. Integration is the ability to participate to the extent that the person needs and wishes in all the major component of society is met without having to relinquish his or her own cultural identity (Pavov, 2017). From the sociological perspective integration is regarded as a quality of a social system. Integration is referred to as a society which is made up of member groups or individual that are socially combined and that relates with one another (Ellis & Almgrem, 2009).
Integration can often be taken to mean the assimilation of migrants into the national culture of their new society (Kim & Streich, 2017). Kivisto (2010) point out that integration focuses on equality of opportunity and permits migrants to maintain their cultural identity. In general, integration refers to the process by which migrants are incorporated into both the structures and the society of the receiving state or host community. The integration process involves the interaction between individual members of the migrant group and the ethnic majority group, as well as between those groups and the institutions and policies of the receiving state. In this paper, Integration can be regards as the process of mutual adaptation between ECOWAS migrants and the societies in which they live, whereby migrants are incorporated into the social and cultural life of the receiving community. It entails a set of joint responsibilities for migrants and communities, and incorporates other related notions such as social inclusion and social cohesion (IOM, 2019).