Travel News

‘Japa’: FG pleads with nursing graduates to think more of Nigeria - BUSINESSDAY

JUNE 07, 2024

The Director of Nursing, Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dame Francisca Okafor, on Thursday urged Nursing graduates to think less of embarking on the search for greener pasture.

Okafor made the plea during the seventh combined convocation of the School of Psychiatric Nursing, at Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro in Abeokuta, which involved 14 sets from 2009/2010 to 2022/2023.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that a total of 619 graduates were present at the convocation.

Dame Okafor said the Federal Government was hopeful that graduating students of Nursing would jettison the idea of leaving the country in search of greener pasture.

“Given the prevailing economic hardship which can lead to depression and growing substance abuse, among others, there is no doubt that the mental illness burden is increasing daily in the country.

“So, there is the need for Nursing professionals who have been specially trained in the area of mental health to be considerate enough to stay behind to offer requisite care to Nigerians.

“While I am rejoicing with you as you have toiled selflessly and burned the midnight candles to achieve this great academic feat and have been found worthy to be a graduate of Psychiatric Nursing, I want to urge you to stay back to care for our people.

“Look at the young ones indulging in drug and substance abuse, who will take care of them if you indulge in ‘japa’? she said.

Okafor noted that while there was the need to improve on nurses’ working environment in the country, sacrifice and patriotism were however still essential.

“While the government is working on your work environment being better, we must always remember that Nigeria remains our home and no sacrifice can be too much to render in our service to the nation,” she added.

The Director however noted that in the event the nurses insisted on leaving the country, they must follow the right channels.

”There are many Nigerian nurses abroad doing all sorts of menial jobs in spite of their academic qualifications. This is because they were more interested in leaving the country, rather than going through the right channels”.

Okafor urged the graduating nurses to go all out and demystify mental illness with the excellent training received.

“While doing this, you should also work in line with the new Mental Health Act signed into law in 2022,” she said.

The hospital’s Provost/Medical Director, Afis Agboola, in his convocation message, urged the graduating nurses to remain worthy ambassadors of the institution.

Agboola congratulated the graduating students, just as he urged them to deploy their expertise to make positive difference in giving adequate mental care to the people.

He however pleaded for more support from public-spirited Nigerians and corporate organisations to tackle the challenges of limited funding and infrastructure development, among others, confronting the institution.

The Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), Faruk Abubakar, counselled the graduates to promote excellent nursing care according to global practices.

Bolt blocks over 11,000 drivers in Nigeria, South Africa over safety issues - BUSINESSDAY

JUNE 08, 2024

Bolt, a ride-hailing company has suspended more than 11,000 drivers in Nigeria and South Africa in less than a year for violating its code of conduct.

The move comes after the company faced criticism for its lack of driver and passenger safety in the region.

About 6,000 drivers were suspended in South Africa and 5,000 in Nigeria. The company has been accused of holding its drivers to lax standards in Africa, and these recent suspensions suggest a shift towards stricter enforcement.

This crackdown follows a series of disturbing incidents involving Bolt drivers in South Africa. In May 2024, a driver was arrested for allegedly stabbing two women after a disagreement over their drop-off location.

This case, along with the conviction of another former Bolt driver for kidnapping, rape, and assault, sparked outrage on social media and threats of legal action against the company.

“The company will continue to permanently suspend drivers and riders who have been reported for misconduct from accessing the platform,” Bolt said in a statement. “Whether these measures will be enough to rebuild trust with riders remains to be seen.”

Russia Is Sending Young Africans to Die in Its War Against Ukraine - BLOOMBERG

JUNE 09, 2024

  • The Kremlin threatens to deport Africans unless they sign up
  • Officials have adopted tactics first used by Wagner group
  • BY  Alberto Nardelli, Alex Wickham and Volodymyr VerbianyiBloomberg News

    Central Asian migrants in Moscow, in April. Photographer: Contributor/Getty Images

    Central Asian migrants in Moscow, in April. Photographer: Contributor/Getty Images , Getty Images

    (Bloomberg) -- The Kremlin has forced thousands of migrants and foreign students to fight alongside Russian troops in its war against Ukraine, adding extra manpower for its offensive in the Kharkiv region, according to assessments from European officials.

    Using tactics first deployed by the Wagner mercenary group, Russian officials have with increasing frequency been threatening not to extend the visas of African students and young workers unless they agree to join the military, according to officials familiar with the matter. 

    Moscow has also been enlisting convicts from its prisons while some Africans in Russia on work visas have been detained and forced to decide between deportation or fighting, one European official said. Some of those people had been able to bribe officials to stay in the country and still avoid military service, said the official, who like other people cited spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Russia’s practice of sending migrants and students into battle under duress dates back to earlier in the war, another European official said. Those troops suffer especially high casualty rates because they are increasingly deployed in risky offensive maneuvers to protect more highly trained units, the official added. A spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to an email seeking comment. 

    According to reports citing Ukrainian intelligence, Russia has engaged in a global recruitment drive to enlist foreign mercenaries in at least 21 countries, including several nations in Africa. Army recruitment campaigns offer lucrative signing bonuses and salaries for those who’ll join up as contract soldiers. Recruiters have also targeted migrants and students who previously looked for employment in Russia, and in some cases have lured others over with promises of lucrative work before forcing them to train and deploy to the front.

    Russia’s ability to mobilize far greater numbers of troops could become a significant factor in the war as President Vladimir Putin seeks to capitalize on a shift in momentum this year. 

    For now though, his forces have been grinding forward only slowly in northeastern Ukraine and suffering heavy losses, despite a shortage of troops and ammunition on the Ukrainian side.  

    The Russian military lost more than 1,200 people a day during May, according to the UK Ministry of Defence, its highest casualty rate of the war. Since the beginning of the invasion, Russia has seen some 500,000 personnel killed or wounded, the UK estimates. Bloomberg is unable to independently verify these figures.

    At a meeting with foreign media in St. Petersburg late Wednesday, Putin appeared to imply that about 10,000 Russian troops a month are being killed or wounded and that Ukrainian losses are five times higher.

    While the Kremlin has failed to achieve a breakthrough on the battlefield, it has stepped up a bombing campaign against Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Western officials say those attacks appear designed to make the city uninhabitable.

    As he seeks to maintain public support in Russia, Putin has so far resisted a full-scale mobilization and Russia says it has been able to make up a significant share of its losses — in terms of numbers if not the standard of the troops —  through a voluntary recruitment drive that has attracted tens of thousands of people.

    The government in Kathmandu said earlier this year that it is aware of about 400 young Nepali men who have been recruited by Russia but many more have likely signed up without the government knowing. India’s decision to stop recruiting Nepalese Gurkhas for its army, ending a 200-year-old tradition, may have encouraged Nepalis to look for work in Russia and elsewhere.

    A senior Ukrainian official said they have seen an uptick in the number of foreign fighters among the prisoners Ukraine has captured on the battlefield. Africans and Nepalis have been particularly common, they said. 

    Some of Ukraine’s allies have been considering sharing what they know with the affected countries, another European official said. 

    Group of Seven nations, who will hold a leaders’ summit in Italy next week, have been trying to persuade countries from the so-called Global South to offer more support to Ukraine. But many of those nations have instead remained neutral, while their populations have been a focus for Moscow’s disinformation efforts.

    Reuters reported last year that the mercenary group Wagner had recruited several African citizens as part of a drive to enlist convicts from Russian prisons for its forces in Ukraine. The news agency traced the story of three men from Tanzania, Zambia and the Ivory Coast.

    There are 35,000-37,000 African students currently in Russia, according to Yevgeny Primakov head of Rossotrudnichestvo, an organization devoted to spreading knowledge about Russia abroad.

    “Every year we sign up about 6,500 students from Africa to study in Russia for free”, he said on Thursday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

    --With assistance from Sudhi Ranjan Sen.

    Family visa rules change to face High Court legal challenge - EVENING STANDARD

    JUNE 09, 2024

    Story by Aine Fox

    A legal challenge is being brought against the Government for hiking the minimum income for family visas by thousands of pounds.

    A lawyer for Reunite Families UK (RFUK) said the decision, announced last December, had been taken in “a cavalier manner” by Home Secretary James Cleverly.

    The organisation said it had filed a legal challenge, and the lawyer said they would ask the High Court to quash the decision on the basis that Mr Cleverly had acted unlawfully.

    The increases came as a complete surprise to the community we represent - and at a time when people all over the UK have been struggling with a relentless cost of living crisis.

    What are the UK's new family and work visa rules?

    The minimum income for family visas rose by more than £10,000 to £29,000 from April.

    The measures are part of what the Government has previously described as “an accelerated and comprehensive programme of reforms” to address “unsustainable” levels of legal migration to the UK.

    The minimum income requirement is due to rise further to £38,700 by early 2025.

    It had remained unchanged for more than a decade, and helps to ensure families are self-sufficient and not relying on public funds, whilst making a positive impact on the economy, the Home Office has previously said.

    RFUK said the legal challenge will question whether there was a sound legal basis for the decision to increase the minimum income requirement and whether the decision was taken in line with advice.

    (Reunite Families UK) is appalled that a decision of such import appears to have been taken by the Home Secretary in such a cavalier manner

    Tessa Gregory, Leigh Day

    Caroline Coombs, from RFUK, said: “The increases came as a complete surprise to the community we represent – and at a time when people all over the UK have been struggling with a relentless cost of living crisis.

    “Whilst they have been working hard to earn and save enough to sponsor their partner, the Government has punished them once again and for many, their dream of a family life together here has been shattered.

    “We hope that through the legal case, ministers will pursue a better, more humane family migration policy. One that doesn’t discriminate based on one’s income and instead recognises the value of bi-national couples and families not just for the economy but for our society as a whole.”

    Tessa Gregory, a partner at the law firm Leigh Day who is representing RFUK, said: “The decision to increase the minimum income requirement is already having a devastating impact on thousands of families, parents and children who are struggling to come to terms with a future where they are indefinitely separated due to the increased financial threshold.

    “Our client, RFUK, is appalled that a decision of such import appears to have been taken by the Home Secretary in such a cavalier manner: without proper analysis; and in breach of critical public law duties such as assessing the impact of the decision on protected groups. RFUK will be asking the Court to quash the decision on the basis that the Home Secretary has acted unlawfully.”

    We call on whoever will be our home secretary after July 5 to take the price tag off love as a matter of urgency

    When the April rise came into effect, the Government stressed that the minimum income requirement can also be met through savings or, if the applicant is in the UK already on a different visa, through their additional income.

    Josephine Whitaker-Yilmaz, from migrant support charity Praxis, said: “It is disheartening to know that courts have to be involved to make sure our rights are respected – including the right to fall in love and live with our families, together.

    “We call on whoever will be our home secretary after July 5 to take the price tag off love as a matter of urgency.”

    Airlines struggle to clear backlog after strike - PUNCH

    JUNE 10, 2024

    By Princess Etuk

    Nigerian airlines are grappling with operational challenges as they work to accommodate passengers and clear the backlog caused by the strike embarked on by the Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress, to press their demand for the implementation of a new national minimum wage.

    Although the strike was suspended on Monday, it disrupted flight schedules and caused logistics issues for several airlines.

    The Chief Operating Officer of Ibom Air, George Uriesi, told Sunday PUNCH about the difficulties in managing the situation without passing costs onto customers.

    “You can’t increase your fares because you lost money due to the strike; you take your losses. And you can’t add aircraft just like that overnight. What you do is try to accommodate passengers over the next few days. That is what we have done.

     “Our fleet is already maximised in terms of flight schedule, so we tried to accommodate people. This continues to expand the losses because we don’t have seats to sell since we already have people that we are trying to accommodate who already bought tickets.

    “So people can’t buy tickets, and we are losing more and more revenue as a result of that. Until you clear the backlog, there’s nothing to sell,” he explained.

    United Nigeria Airlines is facing similar hurdles, as its Head of Corporate Communications, Achilleus Uchegbu, told Sunday PUNCH in a phone interview that the airline had to sacrifice for the greater good of Nigerians.

    “A loss is a loss. Those are the sacrifices for the growth of the company and the good of Nigerians. The airlines are also involved in making sacrifices for the good of Nigerians.

    “The losses have been incurred. We won’t increase fares because there was a strike. The system will not even allow us to do that because there was a strike which was announced, and a lot of people on their own adjusted their travels and didn’t have to wait for the airlines to do that. But everybody is back to normal operations now,” he stated.

    Untamed Travels and Tours, Adediran Adewale, also stated that the industrial action affected the entire aviation industry.

    “I had a passenger that was supposed to travel that Monday when the strike started, but I was able to get a seat for the passenger on Wednesday. I don’t know if other people are facing other challenges. Because the passenger could not travel on Monday, we had to change the travel date, and that attracted a fine.

    EU raises Schengen visa fee to €90 - PUNCH

    JUNE 10, 2024

    By Anozie Egole

    More expenses await African nationals seeking visas to enter the European Union as the EU plans to increase visa fees starting Tuesday, according to Schengen visa statistics released on Saturday.

    The report stated that starting from Tuesday; African nationals would pay €90 instead of €80 for a Schengen visa application

    The report stated that the EU had earned €3.4m from rejected Schengen visa applications submitted by Nigerian citizens.

    According to the data, in 2023, African nationals received 704,000 negative responses for their visa requests.

    “This means that €56.3m went up in smoke, considering that visa application fees are not refundable,” it stated.

    The report noted that a high number of rejected visa applications had caused African nationals to spend millions every year, with the fees known as ‘reverse remittances’ benefitting no one but the EU countries.

    “African nationals spent €56.3m in visa application fees in 2023, representing 43 per cent of all expenses; rejection rates in 2023 were especially high for African and Asian countries, which bear 90 per cent of all expenses. Expenditures are to increase by 12.5 per cent starting next week as the EU raises visa fees for adults from €80 to €90 on 11 June, following a recent decision by the EU Commission,” it added.

    Algeria was the country of origin for most rejected applications in 2023, representing 23.5 per cent of all amount spent on rejected applications.

    The country also had the second-highest number of rejected applications compared to all – 289,000 out of 704,000, representing 42.3 per cent of all requests.

      “This nationality group is especially impacted by visa rejections because it has high application rates and they are affected economically when placing visa applications” the report added.

      It further explained that Moroccans, top visa applicants from Africa for the year, had the highest number of visas rejected.

       “A total of 437,000 visa requests filed by this nationality group were rejected in 2023, representing 62 per cent of the total. As per expenses, Moroccans spent €10.9m on rejected visa applications in 2023,” the report indicated.

      It added that Africans were heavily impacted by those expenses, considering that the majority of African countries have some of the lowest wages in the world.

      According to the report, the amount of Africans rejected visas is 43.1 per cent of all the amount generated by rejected applications in 2023.

      A recent study by EU Observer revealed that the Schengen visa rejections generated an amount of €130m in 2023.

      “In the previous year, this amount stood at €105m, showing an upward trend of Schengen visa expenses as well as rejection rates,” the report stated.

      The founder of LAGO Collective, Marta Foresti, said, “Visa inequality has very tangible consequences and the world’s poorest pay the price. You can think of the costs of rejected visas as ‘reverse remittances’, money flowing from poor to rich countries. We never hear about these costs when discussing aid or migration, it is time to change that.”

      Austrian Flight Lands Safely After Hailstones Rip Away Nose Cone - BLOOMBERG

      JUNE 10, 2024

      BY  Anthony PalazzoBloomberg News

      An Austrian Airlines Airbus. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

      An Austrian Airlines Airbus. Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg , Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

      (Bloomberg) -- An Austrian Airlines flight landed safely in Vienna after a severe hailstorm tore away much of the plane’s nose cone and left the front windows riddled with cracks. 

      Flight OS434, a 23-year-old Airbus SE A320, encountered the storm after leaving Palma de Mallorca at 3:55 p.m. on Sunday, AirLive, which tracks aviation emergencies, reported on its website. 

      Photos posted online showed the nose radome, the aerodynamic shell covering the front of the airplane, mostly stripped away, leaving the jet’s substructure exposed, and the remainder of the skin pocked with dents where the hailstones had struck. 

      The two windows directly in front of the pilots were heavily damaged but intact.

      Aircraft are built to withstand severe weather situations, including hail, lighting strike and turbulence. The impact from tricky weather has become a more closely watched occurrence following two episodes in recent weeks in which passengers on long-distance flights were thrown around the cabin after the aircraft flew through pockets of turbulence.

      In the first of those episodes, aboard a Singapore Airlines aircraft, one person died and many were seriously injured.

      Austrian officials weren’t immediately available to comment. Representatives of parent Deutsche Lufthansa AG referred queries to Austrian. 

      Flights offer for crisis-hit Nigerian students - BBC

      JUNE 11, 2024

      BY Joanna Morris

      BBC News

      A university says it will help to fund flights home to Nigeria for crisis-hit students who it reported to the Home Office.

      Students at Teesside University were thrown off courses and ordered to leave the UK after a currency crisis left them struggling to pay tuition fees.

      Following protests and the intervention of the Nigerian government, the university told the BBC it has now re-enrolled some affected students and opened a travel fund.

      One student said the offer did not go far enough, adding: "The wide-rippling effects of this are unmanageable and piling up."

      As reported by the BBC, the Middlesbrough-based university recently withdrew sponsorship for a number of students and reported them to the Home Office after they fell into tuition fee arrears.

      The students had seen their savings depleted as a consequence of Nigeria's worst economic crash in generations.

      Their financial struggles were exacerbated when the university changed payment plans from seven instalments to three.

      The impact was so significant that a nearby food charity said 75% of its clients are now Nigerian students struggling to cope with the cost of living.

      As a consequence, some missed tuition fee payments and were subsequently frozen out of their studies.

      Soon after, they received Home Office letters ordering them to leave the UK.

      In May, a university spokesman said failure to pay was a breach of visa sponsorship requirements, and claimed it had "no choice" but to alert the Home Office.

      International relief fund

      A Teesside University spokesman has now confirmed some affected students have been told they can resume their studies.

      "We are working with a small group who do need to return to their home country and are opening an international relief fund for this group only to offer additional financial support for these unexpected travel costs," he added.

      The university has told some students they can complete their studies from Nigeria or return to the UK to resume them at a later date.

      The BBC understands some of those affected are now lodging legal appeals after being told to return to Nigeria.

      One, who did not want to be named, said the university's offer failed to consider the significant impact their actions had on those affected.

      He said: "I was asked to return home, pay the balance remaining and apply to return at a later date, but I don't trust them now.

      "I feel this is a way to escape responsibility and they may not let me come back.

      "If they did, it would cost me thousands to pay flights, visa fees and NHS fees again.

      "I've already spent so much coming here and now they want me to go back without any kind of certification to reflect my achievements.

      "The whole aim of coming here was to study, we haven't committed any kind of crime.

      "There's been no apology for the stress and trauma the university has put me through."

      Trapped Funds: Rwandair, IATA Laud Nigeria - NEW TELEGRAPH

      JUNE 11, 2024

      BY  Wole Shadare

      More plaudits are coming the way of Nigeria as RwandAir and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have continued to heap praises over the manner the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) resolved the trapped fund crisis less than one year after the current administration came to office.

      The Chief Commercial Officer of RwandAir, Owie Best, who declined to disclose how much was received by his airline, while speaking to New Telegraph, said RwandAir was very appreciative of the Nigerian government and IATA for all that has been put in place. He equally lauded the effort of the Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Mr. Festus Keyamo, for his intervention while the issue lasted, recalling that the trapped fund issue was a huge blow for the aviation industry in Nigeria.

      “We appreciate the Nigerian government and we call on them to continue to do their best and declare the remaining backlog, it is very minimal. “I will talk about funds repatriation, I want to commend the Nigerian government for ensuring that our funds are repatriated. We don’t have any issues with that. IATA has commended Nigeria, it’s not what it used to be.

      “Ninety-eight per cent of the entire fund has been repatriated with only $19 million that is less than two percent of what it used to be. We are very appreciative of the Nigerian government and IATA for all that has been put in place,” he said. “The Minister of Aviation and Aerospace Development, Keyamo, intervened at a point and the Minister of Finance has been very helpful in speaking for his industry because that was a big blow to this industry.

      We appreciate the Nigerian government and we call on them to continue to do their best and clear the remaining backlog which is less than two per cent of the total value of the funds,” he added. Just last week, IATA said Nigeria had cleared 98 per cent of foreign airlines’ blocked funds, disclosing that the remaining two per cent of funds amounting to $19 million yet to be cleared was due to the central bank’s ongoing verification of outstanding forward claims filed by the commercial banks.

      It noted that as of April 2024, 98 per cent of these funds have been cleared. Director-General of IATA, Willie Walsh, said: “We commend the new Nigerian government and the Central Bank of Nigeria for their efforts to resolve this issue. Individual Nigerians and the economy will all benefit from reliable air connectivity for which access to revenues is critical. We are on the right path and urge the government to clear the residual $19 million and continue prioritising aviation.”

      EU earned €3.4m from rejected Schengen visa applications from Nigeria - PUNCH

      JUNE 11, 2024

      EU earned €3.4m from rejected Schengen visa applications from Nigeria

      The European Union said it has earned €3.4m from rejected Schengen visa applications submitted by Nigerian citizens, Nairametrics reports.

      This, according to Schengen visa statistics on Saturday, occurred from Nigerian visa applicants in 2023.

      Globally, the EU governments raked in €130 million from rejected Schengen visa applications with African and Asian countries shouldering 90 per cent of the costs, according to reports from EUobserver.com on Saturday.

      The report also indicates that African countries particularly, are disproportionately impacted, with rejection rates as high as 40-50 per cent for Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria.

      Notably, the figures do not account for the costs incurred from being unable to travel for business and leisure or the expenses for legal advice and private agencies involved in processing visa applications.

      Founder of LAGO Collective and senior visiting fellow at the Overseas Development Institute, Marta Foresti said, “Visa inequality has very tangible consequences and the world’s poorest pay the price”.

      “You can think of the costs of rejected visas as ‘reverse remittances’, money flowing from poor to rich countries. We never hear about these costs when discussing aid or migration, it is time to change that,” she added.

      The EU estimates that about half of all irregular migrants within the bloc’s 27 member states result from visa overstays.

      “Last year, over 83,000 non-EU citizens people were sent back to their countries, a return rate of 19 per cent, according to the EU Commission.

      “Over the past year, the EU has begun to use visa restrictions as a political tool, employing Article 25a of its 2019 visa code a provision that allows visa restrictions for countries with low rates of migrant returns.

      “For instance, in April, the EU Council agreed to impose visa sanctions on Ethiopia, including a ban on obtaining visas for multiple entries into EU countries, while diplomatic and service passport holders will no longer be exempt from visa fees”, EU said.

      EU ministers extended the processing time for visas from 15 days to 45 days, citing Ethiopia’s lack of cooperation in returning its nationals staying illegally in EU countries.

      Conversely, in April, EU ministers lifted visa restrictions on The Gambia, imposed in 2021, after its migrant return rate increased from 14 per cent in 2022 to 37 per cent in 2023.

      However, the rejection of visas is a phenomenon which has been termed ‘reverse remittances,’ according to an analysis shared with EUobserver. These fees are non-refundable, regardless of the application outcome.

      The largest number of visa applications to the EU come from Morocco and Algeria.

      The overall data also indicates that rejection rates for short-term visitor visas to Europe and the UK are higher for applicants from low and middle-income countries.

      EU said, “The cost of Schengen visa rejections in 2023 reached €130 million, which is an increase from €105 million in 2022.

      “The rejection rate is expected to rise in 2024, as the EU visa application fee for adults will increase from €80 to €90 on 11 June, following a recent decision by the EU Commission.”

      Meanwhile, the UK raised £44 million (€50 million) from rejected visa fees.


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