By Oladotun F. Roy
Migration has never seemed to be a major problem in Africa until videos showing grisly and grim scenes of young Africans who risked everything on the Mediterranean sea went viral on social media at the beginning of 2018.
These videos showed youngsters parked on a tiny boat trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea and illegally reach Italy and Spain, two of the poorest countries in Europe according to a recent report from the Human Development Index.
The broadcasted scenes made it obvious that these young Africans had not been forced to flee their home country to another country, despite slim chances of surviving this highly dangerous journey and the very high risk of being repatriated to their home country, even if they survived this perilous journey.
No opposition or obstacle could make them give up – braving the imminent danger of crossing the high seas in search of a better life elsewhere. This shows the level of despair of young Africans, which leads them to attempt to settle in any supposedly developed country, especially in Europe or North America, in search of a better life.
According to various migration reports, in 2007, the BBC reported that the International Organization for Migration estimated that about 4.6 million African migrants are living in Europe.
According to information provided by the Migration Policy Institute, in 2018, about 7 to 8 million irregular migrants from Africa were living in the EU. The figure has increased by almost 4 million in 10 years. A truly shocking exodus!
Now, the question most sub-Saharan African states must answer is, what could motivate these young Africans, who belong to the active segment of the population, to leave their continent to find a better life elsewhere?
There are several reasons why an average African would engage in a clandestine immigration mission to a developed country, including unemployment, skills development, education, and famine, among others.
However, in recent years it has been revealed that the shaky and failing public policies and the lack of political will by most decision-making bodies of African states to institutionalise legal frameworks applicable to domestic economic problems such as corruption, misappropriation of public funds, money-laundering, embezzlement, patronage, nepotism, the lack of a clear plan to empower young people, and political instability, among others, were the main predictors of this sudden exodus to Europe and other foreign countries, especially by young people, considered as the most productive demographic segment of the continent.
This inability to productively implement relevant public policies that can create employment opportunities for large numbers of graduates even led to threats to intra-African migration on the continent.
Here we use the Nigerian population as a case study: Nigerians are Africans known for their industrious nature, wherever you come to meet them in the world. Unfortunately, their reputation is gradually causing them harm, as the citizens of the host countries in which they live are starting to view them as a major threat to their livelihoods. Today they are considered bloodsucking leeches, stealing jobs from them and depriving them of their socio-economic means.
The recent massive repatriation observed in Ghana is indicative of this trend. On 19 February 2019, the Government of Ghana forcibly evicted over 723 Nigerians living in Ghana, a country considered as Nigeria’s West African sister nation.
Other similar incidents have occurred, such as xenophobic attacks targeting not only Nigerians but also other African migrants in South Africa in 2010 and 2015 respectively.
If we think about it, if African migrants, who probably migrated legally on their continent, are attacked by other Africans, how many more attacks, prejudices and forms of racial discrimination can we imagine these illegal migrants suffer on other continents where they hope to find a better life?
The answer is provided below:
This photo, which shows shantytowns in Paris where illegal African migrants are living, says a lot about the dehumanisation of African migrants on other continents where they migrated illegally. Actually, it is the worst situation a human can live in, in a few supposedly developed countries.
Migrants who experience this situation clearly do not have access to basic services, such as health services, clean water and sanitation, decent employment, or even education.
Whatever the reason may be, no human being should live in such despicable conditions. Some victims of war and conflict clearly live in better conditions in certain regions of the world characterised by instability and war.
Usually, migrants living in such conditions are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. The reason is simple. Indeed, many migrants living in these conditions illegally invaded that country without a passport, a visa or any other form of identification. As a result, they remain trapped in this dilemma for years, struggling and engaging in illicit survival strategies, either by engaging in menial jobs, prostitution and living in degrading conditions, while the possibility of returning to their home country remains very small.
The reality is that despite the unacceptable experiences narrated by illegal migrants in the news every day, thousands of people continue to flee their home countries in search of the Golden Fleece or greener pastures, whatever the name they give to their quest.
Do not misunderstand our words, it is neither a sin nor a crime to migrate from your home country to a country of your choice to seek a better life or professional growth, provided this is done legally to ensure better livelihoods. It’s even included in our basic human rights. However, the absurdity will only be greater if a migrant finds him/herself in such a degrading situation, even after legally entering the country.
Now the question is how to convince thousands of other potential migrants who are still hoping and dreaming of leaving their country for another where they are not guaranteed a better life than in their home country.
The other question is: what are African states doing to fight illegal migration to these other countries, why are they not working to create better opportunities to mobilise the vast human resources needed for the continent’s development?
These questions call not only for lucid reflection, but also for action, not least because countless clandestine migrants from Africa are victims of 21st century immeasurable dehumanisation and slavery in other hostile countries where they hoped to find a better life.
At this stage, everyone has a role to play in providing lasting answers to these questions: the media, political decision-makers and civil society should collectively deconstruct this mentality or ideology emanating from every citizen who still hopes to flee illegally to another continent and become a nuisance in the name of a quest for greener pastures.
What is the role of media professionals (traditional and new media) in this regard?
Media professionals are not only the watchdogs of society, they also influence opinion. The advent of new technologies in the dissemination of information has made communication easier, and the use of multiple social media platforms to foster discussions about why young Africans should renounce illegal immigration would contribute greatly to deter the thousands of young Africans who still have such ambitions.
Media professionals and filmmakers could benefit from the use of documentaries and short films that capture the anguish and pain of these illegal migrants embarking on a life-threatening journey, to educate the public about the inherent dangers of illegal migration to other continents.
The role of civil society groups
Civil society also has a major role to play in collaborating with the media to raise awareness and advocate for better policies that would allow this productive demographic segment of Africa to benefit from better opportunities and enjoy a better future.
The role of decision makers
Policymakers, which are parliaments, legislatures and political leaders, play a key role in institutionalising legal frameworks and improving public policies to fight the multi-faceted monster that is corruption, a major scourge in most African states, leading to major socio-economic setbacks.