Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Illegal Immigration: Europe as an answer to poverty

17.04.2020
Article from AFRIC Editorial
“Despite the shipwrecks and accidents encountered during their dangerous journeys, Africans still cherish the dream of a better life in the West”. More than 60 illegal Ethiopian migrants were found smothered to death in a container on Tuesday, 1 April. The container was intercepted in northwestern Mozambique, according to information relayed by Africanews.
According to the spokesman of the Mozambican immigration service, Direito, this tragedy was discovered by their agents during a check carried out on the road to the province of Tete, coming from Malawi. A total of 70 migrant citizens, including 64 dead by suffocation, were trying to reach Johannesburg, South Africa with a view to finding a decent job, according to Agence France Presse AFP.

The week before, 250 migrants were rescued near Madama in northern Niger, near Libya, “abandoned by their smugglers in the middle of Covid-19 Crisis” as the International Organization for Migrants IOM pointed out. Moreover, the relief brought to 460 migrants, including seven women and four children stranded in the Sahara Desert last June, illustrates the gravity of the situation. According to BBC reports, “since April 2016, IOM has rescued nearly 20,000 migrants in its operations in Niger, with an average rescue of 1,200 migrants per month”. But according to Martin Wyss, head of mission, these figures don’t reflect the numbers in the field sufficiently. He stresses that these migrants come from the massive expulsion of foreigners by Algeria.

Since his accession to power, Donald Trump has made the fight against immigration one of his main preoccupations. Not only does he want to fight against illegal immigration, he is also attacking the right to asylum. The proof, Wednesday, September 11, 2019, according to the American press, the Supreme Court validated a measure of its administration providing for the automatic rejection of any asylum request filed by migrants who have not first sought refugee status in Mexico or in one of the third countries crossed during their exile to the United States. Italy is not left out in this respect. She and her neighbour Malta openly rejected the ship Aquarius, which was just asking to dock. These are just a few pictures that illustrate not only the determination of Africans to migrate to Europe, but also the radicalism of foreign governments in blocking the way to immigration.

Reasons for immigration

According to Voices of Africa, the labour market is not growing fast enough to accommodate young people. Approximately 10% find a job that suits their abilities and many are suffering because of the low wages. This lack of work often creates a feeling of uselessness that encourages banditry, extremism etc.  And the government becomes a target of frustration for young people.  Moreover, unemployment and underemployment force young people to wait a long time to get a decent job to support their needs. The majority of young employees have precarious jobs. They earn less than the Inter professional guaranteed minimum wage. During the economic downturn, as is the case with the Covid-19 pandemic, they are the ones who suffer most, through partial layoffs. 

In sub-Saharan Africa, the greatest difficulty is the lack of labour market structuring where supply and demand can complement each other. Firms do not create enough jobs because of the tough regulations on hiring and firing. On the other hand, the level of skills and vocational training of young people is low. Discrimination against inexperienced young people, the slowdown in growth, poor access to basic apprenticeships and many other difficulties are combined to hinder access to decent and/or permanent employment.

Although the administration is the main perpetrator of this employment failure, young people too have their share of responsibility. Nowadays, many young people covet the administrative chair. Yet entrepreneurship through agricultural and non-agricultural activities can create jobs and feed their families without any wage hiccups with the state. But many Africans do not aspire to physical effort. It is certainly in this logic and thinking that Europe is paradise, as a Cameroonian artist said so well, some people accept violence to immigrate to Europe at all costs. Thus, there are morbid scenes in the sea, loss of human lives due to dehydration in the desert and on the way to Europe.

This way of thinking was felt in the Mexican files “Between January and May 2019, 2744 people from Africa were arrested” according to the American press, a figure that according to the press is three times higher than in 2018 and ten times higher than in 2008. This has not prevented Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to create 400 jobs for migrants wishing to settle in the south of the country, with the aim of making Mexico “a country of destination and not a country of transit,” said the Mexican statesman. The intention was supported by Gustavo Gascon, IOM’s representative in Mexico.

Nice initiatives that do not seem to convince migrants. Because, according to Le Figaro, this is the most appropriate way to repatriate migrants. Their main objective is to settle in Mexico, more in the United States, in order to find a decent job to meet the needs of their families.  As a result, Africans do not intend to be intimidated. And like Marvik, a Cameroonian approached by our colleague, they are now thousands of Africans, especially Angolans, Congolese or Cameroonians exploring the dangerous roads to the American continent through Ecuador, to reach the United States or Canada.

It should be noted that the migratory flow from Libya to Europe has dropped considerably since the peak of 2017, which has left from 150,000 per year to less than 10,000, according to the American press. This is certainly due to the drastic measures taken by the Nigerien government, which passed a bitter law in 2015 condemning migrant smuggling with penalties of up to 30 years’ imprisonment.  In 2008, the government of Rafael Correa, then president of Ecuador, abolished tourist visa requirements for all nationalities. And while the issue is still being discussed in the US courts, and could come back before the Supreme Court in the coming months, this decision, taken by 7 votes to 2, prevented many Central American migrants from applying for asylum in the United States, unless a prior application has been filed and rejected in a third country.

Spain, Italy and Greece considered as “‘promised land’ ‘

This country has committed to receive fifteen migrants rescued in August 2019 by the Open Arms in the Central Mediterranean. This was within the framework of an agreement on the distribution of migrants on board this humanitarian ship concluded with France, Portugal, Luxembourg and Germany. These fourteen men and one woman from seven African countries including Nigeria, Gambia, and Liberia etc. were stranded for twenty days at sea with dozens of other migrants on the deck of the full boat, due to the refusal of the Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini to let them disembark in Italy. On 20 August, Madrid, the political capital of Spain, had initially sent a military ship to pick up all the migrants on board. But the Italian justice system finally ordered them to disembark in Lampedusa. 

In a press release of Friday, 20 August 2019, the Spanish government said it had taken into account its two main objectives regarding migration and rescues at sea: to ensure the safety and security of people and to ensure that Europe assumes a common, orderly and united policy on migration. This decision has now become a matter of great importance. The country is more than ever in demand by African migrants because of its hospitality and humanitarian policy. 

Spain also claims to be the country that carries out the most rescues in the Mediterranean, having rescued more than 50,000 people last year and more than 10,596 by 31 July 2019. But in view of its good deeds, the flow of migrants to the Iberian Peninsula has curiously decreased. The Ministry of the Interior has justified this drop in illegal immigration by the fact that since January 2019, 14591 migrants have arrived by sea in Spain, 42.5% less than last year. It should be noted that this is the ninth time that Spain has exceptionally become a host country for humanitarian reasons, since June 2018 by 549 from 629 migrants from the ship Aquarius. As a sign of recognition, Spain, a country of intercession, has become the first gateway to Europe for illegal immigration. But according to the International Organization of Migrants, IOM, Spain has been overtaken this year by Greece. 

African governments and those in power should strengthen the education system by providing young people with the maximum number of skills for lifelong learning. Also improve skills related to specific technologies and subsequently deepen them in places of service.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Photo Credit : google image/illustration

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