This special issue of Pambazuka News shows that the question of migration is entangled with complex political, economic, legal, social, cultural issues. One cannot address this issue from an African perspective without thinking about the violence and pillage rampant on the continent over the past several centuries
For ten years the death toll of African migrants has been endless. In the Atlantic Ocean or the Indian Ocean, in the Sahara desert or the Mediterranean, the dramas of emigration play a scenario where woes are never ending. The images of these Africans - men, women and children - recovered in derisory boats, between life and death, few survivors among the corpses that have staked their odyssey, is recurrent that they tend to fall into banality. It requires that the dead are hundreds for international attention to converge. As in October 2013, when 400 people sank off the coast of Lampedusa, near Italy. Since the 1990s when European countries strengthened their borders and barriers to adopt policies and security measures for “zero immigration,” migration issues have become one of the most critical issues in the field of international relations.
Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "everyone has the right to freedom of movement and choice of residence withina State. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." Current realities are far from embracing this principle, which underlies the free movement of goods and people across the world. Difficulties that stand more and more in the trajectories followed by migrants have transformed the latter into paths of death.
In 2007, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development identified, for the past ten years, approximately 10,000 cases of deaths of illegal immigrants trying to cross the Mediterranean. (1) This was the time when the European Union decided to set up the Frontex, an agency responsible for the management of external borders of the Member States. According to cooperation agreements signed with countries such as Senegal, Mali, and Libya, FRONTEX urged them to curb irregular migration from their own borders.
Despite massive arrests, prison sentences and other forms of repression, these states could never become effective gendarmes to stop the flow of migrants towards Europe. In 2013, some 107,000 migrants were registered in the European space. They came from Somalia, Eritrea, but also Syria, Afghanistan, etc. Forty thousand of them had passed through Libya, while 6,800 took the paths of Morocco and Algeria. (2)
The explosion of migration noted in recent years, despite the repressive policies in force in Europe, is explained largely by wars and civil conflicts increasing in Africa and in the Middle East. In Africa, it is the agricultural crises of the 1970s in the Sahel that generated a movement that has started to increase in 1980s. Previously, migration responded more to a need for adventure or for political reasons, such as to escape repressive regimes (such as the Fulani of Guinea under Sékou Touré), than economic necessity.
For the last thirty years that migration has accelerated, the flows have not decreased. They are diverse, taking different paths to deal with restrictive policies put in place in the countries of transit and destination, where xenophobic sentiments are reflected in increasing policies of exclusion. The success of extreme right parties in the European elections of last May, reflect this attitude of hate against the "Other" perceived as an invader, an employment thief and a source of insecurity.
Vis-à-vis Africa, the images are misleading. Less than a third of migration from West Africa, for example, are moving towards Europe. The movements are especially within the sub-region and towards Central Africa. It is the same in other economic areas in sub-Saharan Africa, such as CEMAC or SADC. Christophe Daum and Isaiah Dougnon claim:
"It is often forgotten in Europe, but the majority of migrants remains within the same continent. Seventy million Africans have emigrated, leaving their country to settle permanently in another. And according to the indicators provided by the OECD, they are only a little over a million and a half to be established in a member state in 2005. This makes 2.6 percent of total African migrants and 2.63 percent of total immigrants recorded in OECD countries."(3)
However, African immigrants within the continent are not always accepted and better protected than in other parts of the world. In the main destination, countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Angola and South Africa, where economic success are attractive, xenophobic violence and massive exclusions are common practices. The pretext is often related to security issues. Migrants, in these times of crisis, are also seen as job thieves. Stigmatized, their fragile livelihoods expose them to all kinds of abuse from traffickers and others, as well as from the government of host countries.
In the field of migration, national sovereignty serves as pretexts for all kind of violations. Violation of the national or international laws, as well as specific legal provisions regarding the protection of migrants to secure their rights to life, dignity, non-discrimination and access to equal protection regarding the law. Whether Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, or international instruments, regional protocols and agreements, etc., the legal framework required to protect discriminatory and humiliating border controls, arbitrary arrests and expulsions, violent and degrading, etc., is the subject of regular violations.
The movement of people across the world are however a dynamic that borders cannot stop. Whether for purposes of work, family reunion, or for security reasons or otherwise, migrants participated in the construction of states and nations through the millennia. Today, migration is a fundamental economic data. According to the World Bank, remittances from migrants to their countries of origin accounted for $ 399 billion in 2012. (4)
For some countries remittances are more than development aid or foreign direct investment. Despite the financial crises of 2008-2009, the World Bank estimates that remittances have not declined. The mobility of people across the world has not reduced either. Today, there are 215 million international migrants. (5)
In African states where neoliberal economic policies and bankruptcies led to reduced or even waived the social investment related to education, health, etc., remittances of migrants remain the main sources of income for many families. They contribute to the construction of the most important basic infrastructure such as schools, health centers, community houses, etc.) in the communities migrants have departed. According to the World Bank, the money sent by Malians in France ensured the construction of 60 percent of community infrastructure. Over a period of ten years, forty associations of Malian emigrants in France participated in the financing of nearly 150 projects, whose value has been estimated at 3 million Euros. (6)
The contribution of migrants to the economic vitality of the host country is often of equal value. Several studies show that "away from clichés, immigration is an economic asset." (7)
This special issue of Pambazuka News shows that the question of emigration is entangled with complex political, economic, legal, social, cultural issues. One cannot address this issue from an African perspective without thinking about the violence of the pillaging of mother earth via the trans-Atlantic slave trade that emptied the continent’s human resources i.e. of African women, men and children and then via colonial extraction of mineral and agricultural resources. The trans-Atlantic slave trade occurred over three centuries in an enforced migration of millions of Africans who became enslaved in the Americas.
But beyond all these considerations, migration in Africa also raises the issue of Pan-Africanism. Policies of migrant repression and exclusion of an individual in another country, other than the one he or she originates from, is a betrayal of the ideal of Pan-Africanism.
* Tidiane Kasse is editor of the French edition of Pambazuka News
1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2 / hi/europe/6283736.stm
6. Africa Renewal – 2005
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