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Risking it all to leave home
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Risking it all to leave home

Too many Africans would rather die trying to migrate to Europe than to continue living in their homeland writes Bismark Akoto, 24 year old Correspondent from Accra, Ghana. He argues that unemployment in Africa is not the primary cause of migration and policy makers need to strengthen national institutions and democracy to address this crisis.

A landmark United Nation migration study “Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe ” published in October 2019, shows that 93 percent of Africans who took the irregular journey to Europe would do it again, despite the life-threatening dangers they have to endure along this route. In a chilling report, Vincent Cochetel, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHR) Special Envoy for the Central Mediterranean revealed that more than 50% of the migrants that died on the journey lost their lives before reaching the Mediterranean Sea. 

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. Most Africans use the Eastern and Western Mediterranean routes in search of a better life.

Official figures from the International Organization for Migration indicate that 1,283 deaths were recorded on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes during 2019. It is particularly worrying that innocent minors are sometimes caught up in this humanitarian crisis. In the western Mediterranean for instance, a 6-year old child died during a medical evacuation on October 4 2019.

Even after hearing stories of these fatal experiences; every day, hundreds of Africans including women and children head out in search of real or imagined riches in Europe or America.  Their willingness in making these perilous journeys even at the expense of their lives makes irregular migration a global humanitarian problem. 

In a bid to crackdown on these irregular migration practises, Italy, a member of the European Union, has signed an agreement with Libya which is aimed at preventing migrants from braving the sea towards Europe. The crackdown in Libya led to the detainment of thousands of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers which resulted in overcrowding and rampant human rights abuse at detention centres.  

How can we solve this crisis? We need to look through the lens of migrants to understand their plight. This is exactly the approach which has been taken k by the United Nation Development Programme which makes their work so highly commendable. The work challenges many assumptions around irregular migration which will be essential in formulating workable solutions to this phenomenon. 

In a sharp contradiction to the long held view that irregular migration from Africa is precipitated by economic underpinnings. The report pointed to the fact that getting a job was not the only motivation and that not all irregular migrants were poor or had limited education. The report suggests that 57 per-cent had at least secondary education. In fact 58 percent of the 1,970 individuals interviewed were either employed or in school at the time of their departure.

Secondly, in spite of the progress at home, 77 percent felt their voices were unheard or their country’s political system provided no opportunity through which to exert influence on the government. While the numbers of irregular migrants arriving from Africa may have reduced in recent years, we need to continue working fervently towards a shift from irregular to regular migration. 

This will mean encouraging those who want to migrate to  do so while adhering to the laws of both their home and destination countries. Such advocacy will prevent a lot of them from landing in life-threatening dangers or becoming victims of trafficking and smuggling. Policy makers need to also reassess their approaches. Key among them is the assumption that just job creation will deter irregular migration however this assertion was challenged by two-thirds of the respondents.

With that in mind take look at this crisis in a more holistic way, with a special focus on the factors such as strong institutions and an all-inclusive democracy where the voices of youths and opposition parties are well represented.

I conclude by making a passionate appeal to my fellow youths, your life is so precious and means so much to mother Africa. If you will migrate, do so legally. We are the future of Africa.

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Photo Credit: IOM/Francesco Malavolta 2014

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About me: I am a graduate of the University of Ghana where I studied Political Science. I have been an Assistant Schools’ Coordinator for the National Union of Presbyterian Students-Ghana from 2015 to 2018. I am currently an IT Assistant at Akuafo Hall ICT Laboratory, University of Ghana. I am hugely interested in issues related to education, sustainable development, human right, poverty reduction, democracy and international relations. It’s my vision to use my acquired knowledge to develop my country and Africa.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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