By Sylvanus Wekesa
Historically, migration has been an important part of human socio-economic activities and has facilitated activities such as trade, search for pasture, adapting to changing climatic conditions among others. In the post-Cold War era and more so in the post-911 period, the establishment of strict migration policies and tighter border control points have significantly hampered the cross-border movement of people. Despite genuine push factors that necessitate people to migrate, there is an invisible force that tries to hinder this. Countries have tightened their borders, introduced strict anti-immigration laws and host populations are fearful and hesitantly receptive and welcoming of new immigrants.
Migration therefore has become a contentious issue. Many countries receiving huge flow of immigrants complain of the perceived or otherwise negative effects brought by immigrants. In Europe, local citizens complain of increase in crime, stress on the available social amenities and general overcrowding. In Africa, citizens complain of immigrants taking their jobs, women and also in the era of terrorism, that immigrants pose a greater security threat.
This conversation on the malcontents of immigration is ripe, and is one we cannot shy away from. Over 30 million Africans are immigrants living in various parts of the world. Reports indicate that over 40,000 have drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea since 2000, and this does not include those who do not make it while crossing the Sahara desert. Within Africa, many who have migrated to other African countries are faced with the threat of xenophobia and discrimination.
This migration saga is unfolding against the backdrop of the narrative “Africa rising,’’ which in many ways seems counter-intuitive. If Africa is indeed rising, what remains inexplicable is the large number of its youthful population who risk their lives by spending significant amounts of financial and other resources to cross into Europe. Despite the violence that we have witnessed meted on immigrants in South Africa, droves of young people are still being smuggled into the country on a daily basis.
In this issue, we provide various perspectives on migration within and outside of Africa. Desmond Davies takes us through the tragedy of the Mediterranean journey, and also examines how the European Union and African Union have responded to this issue. Barney Walsh examines the perceptions of immigration in the UK, a country that has come out vehemently against plans by the EU to rescue immigrants trapped in the sea. Nayanka Perdigao analyses how EU countries are reacting to this issue. The issue ends with Moses Tofa, who tells the South African xenophobia story from an immigrant’s point of view.
We really hope you enjoy this issue of Voice of ALC, and hope that it helps spark larger conversations around this very important issue.
About the Author:
Sylvanus Wekesa is currently a Research Assistant at the African Leadership Centre, Nairobi.