Mesle A. 07-27-16
Migration in Africa has to be seen against the background of its political history and hence displacement, which may be conflict- or development induced or result from man-made or natural disasters. But more importantly, misunderstandings about the destination countries and misinformation about the gravity of the risks arising along migration routes significantly contribute to the crisis in migration governance in Africa. This collective social psychology in many African communities, especially among Africa’s youth, is encapsulated in the term “anywhere but Africa”. Pressures from host communities and direct family members as well as enticement from families, peers and ethnic ties in the diaspora are accelerating factors in inducing young Africans to decide to take dangerous migration routes.
The world is now getting used to hearing a tragedy every week about a disaster in which tens or hundreds of migrants losing their lives in an attempt to cross seas towards Europe. According to reports, Ethiopians and East Africans are among the refugees on board the ship that capsized on the shores of Europe in the past weeks. This global phenomenon of illegal migration conducted by organized traffickers is affecting almost every continent and every country in the world including Ethiopia.
Reports show that nearly or more than 90,000 migrants mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia were smuggled into Yemen in 2014. Ethiopia is a country of origin and transit to three migration routes in Africa -Northern, Southern and Eastern. Illegal migrants face inconceivable misfortunes such as abductions, mistreatment, starvation and dehydration on route, physical, sexual and psychological abuse, restriction of movements and unpaid labor at destination.
Around 100,000 mixed migrants from the Horn of Africa region travel every year along routes that expose them to the highest possible risks, including death, injury, slavery and torture. The main routes are: the southern route from Kenya, crossing borders into Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi to South Africa; the Gulf of Aden route from Djibouti, Somalia to Yemen across the Red Sea; the East Africa route from Sudan, Chad and Libya to the Mediterranean Sea; the Mediterranean Sea route from the shores of Libya and Egypt to Malta, Italy, Cyprus and Greece; and the Red Sea route across the sea and the Suez Canal to Italy and Malta or Israel through the Sinai desert.
Migration in Africa takes two broad forms: displacement (forced migration) and mobility (voluntary migration). Causes of forced migration include conflicts, natural and man-made disasters and evictions. In addition, there are spontaneous migrations of rural communities as a result of droughts and famine as well as seasonal traditional migration of agro-pastoralist communities in search of water and grazing lands. Such factors cause, accelerate and trigger displacement. Better opportunities, improvements in transport and communications infrastructures and kin community influences also pull people to be more mobile. While displacement needs to be reduced and, where possible, eradicated, mobility provides an integrative opportunity which should be facilitated. However, for mobility to be a positive force for integration and prosperity, it has to be legal, safe and orderly.
Migration should not be treated as a new and negative phenomenon. It has always been part of human history. Mobility that is orderly and legal should be seen as a positive force in the world. Migration should be viewed from a long-term developmental perspective. It is important to note that there is no easy panacea for migration-related challenges, and so foresight and long-term strategic engagement are required. Unless the fundamentals of migration governance are put in place, strategic engagement will be based on false premises. The priority should be to build a migration governance design in Africa, comprising a normative, institutional and collaborative framework involving states and non-state organs that can facilitate voluntary, safe, orderly and legal mobility and curb forced or illegal migration by Africans.
African nations need a sustained civic dialogue and engagement to address erroneous pervasive perceptions and images of dreamland destinations of migration. Africa has to change communities’ prevalent thinking, which has evolved for decades and has now formed a collective psychology of “anywhere except home”. Changing this public perception will require long-term pro-youth economic development, good governance and public engagement. But it also requires short- and medium-term measures to create awareness of the risks of illegal migration along unsafe routes and the real situation in destination countries. This awareness-raising also needs to target the African diaspora in destination countries.
Migration is an individual action based on local situations with global implications. There is therefore a need for long-term global-local collaboration to address the root causes of displacement and illegal mobility. For individuals, migration can be one of the most powerful and immediate strategies for poverty reduction. In the absence of adequate employment opportunities and also over expectation of a bountiful life in the west, many young people seek better opportunities by migrating.
The government of Ethiopia is taking concrete actions on border management, migrant smuggling, trafficking in human beings and other forms of trafficking, and transnational organized crime, in particular focusing on enhanced inter-agency and cross-border cooperation and information sharing. The combat against migrant smuggling is one of the government’s priorities and concrete measures have been set out in the Action Plan against migrant smuggling adopted last year which puts forward strong proposals for countering and preventing the operations of migrant smugglers.
The banning of travels to countries with no legal arrangement with Ethiopia and the negotiations on the establishment of better consular services in the host countries in the Middle East and conducts of bi-lateral agreements between Ethiopia and the host countries in the handling of migrants were also a step forward.
If the world is to succeed in averting further disasters, all actors at international, regional and sub-regional levels should support the national efforts, and the national authorities should serve as backups to local authorities and communities. Voluntary, legal and orderly migration governance means building an inclusive and effective institutional and collaborative framework. Well-resourced migration-related initiatives deliver effectively when states show the political determination to deal with the matter.
The coordination of the public and government can summon adequate resources to provide support for voluntary return and sustainable reintegration of returning migrants, including through circular migration schemes, informing migrants abroad of the labor market situation in their home countries and their return possibilities, training of returning migrant workers and promotion of transfer of social security benefits, and stimulating entrepreneurship; promotion of legal and concrete measures reducing the cost of remittances, and encouraging their productive investment.