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Opinions of Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Columnist: Yeboah, Asamoa Ernest

Escaping to die

Lampedusa- Italy. Thousands of illegal migrants arrive on the island town in Italy every week. They get there by crossing the Mediterranean Sea from the coast of Libya. Most of the illegal immigrants are from West Africa and the Middle East. Those from West Africa are fleeing obviously poverty and abject poverty.
The ones that move from the Middle East as records show politically destabilized countries either due to terrorism, sectarian violence or dictatorial rule etc. Economic factors are not the ultimate cause of their migration. Survival is difficult, one immediate solution is for them to leave; so Syrians, Iraqi’s, Lebanese, Yeminis, Libyans have also made the 1779.2km journey by sea to Italy.
It is not the Journey itself or the distance which these migrants travel that is the problem, rather, the kind of conditions that is associated with the journey. The highest risk involve is the one everyone will face some day- ‘lose their lives’. It is very terrible and mind baffling to see people from West Africa especially, crowded in wooden or inflated rubber boats in this dangerous exodus to the promise land (Europe).
In fact, there are great stories about what illegal immigrants who have embarked on similar journeys are doing to lift the image and the economies of the countries they migrate to. One spectacular story is that of Dr. Munjed Al Muderis who fled Iraq for Australia illegally; experienced and lived the conditions that most of these migrants face and go through. He successfully got to Australia and now is making ground breaking inputs in the world of medicine.
Despite this, it is paramount that this kind of immigration is stopped and stopped in the homelands of the immigrants. The Italian government according to most human right groups and Non governmental Agencies is not doing enough to help the immigrants; essentially the ‘Mare Nostrum’ operation has been put to a hold because illegal immigration across the Mediterranean in Italy’s perspective is a European problem too. Italy is doing what it can.
Bringing back the Mare Nostrum programme will save lots of lives because people, specifically those from West Africa will always cross the sea from the Libyan Coast until they are stopped. This is due to the simple fact that there is no future and hope for them in their home lands and they see their future and hope in Europe. They do not have the means to move legally to Europe. How many of them even have a bank account and are gainfully employed? Thus, they pay for the journey with their lives.
The journey across the Mediterranean Sea is a second phase of the hardships they go through. Making it across the Libyan Desert is very dangerous. Dehydration, sunstroke, exhaustion, encounter with Desert robbers, rebels, militia, terrorist groups, corrupt peace officers and soldiers just to mention a few before one gets to Libya from West Africa is a terribly suicidal fact that needs not to be ignored.
In spite of all these challenges, there is hope. The situation can be curbed and not by the European governments but by the governments of the homelands of the immigrants.
If graduates cannot find jobs due to corruption and mismanagement of national resources, then what happens to those who have no higher education? They have to join the security forces; set up their own small businesses (which are extremely difficult to do) or go into farming (which the youth have develop a great apathy for).
The greatest path to a better future to them will be leaving to secure their future somewhere and that security for the future is what they give their life for; and bring their youthful energy, enthusiasm to succeed and exuberance to an abrupt end.
The economic element in the migration of these West Africans to Europe is the only reasonable explanation to the death of these thousand young West Africans which should be a massive disgrace to African Leaders.
There are always economic interventions by Europeans in African countries. The Europeans push huge sums of money into the economy of West African countries, they even send down personnel to handle technical issues and train people. They cancel debts when it is getting too high and they even sponsor aid programs and philanthropic projects, all in the name of strengthening the economy of the West African countries so that young people would not be desperate to sacrifice their lives to get into Europe.
What do the African leaders do? They spend the money extravagantly on things that are needless and do not bring longtime sustainability and progress of the economy. For instance they live like Arabian Kings in poor West Africa where people die of hunger, preventable diseases, as well as drown in the Mediterranean in their efforts to have a better future in Europe.
The governments of the West African countries have kept quiet over the issue, with a few notable exceptions. Meanwhile, the Europeans have taken the matter to heart and once again are finding the solution to this African problem- while these African Leaders always talk about African solutions to African problems- where is the solution to the deaths of these young ones, Mr. African Leader? Simply put, African leaders must show their creativity in finding a home grown solution to the problem- it can be employment opportunities, unprecedented support for the private sector, incentives for those who stay, loans to start businesses; something to keep the youth home.
Because guns are not firing, bombs are not exploding, people are not dying from strange viruses, lands are not quaking, rivers are not flooding, nobody is protesting, no African leader is speaking. They are dying in no man’s land- in a far away sea. The family members of these leaders are not part of the dead, (they can afford legal immigration) they are not part of those walking the Libyan Desert, and so they (African Leaders) do not find anything strange with this kind of migration.
Almost everybody is aware that the moment the issue will be brought to the public table for digestion; the leaders will start speaking out loud; be boldly using ‘big’ diction; quoting from agreements they made with the European Union on the matter years back and have forgotten about.
African leaders! Create favorable conditions that will make young men and women stay and live to their full potentials. It is very rare if not totally impossible to see an American or a European going through this hustle Africans go through to make it to another land.
Let us hope that we never in our lifetime will have to embark on this kind of immigration- but we should not pretend that Africa’s underdevelopment is what is continuously pushing these young people to die.