Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The immigration paradox: is development fueling African illegal immigration to Europe

About 40 West African migrants were feared dead, many from hunger and thirst, after their boat spent 12 days at sea in a failed attempt to reach the Canary Islands, the police said Tuesday.

The fishing boat set off from the southern region of Casamance and ran aground Saturday in the outskirts of the capital of Senegal, Dakar, after its captain turned back to save the remaining passengers.

"The survivors said there were around 40 dead and they threw their bodies overboard," a police spokesman, Colonel Alioune Ndiaye, said.

Many of the victims died of hunger and thirst after they ran out of food and water, Ndiaye said.

As the story points out, “thousands of West Africans have died in attempts to escape one of the world's poorest regions and build a better life in Europe.” Yet Norwegian researcher Jørgen Carling has argued that only one percent of all people who attempt to cross into Europe from Africa die, leading people to believe that higher death toll is the result of higher number of people making the trip.

One of the reasons the trip is worth making is there are now many jobs to have in Europe, even in the informal sector. "Spain's economic miracle of the last decade has played a big role, as Spaniards, like other wealthy Europeans, have happily abandoned low-skilled jobs to newcomers to Iberia. The problem is the destination encompasses more than Spain," writes Sarah Wildman in the American Prospect.

Fortress Europe?
"It's not security measures, it's not prisons in Madrid and walls in Africa that will solve the problem," said Chief Executive of the African Union Alpha Oumar Konare.

Instead, the European Union attempt to solve the problems at the heart of this issue: poverty and very few job possibilities for young Africans. In 2005, European Union officials decided to attempt to boost African economies was the most sensible method to prevent people from making the perilous journey. This initiative calls for a €20 billion increase in the developmental aid budget by 2010, which would rise to €25 billion at the end of the decade. According to the plan, much of the money will go to build or restore transport infrastructure on the continent.

"The problem of immigration, the dramatic consequences of which we are witnessing, can only be addressed effectively ... through an ambitious and coordinated development cooperation to fight its root causes," said Barroso.

"The EU strategy ... will mark a true turning point to help Africa help itself," added EU aid commissioner Louis Michel, noting that the strategy still has to be approved by the European Parliament and EU governments.

Who are you?

Although commonly portrayed as "destitute" or "desperate," migrants are often relatively well educated and from moderate socio-economic backgrounds. They move because of a general lack of opportunities, fear of persecution and violence, or a combination of both.

Although the media focus on "boat migrants," many employ other methods — using tourist visas and false documents, hiding in vehicles on ferries, and scaling or swimming around the fences surrounding the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco.

From the perspective of Burkina Faso, this makes sense. African Universities are overcrowded, but still functioning. As education rates increase in countries like Burkina, more people are given the hope that a university degree will provide a ticket to a better life. These people complete their schooling and find their job prospects are very limited. Instead of settling for jobs they could have secured with less education, they wait and wait. Eventually, it seems, they stew enough and decide to take matters into their own hands.

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