AU, EU and legal migration to Europe

[FILES] African Union secretariat

A move by the African Union (AU) and the European Union (EU) to ease legal migration to European countries with a view to checking the number of youths who lose their lives taking illegal routes, is a right step in the right direction.

This development may not be unconnected with the realisation that more legal, safer and better managed migration is imperative for a win-win scenario for Africa and the rest of the world because it is a catalyst for economic growth and structural transformation.

Migration contributes to gross domestic product, employment, trade, poverty reduction and inclusive growth. In fact, migrants boost economic transformation in destination countries.

An increase in migration is associated with productivity in agriculture, construction, mining, services and information technology (IT) because migration reduces skills and labour market gaps in destinations.

According to the Deputy Representative (Protection), United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Brigitte Mukanga-Eno, because most of the companies abroad still need labour, it might be expedient to organise a proper way to ease migration instead of rejecting visa application and allowing young people follow the risky roads and illegal routes.

Specifically, stringent visa processing methods, which have led to tragic media stories on such migrants, have compromised international relations.

For instance, last year a CNN footage of a live auction in Libya, where black youths were presented to north African buyers as potential farmhands and sold off for as little as $400 brought to the fore the ugly reality of the plight of illegal migrants. Libya, as a transit country, became the African slave ‘market’.

This classical slavery in the 21st century has left many people in dissonance and devastated, as they see human lives on television being auctioned off for as little as $400 all for the purposes of manual labour.

This means that their labour is needed in other countries but they were exploited because many of them could not get visas due to stringent processing methods after paying prohibitive fees. So, they often resort to migrating illegally.

Again, on November 6, 2017, reports of the deaths of 26 Nigerian teenage girls, washed ashore in the central Mediterranean Sea (en route to Italy from Libya) were gory.

The president and founder of the Pan African Institute of Global Affairs and Strategy, Ambassador Martins Uhomoibhi, recently stated that in 2016 alone, close to 9,000 people were lost while going through the desert and the Mediterranean in search of greener pasture because of widespread poverty at home.

Other possible reasons for illegal migration include ignorance, peer pressure, for study and work in the urban city and abroad, violent conflicts, weak legal system, porous borders and corrupt government officials.

Other factors include involvement of international organised criminal groups or networks, limited capacity of or commitment by immigration and law enforcement officers to control borders, lack of adequate legislation, political will and commitment to enforce existing laws or mandates, false marriage proposals from men to women who plan to sell them into bondage and the practice of entrusting poor children to more affluent friends or relatives, which may create vulnerability.

Apart from supplying labour, migration boosts trade and stimulates the economy in destinations and in sending countries as it leads to greater trade generated by immigrants’ food imports from their nations; more heritage (nostalgia) trade and tourism by diaspora populations back to their countries of origin; increased tax revenue and consumption in destinations as immigrants spend an estimated 85 per cent of their incomes where they live.

Also, migration boosts much needed knowledge transfers to sending countries. Again, reports show that migration by extension is associated with 10 out of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) – 1, no poverty; 2, zero hunger; 3, good health and well-being; 4, quality education; 5, gender equality; 8, decent work and economic growth; 9, industry, innovation and infrastructure; 10, reduced inequalities; 16, peace, justice and strong institutions; and 17, partnerships for the goals in sending and destination countries.

Therefore, it is safe to argue that Africa’s diaspora (both male and female) within and outside the continent play a key role in the long-term development of sending and destination countries. However, the narratives about migration in the media give cause for concern.

In the midst of the general invisibility of irregular migrants in the media, most portrayals refer to migrants in connection with themes of “trafficking,” “prostitution,” “slavery” and death because cases of enslavement, drowning and killings of trafficked Nigerians in search of utopia greener pastures flood our newspapers, magazines and broadcast space.

The deaths were framed within the broader context of the dangers of the migrant sea route and the sexualised violence of human trafficking via these routes.

The media narratives discount the perspective that migration is necessary for the socio-economic transformation of nations and contributes to greater trade.

Most of the narratives discourage emigration, exhorting African migrants to remain in their countries and find ways to develop them.

This fits in with the European agenda of discouraging non-Western migrants from immigrating to Europe.

Therefore, the reproduction of the Western media narratives in the Nigerian space attests to the hegemonic power of foreign discourses on migration.

Obviously, the dominant Western narrative of African migrants in need of rescue is uncritically reproduced, thus proving the hegemonic and global nature of Eurocentric migrant narratives.

Therefore, the bestial treatment of migrants enroute Europe should not be allowed to continue.

This is why a report that the AU and EU are collaborating to work on policy support instrument to ease legal migration should be taken seriously.

The two regional bodies should walk the talk to end illegal migration having realised the potential of migration. They should come up with and implement policies to ease migrants’ mobility and enable people to migrate legally.

Achieving this requires aligning migration, trade and investment policies with development objectives of the source and destination countries.

Critically, while female migration requires specific policy frameworks addressing vulnerable employment, discrimination and safety concerns.

In addition both origin and destination countries should note that its potential can be fully realised if there is greater coherence across migration, trade, investment and technology policies with a specific emphasis on human capital and skills development, taking cognizance of these in policy formulation.

As for the media, their narratives on migration should be more human-centred and not stereotypical, that is, tying it to poverty at home and greener pasture abroad.

The mainstream media in Africa should not just be quoting their western counterparts’ bias on the issue.

There should be follow-ups by the media on the expediency of the reported collaboration between the AU and EU on legal migration within the context of positive globalisation.

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