Out of Africa: Why People Migrate
Author (s): Italian Institute for International Political Studies – Giovanni Carbone
Fleeing Repression: Inside Eritrea Nicole Hirt
The troubled birth of Eritrea: between war and oppression
Thirty years of struggle for independence
In a nutshell, the people of Eritrea were the victims of numerous wars and armed struggles, and their experience of democracy was limited to the short period of British administration from 1941 to 1952. During the armed struggle, hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives due to war, famine and political persecution; close to one million Eritreans fled abroad during this challenging time.
From authoritarian system to personal autocracy
The political crisis of 2001 and the shift to one-man rule
Eritrea was ranked last in press freedom from 2007 to 2016 by Reporters Without Borders; in 2017 it changed places with North Korea and is now second to last.
As of today, the president rules with the support of a very small group of advisers, PFDJ cadres and high-ranking military personnel. The Cabinet of Ministers has consisted mainly of the same group of persons for many years, and can best be described as a clique of yes-men and yes-women who do not pose any danger to the power of their boss. Obviously, in this kind of political system, laws are issued by decree of the president.
The limitation of religious freedom: Christians and Muslims as enemies of the state
Officially, the EPLF did not intervene in religious affairs and opted for a secular state, in which practising one’s faith should be a strictly private matter.
After independence, hundreds of Muslims were arrested as alleged jihadists. For instance, 180 persons, most of them teachers, were imprisoned in 1993 because they refused to accept the government-supported mufti. They have remained in custody without trial ever since.
However, the fate of many Christians was not better, since the President was ready to crack down on any Christian denomination which he considered dangerous to his rule. Members of the small community of Jehovah’s Witnesses became his first victims.
The government reacted harshly to the spread of the evangelical movement: in 2002, all religious faiths except Sunni Islam, Orthodoxy, Catholic and Lutheran Christianity were prohibited, and thousands of adherents of the Pente churches were imprisoned.
The political repression-economic hardship circle behind a mass exodus
The militarisation of society and the introduction of a command economy
It has become a well-known fact that most Eritreans flee their homeland to escape the open-ended military and national service.
The growing diaspora is a stabilizing factor, because it sustains the system financially and serves as a valve for political frustration: young people are busy planning their escape instead of working out strategies for how to topple the government, especially after the failed coup of 2013.
However, Eritrea’s military does not function as one strong corpo- ration, but is instead divided into fiefdoms run by generals, many of whom are deeply corrupt and involved in illegal businesses like the smuggling of goods and people and black-market trade
These developments caused an ongoing mass exodus from the country because people were no longer able to earn a living from their work and to support their families, be it in the traditional agricultural and pastoral subsistence sectors or in the wage economy. Even government employees such as teachers, administrative workers and health personnel are unable to support themselves. Consequently, the diaspora has become the main provider of cash for Eritreans inside the country.
Only a fraction of the students are allowed to continue their education at one of Eritrea’s colleges, the only institutions that provide higher education since the University of Asmara was closed in 2006. Those who do not make it are kept in the military, some of them having to serve as soldiers, others as workers on plantations that are run by generals, and many are employed at infrastructure projects.
They receive only pocket money, which is insufficient to support their families. So it is not surprising that most of those who are trapped in the service try to flee the country, many of them with the support of human smugglers. There are substantial numbers of unaccompanied minors among Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia and Sudan, because many try to leave the country before they reach the conscription age of eighteen years.
Flight from Eritrea as a mass phenomenon started during the struggle for independence, when an estimated one million Eritreans left their homeland due to the atrocities of war. The majority settled in neighbouring Sudan, but hundreds of thousands made their way to Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and to the Persian Gulf countries.
The classical flight route (Figure 2) leads from Ethiopia to Sudan and from Sudan to Libya, where boats are used to transport people to the shores of Italy under significant risks, which have become well known to the European public, yet without triggering an adequate response. Human traffickers are involved in almost all cases in arranging the journeys through Sudan and Libya and arranging boat trips to cross the Mediterranean.
European policies to curb migration: the Khartoum Process and its consequences
In 2014 Europe was not only overwhelmed by the influx of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and other refugees via the Balkan route, but numbers of Eritrean refugees reaching Italy also touched a peak of 30,000 people.
Consequently, the EU engaged in the Khartoum Process, which is meant to engage with African heads of state, including ruthless dictators like Isaias Afewerki and Sudan’s Omar al Bashir, both of whom are accused of having committed crimes against humanity. One aim is to enhance border controls, which sounds odd in the case of the Eritrean-Sudanese border, where shoot-to-kill orders are in place on the Eritrean side, even if they are no longer consistently applied.
Nigeria: Leaving Africa’s Giant Aderanti Adepoju
The power of demographic and economic trends in Africa’s largest economy
Rapid population growth places a tremendous strain on development as the disparity between labour force growth and job creation creates migratory pressures by generating high rates of under and unemployment. Instability resulting from political, religious and ethnic conflicts is another strong migration-determinant factor. Widespread poverty and human deprivation, and the deterioration of the well being of the vast majority of the Nigerian population have created sustained pressure for labour emigration.
How many…? The problematic estimates of Nigerian migrants
Estimates of migration flows based on information provided by border control posts are generally inadequate. Border regulations can be circumvented and Nigeria’s extensive and porous land borders make monitoring of cross-border migration very difficult.
Information on the stock and flow of Nigerians abroad is not available in statistical organisations within the country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not have such information, and also claims that Nigerian missions abroad do not maintain a register of nationals in their respective jurisdictions. Embassy sources claim that they usually track only nationals who have been detained or imprisoned, and those awaiting deportation who need urgent assistance from the missions
Estimates of the number of Nigerians abroad range from 0.9 million (according to OECD statistics) to twenty million (as stated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria). This vast discrepancy is partly related to the poor definition of who is classified as a migrant – in either regular or irregular situations – and the definition of the diaspora. The diaspora includes second- and third-generation Nigerians who were born overseas and are foreign passport holders, but still maintain close ties with, and send remittances to, their families at home.
The emigration of Nigerians is mainly intra-regional within the ECOWAS community, largely facilitated by the protocol on the free movement of persons.
All that changed, and in the 1990s, paramedics, nurses and doctors were easily recruited to work in the oil-rich countries of the Middle East (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). An emigration that had started in trickles became a stream.
Nigerian emigration soon diversified to Europe, America, Canada and other previously unconventional destinations such as Australia and Asia. Then followed the next stream of less skilled workers who emigrated as construction labourers and workers in the “3D” – Dirty, Dangerous and Demeaning – jobs that nationals scorn. Most of these found their way via irregular situations and without proper documentation
More than half of the 247,500 Nigerians resident in OECD countries in 2002 were highly skilled professionals. The exodus of professionals also had a gender dimension. Globally, women represent about half (48%) of international migrants. Female international migration from Nigeria has been increasing, with women representing 46.5% of the total international migrant stock from Nigeria in 2005, compared to 36.2% in 1960.
Key drivers of Nigerian migration
Issues usually considered as important factors in causing migration are demographic pressures, political instability, bad governance, low economic performance, and high poverty levels. Rapid population growth, combined with unstable politics, escalating ethnic conflicts, persistent economic decline and poverty, have shaped the trends and patterns of international migration in Nigeria as elsewhere in Africa. Unemployment, which is profoundly concentrated among young people – male and female – in urban areas, is the major driver of migration. Initially localised among secondary school leavers, the pool of unemployed persons has stretched gradually to encompass even graduates of higher-education institutions.
Insecurity in many parts of the country – Boko Haram in the north-east, militants in the Niger Delta region – have scared off investors and resulted in fewer employment-generating enterprises. Corruption is widespread and has had a severely negative impact on employment generation so that doing business becomes unnecessarily expensive in both time and cost – and through the skimming off of investible funds into private treasuries.
The internet has facilitated communication but it has also increased the flow of false and exaggerated information regarding living conditions abroad, and many young people are under undue peer pressure as a result.
Irregular migration and the West’s “closed door” policies
The “closed door” policy of the EU has inadvertently – though not surprisingly – boosted irregular migration by youths bent on securing entry into these more prosperous countries. Faced with strict immigration control measures and tightened barriers to legal entry in what has become a fortressed Europe, a growing number of young people are involved in daredevil ventures, stowed away beneath ships’ decks or in the luggage compart- ments of commercial aircraft – manifestations of their desperation to enter Europe.
Many young people who opt for irregular migration are confronted with severe challenges, including life in slave-like situations, apprehension and deportation in inhumane circumstances, humiliation on return. And of course the highest price is death, either at sea or along the Mediterranean route. For many of these unsuccessful irregular migrants, the financial cost is also enormous. Resources that could have been otherwise invested in SMEs to generate self-employment for sustainable livelihood at home were used to organise botched migration.
Trafficking in persons
Trafficking in human beings involves intermediaries or third parties, especially in criminal gangs. Indeed, in recent years the trafficking of women and children as commercial sex workers or as exploited domestic servants, has assumed alarming proportions, infringing on the human rights of the victims.
It is estimated that 40,000 to 45,000 Nigerian women have become victims of trafficking since the beginning of the century.
Many migrants maintain relationships with their homeland through financial remittances, as well as through social and political remittances. Financial remittances that flow through official routes are not the whole story, as an unknown volume finds its way into the country through informal channels and may be as much as, or larger than, the official total.
Remittances are used to pay for siblings’ education and family health, as well as to refurbish accommodations, and to invest in real estate. Government is currently exploring opportunities for diaspora bond and investment in large-scale low-cost housing. Nigerians in the diaspora have also undertaken regular medical missions to the home country to provide free healthcare services, and exchange skills and networks with their colleagues there.
Conclusions. Policy Implications for the EU Giovanni Carbone and Tiziana Corda
From this, the following policy recommendations could be drawn for the EU.
- The EU should promote a grown-up view of contemporary sub-Saharan Africa.
- The EU should consider the diverse consequences of development policies towards Africa.
- Similarly, rather than focusing solely on the pace of Africa’s economic growth, the EU should pay attention also to its distribution.
- The EU should revise some of its restrictive migration policies that have failed to solve the issues they tried to tackle. Policies aimed at better patrolling the external borders of the EU have actually generated unintended consequences.
- Finally, the EU should recognise that climate-change policies also have a potential for affecting African migration.
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