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The Scramble Out of Africa

D 27 février 2015     H 05:58     A     C 0 messages

Thousands have drowned in the Mediterranean, a tragedy of untold proportions. The question is : why do they take the risk ? The influx of desperate human beings cannot be stopped. They put their lives at risk because they live in dire conditions and there is no other way for them but to try under all circumstances to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. Many motivating factors are involved rampant poverty, desertification caused by climate change, rive political corruption, disease and hunger and now the new phenomenon of so-called Muslim jihadist activity. A recent resurgence of conflict in the Central African Republic, Mali, northern Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan has continued to displace millions, pushing ever more young men north towards Europe. The Libyan coasts are wide open. Beatings and rape by Libyan smugglers holding migrants as virtual prisoners in buildings and walled courtyards while they wait for the next boat. The inhumane human traffickers are rubbing their hands in glee at the expectation of more ill-gotten gains, not lacking custom, so long as men with a mission do their worse still prevails. Yet the emphasis on the people smugglers diverts attentions away from the core problems. The search for better jobs and higher incomes still drives much of the human tide across the Mediterranean. But the economic migrants are now joined by swelling crowds of Syrians fleeing their civil war-racked country, by Somalis escaping lawlessness and sectarian strife, and by political refugees from the "Arab Spring," the pro-democracy movements in the Middle East that have traded authoritarian rule for near-anarchy in countries such as Libya, Egypt and Yemen. Many middle- and upper-class Syrians who have the means for safer travel. “All the Syrians tell us : ‘Me, if I could leave by plane (for Europe), I would buy a ticket. I would pay for accommodation,’” Chiara Montaldo, project coordinator with MédecinsSans Frontières Italy says. “Even when they arrive here, they ask us : ‘Please, can I go to the hotel ? We will pay ourselves.’ But they can’t. They are obliged to travel irregularly, risk their lives, sometimes lose their lives, because the current situation doesn’t give them any other choice.”

While all refugees are migrants, not all migrants are refugees. An increasing number are fleeing poverty rather than persecution. They come seeking work to send money home. There are no other ways to enter. There’s no common European policy on labour migration. The only way you have to migrate is to request asylum. So people are forced to migrate in an irregular way — because there are no other legal channels. Some eventually secure work permits, some fabricate stories of persecution, and a number will be returned home — at which point it is common to try again, arriving next time with a different story. A particularly common narrative among Nigerians is to claim they are Christians from a village where the Muslim terrorists Boko Haram destroyed their church.

The deaths last week are the result of the cynical argument advanced by the British government of Prime Minister David Cameron that, if migrants know they are likely to die in the process, they will not set out for Europe. The facts tell a different story. Many predicted that deaths on the Mediterranean would rise after Italy’s Mare Nostrum marine rescue program was replaced by the much smaller European Triton border-patrol program at the start of this year. Mare Nostrum, managed by the Italian Navy, was credited with saving more than 100,000 people in 2014. Italy could have done nothing, leaving those making the treacherous crossing to fend for themselves. It could have taken a Fortress Europe approach — turning boats back. Instead, to both its credit and its burden, it chose the humanitarian route. The country poured immense resources — the equivalent of almost $13 million a month — into intensive search-and-rescue operations along with an irregular mosaic of short- and long-term accommodation. Interceptions became routine ; the new normal. But Italy felt it was handling the lion’s share of what should have been a shared EU responsibility. For many migrants, Italy is little more than a geographically convenient and receptive stopover. Their ultimate destinations, so they hope, are the stronger economies and better social safety nets of Norway, Sweden and Germany. Canada is frequently mentioned as a possible home.

Africa is rich beyond the dreams of avarice but its people have never enjoyed its riches. Both foreign and native exploiters have relegated its people to abject poverty and endemic misery for generation upon generation. If your father is a peasant farmer, and your grandfather was too, what are the chances that you’ll make something different of your life ? Your chances of having better economic prospects than your parents has been relatively low in Africa.

A study looked at five African countries : Ghana, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Madagascar, using a set of nine surveys conducted in the 1980s to early 2000s, to get a sense of the shift through generations. The five countries have a similar economic and labour market composition – all have a large rural population with agriculture as the backbone of the economy and limited earnings from natural resources (except Ghana, recently becoming an oil exporter). When computed over arable land, population density is similar across the five countries, and the vast majority of agricultural workers are smallholder farmers. Because most African economies are not growing fast enough to keep up with demographic pressures, young people entering the labour market often have to accept whatever job they are lucky to get, with the hopes that there will be better opportunities in the future. But the study found that whatever kind of job you start out in is the field you were probably going remain in for the long term. They found that once a person starts working – in whatever job they are lucky to get – transitions were rare, particularly if you were working in agriculture. They found the occupation of parents is a huge determinant in where their children were likely to end up working : the sons of farmers were 4 to 22 times as likely to be farmers themselves, than the sons of non-farmers were. Over the course of a decade, only about 10% of workers transitioned between farm and non-farm jobs.

Lives are lost every day in the most cruel of circumstances because people flee out of despair and try to cross the sea in rickety boats. Because of human misery, because of despair, for reasons of persecution in their home countries, these people have nothing else but to take an unseaworthy boat to a European haven. In addition, they often find the circumstances awaiting them more difficult than those they fled.

Source from http://socialistbanner.blogspot.com/