Tuesday, 22 September 2015

A Perspective On The European Refugee, Migration Surge



Just as the killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe by a US dentist - Walter Palmer sparked global outcry against illegal poaching of endangered animals in Africa and a Cause for the preservation of such species, the harrowing image of the dead body of an innocent 3-year old boy - Aylan Kurdi in a beach in Turkey heightened the debate on immigration and brought the plight of refugees to the front burner.
The Syrian boy and his family were said to be fleeing from the war in raging Syria when their jam-packed boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. Many European countries pooh-poohed letting in the Syrian refugees into their countries until the picture of the dead body of Aylan Kurdi circulated across the world.

A Migrant Cemetery?

The United Nations refugee agency – UNHCR asserts that the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean to touch Europe had exceeded 300,000 this year, up from 219,000 in the whole of 2014. A while ago, ‘’Austrian authorities reported that 71 refugees including a baby girl were found dead in an abandoned freezer truck, while Libya recovered the bodies of 82 migrants washed ashore after their overcrowded boat sank on its way to Europe’’. Similarly, ‘’200 bodies were also discovered a kilometer from Zuwara, a port in western Libya reputed to be one of Libya’s main people-smuggling hubs’’. The list is almost endless!
In a speech in Ankara, the Turkish President – Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused European countries of ‘’turning the Mediterranean Sea – the cradle of ancient civilization into a migrant cemetery’’.
 
’’The Refugee Crisis That Isn't’’

Writing under the banner: ‘’The Refugee Crisis That Isn't’’, Kenneth Roth (@kenroth), the executive director of Human Rights Watch contends that ‘’the so-called "wave of people" coming to Europe is more like a trickle when considered against the pool (EU population is roughly 500 million) that must absorb it’’. He goes further to say that ‘’the influx this year is only 0.068 percent of the EU's population. Considering the EU's wealth and advanced economy, it is hard to argue that Europe lacks the means to absorb these newcomers’’.

‘’To put this in perspective, the U.S., with a population of 320 million, has some 11 million undocumented immigrants which amounts to about 3.5 percent of the U.S. population. The EU, by contrast, had between 1.9 and 3.8 million undocumented immigrants in 2008 (the latest available figures), or less than one percent of its population, according to a study sponsored by the European Commission. Put another way, nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population (some 41 million residents) are foreign-born -- twice the proportion of non-EU foreign-born people living in Europe’’.

Security, cultural concerns and heightened xenophobia

Granted the current refugee, migration surge will possibly have security implications and consequences especially if terrorists - Islamic militants from Syria, Islamic State (ISIS), Libya, and Somalia conceal themselves in the flow of genuine refugees since most if not all the refugees lack basic IDs. Another growing concern among some European countries is that of culture; some fear the influx of foreigners will dent their long established ways of life. Countries such as Poland, Bulgaria, and Slovakia have voiced a strong preference for only Christian refugees while far right politicians and political parties, the likes of Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Matteo Salvini of Italy, Milos Zeman in the Czech Republic and the UKIP party in Britain, are crying wolf.

Why People Seek Refuge, Migrate

Migration whether forced or voluntary, is as old as humanity. There are occasions when people intentionally leave their abode in search of greener pastures, to change environment or they are forced to flee their homeland to escape persecution, torture, genocide, wars, or unwholesome traditional practices such as female genital mutilation amongst others. Hence article 14 of the UNHCR expressly states that, ‘’everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries, asylum from persecution’’.

History reminds us that starting from the year 1847, the ‘’Irish Potato Famine’’ forced more than a million Irish to migrate to the United States. Same way Western powers and imperialists balkanized Africa and the rest of the world to their own advantage.

The African Economic Migrants Connection
 
African Migrant Hidden in Car Engine
An Igbo proverb opines that, ‘’if you see a frog running across the road in the afternoon, it is either it is pursuing something or something is pursuing it’’. The quest by desperate Africans to travel overseas (Europe, North America amongst others) in search of greener pastures can be stronger than the urge to have sex. An upsurge of do-or-die economic migrants majorly from sub-Saharan African countries such as Nigeria, Somalia, Ghana, Cameroon and Eritrea amongst others are currently exploiting the lacuna in Libya and the Turkey-Greece crossing as a ‘Launchpad’ to western Europe – and unfortunately, many of them don’t make it to Europe alive. Lately, a West African migrant got into the Spanish territory of Ceuta from Morocco curled up inside a compartment in a car engine while another was hidden behind the back seat of the Mercedes-300 car. Recently also, a Moroccan fellow suffocated to death in a suitcase after his brother attempted to smuggle him to mainland Spain aboard a ferry from Melilla. Though humans are naturally wired to be naturally curious, adventurous and to quest for better opportunities but curling inside the engine of a car to slip into Europe is surely overboard.

The Immigration Double Standard?

Is it not an irony that rich countries are competing amongst themselves, wooing moneyed aristocrats, affluent and highly skilled migrants with various visa programs even direct citizenship to enable such folks migrate to their countries but they disdain desperate, endangered poor folks from coming to their countries? The richest man in Britain as at September 2015 is Ukrainian – Mr. Len Blavatnik with an estimated fortune of about £13.17 billion, followed by Indian brothers – Sri and Gopi Hinduja. These guys are not a British-born citizens but immigrants.

Africans Must Look Inwards

As we say in Nigerian parlance, folks don’t often realize that ‘what they are looking for in Sokoto is right there in their Shokoto’. This popular saying means what you expend energy, money travelling to a great distance to look for, is after all just within your reach. While South Africa took the first position, Nigeria was recently ranked 3rd in Africa on a list of countries with the highest number of dollar millionaires. I think Nigeria’s ranking is a very conservative guesstimate. We needn’t be reminded that the richest man in Africa today – Aliko Dangote is a Nigerian. It baffles the mind that this same Nigeria where millions wallow in abject poverty and its youths are desperate to travel to Europe and America, boasts of a large chunk of dollar millionaires. It is mind-boggling that the Chinese, Indians, Lebanese are trooping to Nigeria to tap into the huge investment and business opportunities inherent in Nigeria while many self-opinionated Nigerians believe they cannot make it unless they travel to Europe or America.

Negative Consequences of Bad Immigration Choices

It is not unusual for a typical uninformed I-must-travel-abroad Nigerian to render a testimony in church for securing a visa to say, Guyana after been brainwashed he will waltz into the US from Guyana. Off they go. Several years down the line, geezer is stuck there and is ashamed to come back to Nigeria. Countless marriages have been ruined with children growing up not knowing either of their parents because either of their parents migrated abroad in search of greener pastures and things didn’t pan out well.

Please don’t get it twisted, there is no denying the fact that migration or travelling is a great experience. Been there, done that, this writer is simply of the view that it is not worth it curling up inside the engine of a car to get to Europe or for 300 folks to throw caution to the wind, pay people smugglers to traffic them to Europe in a boat meant for 100 people. Contrary to fantasies of Eldorado and grandeur depicted in movies, if I had not been there and seen with my eyes, I wouldn’t believe there are beggars, homeless, poor and miserable people in Europe. If you are entrenched, have a good job or business in your home country and your country is not experiencing any conflict, it is not worth it selling everything you‘ve got to travel to Europe by road or sea and end up an illegal immigrant. If you are bent on travelling or moving abroad, there are genuine ways of going about it.

Sequel to harsh economic realities, most Western countries are tightening the noose and stymying loopholes in their immigration procedures. Bear in mind that as an illegal immigrant in the West, you are not entitled to and will not have access to medical care, education, good jobs etc. If and when the new rules been proposed by the British Home secretary – Theresa May comes into effect, illegal immigrants will find it difficult to rent houses.

Remote, Immediate Causes of the Refugee, Migration Wave

Interestingly some Western nations whining about unprecedented migration and refugee challenge are directly or indirectly responsible for this conundrum through their hostile economic policies, undue self-interested and meddlesomeness in the internal affairs of other countries. A time-tested Igbo proverb opines that ‘’you inadvertently invite lizards to your house when you fetch firewood-infested ants to your house’’. Granted late Libyan leader Gaddafi may have been a tyrant and all that but Libya was more cohesive under him than it is now. The chaos in Libya and Syria is definitely having a butterfly-effect on Europe. Hell-bent to oust President Assad of Syria, some Western government’s tacitly and overtly splashed out arms, cash and trained hardline Islamic militants who they used to fight a proxy war against the Assad regime. Four years down the line, President Assad is yet to abdicate. The Syrian crises has evolved while radical Islamic militants continue to have a free rein, balkanizing swathes of territory out of Iraq and Syria which they now call – The Islamic State or ISIL. More than 200, 000 Syrians have died as at March 2015 and about four million Syrians have fled while another 7.6 million are internally displaced as a result of the ongoing conflict which has been described as ‘’one of the largest refugee exoduses in recent history. The UN Secretary General - Ban Ki-Moon admits that ‘’the United nations is failing Syria’’. Make no mistakes; one is not holding brief for President Assad and his ilks, just trying to highlight some far-reaching consequences of self-interested policies of Western powers.
It is a shame that oil-rich Arab countries - Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain have not come to the aid of fleeing Syrian refugees rather they prefer bankrolling factions of Islamist forces in Syria, Yemen.

Recommendations on how to curb the refugee, migration challenge:

1.    At the risk of reiterating the obvious, European leaders must not be reminded that under the Geneva Convention, ‘’EU countries are duty-bound to protect any person owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’’ hence the EU have a legal, moral and humanitarian obligation to assimilate and offer succor to distressed refugees fleeing from danger.

2.    Building fences or teargassing refugees as Hungary is currently doing, is not the solution to the problem. Please take a cue from the large-heartedness of the Germans. Perhaps the refugees can be redistributed amongst EU countries since ‘’the so-called "wave of people" coming to Europe is more like a trickle when considered against the pool (EU population is roughly 500 million) that must absorb it’’

3.    It will help if Western powers are less meddlesome and seldom impose their divide-and-rule policies on other nations.

4.    African leaders, countries must tackle corruption and create jobs for its teeming population. On the other hand, African youths must realize that patriotism beckons on them to contribute their little quota in advancing their countries. The fore-fathers of these countries we are running to made sacrifices in making their countries what they are today. For the desperate economic migrants, it appears many of them were carried away by false expectations, peer pressure or youthful exuberance. Yes, it is rough in Africa but we must be resilient!

5.    It is high time something was done about the very stringent visa controls and complex processes involved in refugee applications.  It was reported that Canada rejected ‘’a ‘G5 private sponsored refugee applications’’ for Aylan Kurdi’s dad made by a relative - Teema Kurdi, a hairdresser in Vancouver who has lived in Canada for more than 20 years.

Written By:

©Don Okereke
(Security Analyst/Consultant, Writer/Blogger, Ex-Serviceman, Change Agent)

Email: donnuait (a) yahoo.com
Twitter: @DonOkereke
September, 2015