Migration from North Africa: A land of opportunity for Africa, an uninvited guest to Europe

CONF 340 / Myungjin Choi / November 5, 2019

Abstract:

Migration is one of the most popular movement that has been widespread around the world. There are many different reasons for the migration such as to find work, education, avoid politics and culture. Particularly in Africa, there are massive population movements; displaced people and labor migrants across national boundaries from the African continent to the Europe caused by poverty, violent conflict and environmental stress. However, many European countries are not willing to allow the African migrant and immigrant workers to join their countries who are mostly the poor people attempting to improve their lives. They think that African migration causes negative influence to the international and capitalist development in Europe. On the other hand, some European historian think that African migration can be beneficial to the Europe that labor exporting movement can improve the economic changes. Under the UN Development Programme (UNDP) report, interviewing 1970 migrants from 39 African countries in 13 European nations, many African migrants did not move to Europe for the job; instead they wanted to earn better lives from the developed countries because they did not have enough food, water, shelter, medicine and education.

Background:

The large scale African migration started around 200,000 years ago due to the technological innovations that caused the increase of population and their expansion to the urban areas. For example, 15,000 years ago in Egypt and Sudan, with their development of cultivation using the way of mechanized farming, damaged environment by reducing arable soil and causing desertification to spread. Climate changes also have been cause for migration that drought has forced inhabitants to leave many locations throughout the continent because of their poor agriculture and water scarcity. After the end of WW2, some European countries were economically booming because that local workers could not fill the vacancies and labor reservoirs were limited. Therefore North-Western European governments headed to Africa to find solutions from the migrants. During the 15th century, the Portuguese first arrived on the West African coast for the slave trade and were soon followed by the Dutch, British and French. The slave trade rapidly developed European economies and commodities while destroying opportunities for economic and political development in Africa. Famous historian Walter Rodney viewed slave trade was beneficial to the European economy, saying that “Europe has developed by under developing Africa.” Furthermore, there has been a concept of migration in the past, but it is different from the current concept. While the number of migrants now increases due to the civil war, food and water shortages, in the past, Europeans forcibly took and colonized many slaves as they occupied Africa. Thus, if it was a forced migration in the past, it is now a trend to move first to find a better lives. Currently, many North African immigrants are crossing the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. And this issue is considered to be a very central issue among countries in the European Union, including Italy, France, Germany, Hungary and Malta, with different opinions on migration. While Italian officials think that North African Movement as economic migrants, many other EU states considered it as war refugees.

Economic Migrants vs. War refugees

In July 2019, newly elected and re-elected members of European Union Parliament has reviewed EU’s foreign policy to find a compromise throughout the meeting, which includes the issue of irregular migration of North Africans to European borders. This meeting has been took place at the fortified coastal city of Birgu in Malta after Italy’s new coalition government agreed to open one of its ports to a second NGO boat carrying 182 migrants from North Africa. This has been the most complicated and sensitive issue faced by EU policymakers beside the Brexit. While some think that African migration was absolutely beneficial in the past from the labor opportunity and expanding market, in recent days, many EU members think that migration is limiting job opportunities to their national people, fleeing violence, economic decline, persecution and their sizes are expanding tremendously. On 2015, they said, “Europe is longer experiencing the migration crisis.” It is common that most African migrants coming to Europe are desperate people who suffer from poverty and warfare and they are most likely the refugees. They must be repatriated.

Thus, this migration issue has caused serious controversy between the countries in the European Union. Germany and France strongly opposed Italy’s acceptance of North African refugees and migration. Italy has issued temporary residency permits to migrants, stressing the importance of European and African solidarity. However, other European Union countries said that if they continue to accept migrants from Africa, more people will continue to come and damage the European people in economy and employment.  

Speaking at the annual Atreju’ meeting in the Italian capital Orban said: “if you are willing to repatriate immigrants, we will try to help with repatriation. Shared distribution, not. Shared repatriation would be very good.” Oppositions rejected the idea migration can lead to cultural enrichment, arguing integration fails and warned migration brings “public safety problems.”

Due to the undecided policy from European Union on migration, Europe is struggling with rising levels of migrants from Africa. There are different views existing in the Europe upon the African migration that some agree with migration that it helps labor shortage and commodities in Europe, which helps their economic survival. On the other hand some disagree with continuous migration and illegal immigration that if it starts to accept, it will continue to accept and it will have a lot of negative impact on the rights and employment opportunities of the European people. This argument among European Union member state is still progressing toward a more standardized EU immigration policy.

Reference:

https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-21674-4_3

https://www.voanews.com/europe/eu-divided-again-question-migrant-burden-sharing

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/23/eu-nations-come-to-italys-aid-over-relocating-migrants

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-44633606

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