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Illegal Migration From West Africa To Europe History Essay

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Illegal migration from West Africa to southern Europe has increased rapidly in recent times. An illegal migrant is defined as anyone who migrates to a country without any form of identification. Since the year 2000, the population of West African born migrants in Italy, Portugal, Spain, France and the Netherlands has swelled with close to 73,000 per annum (de Haas "Irregular Migration from West Africa" 46) . Close to 25,000 people from Africa have arrived illegally in Europe since the beginning of 2008(Adepoju et al 48). Illegal migration has become a big problem that affects both Africans and Europeans in diverse ways. The total number of successful entries by West African migrants is between 25,000 and 35,000 yearly ( de Haas," Irregular Migration from West Africa"4 6). A lot of West Africans leave their native land to Europe in search of greener pastures. During their journey to Europe they encounter all sorts of problems, in which most of them loose their lives. Most of the migrants are aware of the problems they might encounter but are still determined to make the journey. About 2000 African migrants are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean each year while attempting irregular crossing to Europe (BBC News 2007).The rapid increase of illegal migration from West Africa to Southern Europe has claimed a lot of lives of Africans in the process.

One of the reasons why West Africans migrate to southern Europe is to escape from political instability, violence and wars (Haas, "Irregular migration from Africa" 14-15). In war torn countries such as Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, people try to escape illegally to foreign countries to avoid being maimed or killed for supporting a particular political group. Guinea is also another vivid example. In West Africa, harsh living conditions such as extreme poverty have caused people to migrate (de Haas, "Irregular Migration from Africa to Europe" 14-15). Due to the frequent coup d'états in some West African nations, living conditions have become extremely unfavourable. As a result of all of these reasons, it deters people from investing in these countries thereby hindering development in the countries. Since most of the countries in southern Europe are developed, these migrants want a better life for themselves and their families hence their only resolution is to find ways and means to enter Europe.

In West Africa, a lot of people are denied visa and traveling permits because authorities fear that the migrants may over stay or not come back to their native countries. The reason for this is because a large number of people who travel end up becoming permanent citizens hence there is an increase in the country's population and social vices in that particular country. Due to the difficulties in acquiring visas to Europe, a large number of migrants have identified new routes to their intended destinations to southern Europe through the Sahara desert. Most migrants take the rough and dangerous journey from West Africa to southern Europe through Libya (Sulley and El Hawat 3). Migration from West Africa to Southern Europe has many phases and may take months and years, some migrants settle provisionally in small towns located at their routes to save money and work to continue their journey (de Haas, 2006). After the migrants leave West Africa they travel to a town in Niger called Agadez, making Agadez a popular town for illegal migrants (Sulley and El Hawat, 3).

For each stage the migrants go through, they face life threatinig situations in which a lot of them loose their lives during the process. When travelling to Agadez by land, the migrants hire four-wheeled vehicles, in which they overload themselves in the vehicles, since the journey is very lengthy one, the migrants are prone to accidents, sickness and armed robbery attacks (Sulley and El Hawat, 3). Most of them die through accidents and armed robbery attacks, also the few who make it Agadez take another journey by foot through desert this part of the journey is the most dangerous because most of the migrants are attacked by armed robbers as a result of the robbery; their money, food and clothing's are taken, hence they die of hunger and fatigue in the desert. In an interview with a Ghanaian migrant at Agadez, the migrant stated that robbers had stolen his clothes and over US$300, also he stated that the robbers took five Ghanaian women and 5 Nigerian women to the desert in which they were never seen again (Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN 2008) . In 2005, at least 368 died whiles trying to reach the south of Europe, specifically Spain. While the real figures might be twice or thrice the number it is unspecified due to the fact that the bodies were never found (de Haas, 2006).

On crossing the sea to southern Europe, the migrants also face a number of life threatening situations. During their journey on the sea, the migrants travel in small fishing boats and canoes, overloading themselves in the process (BBC news 2007). Unfavourable weather conditions like thunder storms, strong winds and tidal waves are very imminent. A lot of the migrants die during this phase of the journey. They either drown or are struck by lightning. In July 2005 a boat travelling to Southern Europe sank near El-Aioun claiming 21 lives and nine disappearing (Maccanico, 2006). Also in June 2007, 24 African migrants drowned after their boat capsized south coast of Europe specifically Malta (BBC news, 2007). From this information given it is obvious that the migrants prefer to migrate during the spring season to avoid all these problems. Also the less fortunate ones come under the attack of pirates who rid them off of the little money or possessions they carry. Travelling by water takes a longer period than most people estimate and during this time the people tend to face acute hunger problems because of food shortage and lack of enough drinking water. They become starved and resort to any food they come across, like eating raw fish to keep them alive. Others take in sea water to quench their thirst when matters get out of hand. All of these only result in making them malnourished, leading to sickness. Diarrhea, severe stomach pains and ulcer are common diseases they face. In retrospect to their number a lot of these immigrants sleep on the deck of the ships on which they travel. These people try to with stand all the weather conditions they are faced with. In the end, some die from malaria and pneumonia because of lack of proper medical care and at worse no medical care at all. A man died of asthma attack in April 2006 in the detention centre in Tarajal(Ceuta)as he awaited expulsion after crossing Spain(de Haas, 2006).

The route from Africa to Europe is seemingly an easy one but quite tricky. A lot of the various ship or boat owners contracted to carry the people across the sea have little or no geographical knowledge apart from just knowing how to travel by sea. Hence in times of strong weather storms they lose their sense of direction and may tend to steer the people in the wrong direction. After wandering at sea for days, weeks and sometimes months trying to find their way back or continue their journey the immigrants are faced with inevitable circumstances which lead to their death. Ironically they are found at sea dead or end washing up on the shores of the very nations they intended going or nearby countries. Thirty-four people died in a shipwreck in April 2006, these migrants tried crossing from Mauritania to the Canary island ( de Haas, 2006).

Illegal migration to southern Europe puts pressure on the European governments as social amenities become inadequate for the growing population also the West African countries also loose a large number of labour force since most of the migrants are in their youthful ages hence hindering development in West Africa. As illegal migration has increased, most of the nations who face this problem have sought to take certain steps to curtail the problem and even put an end to it totally. Due to this, countries like Germany, Britain and some of the countries who form the European Union (EU) have resorted to providing economically challenged countries in West Africa with certain aids to facilitate development (Graupner 2007). Whiles some concentrate on providing food and medical services others like Germany try to bring an end to political instability by going in with their troupes to stop the war. By this, it will improve the living conditions of the people in these countries hence reducing illegal migration.

Another way that the problem of illegal migration is being dealt with is the introduction of the navy and training of patrols to monitor the seas and borders of countries which are close to West Africa and those who are largely affected. The combating of this problem has been a problem hence the EU ministers have decided to provide more helicopters, planes and boats to patrol the borders of the southern member countries. (Graupner 2007). Also numerous N.G.O's have suggested the hi-tech integrated surveillance system (SIVE), that is operative in Spain and the canary islands to help curtail this problem. Although this is a good suggestion it is going to cost these countries a lot of dollars to help maintain the program (Haas, 2006). African countries in their own way to cut down illegal migration have also strengthened their border policies and patrols to prevent people from using the sea as their escape routes (Sulley and El-Hawat, 4).

Although measures are being put in place, to curtail the rapid increase of illegal migration; people continue to migrate due to consistent wars in their countries and a search for better lives or greener pastures. Others who are refused visas also tend to travel using illegal routes. These migrants persist to migrating using illegal routes which in the end do not really aid them. They are met with unfortunate circumstances such as; starvation, diseases, armed robbery, unfavourable weather conditions, accidents and at worst death. Instead of being deterred people continue to migrate illegally, hence the rapid increase of illegal migration from West Africa to Southern Europe has claimed a lot of lives of Africans in the process. In effect to illegal migration, countries in the EU-Germany, Britain, have taken steps to reduce the increase of illegal migration. These European countries have sort to providing aid in the economically emerging countries to boost development to enhance their economies to make living conditions better. Also the EU has resorted to providing helicopters, planes and boats to survey the borders of their southern countries which are mostly affected by this. N.G.O's in their contribution have suggested that the hi-tech integrated surveillance system (SIVE) should be used. Even if these measures are going to cost a lot the EU is willing to contribute to help the fight against illegal migration. Sub-Saharan African countries located around the sea have also strengthened their border policies to prevent people from using it as their escape routes. They have also taken steps to train their navy and border guards to survey the border front to prevent people from illegally migrating. In spite of the problems and difficulties people face during migration and the steps taken to reduce it if not prevent it fully; people continue to migrate as the day goes by and the quite the unfortunate ones who do not arrive at their destination safely end up dead.


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