Lost at sea: African youth hungry for opportunities

Lost at sea: African youth hungry for opportunities
  • PublishedNovember 22, 2014

The IOM report explains that people smugglers are difficult to track down or stop because “security, border control and immigration authorities may be complicit enablers of the smuggling business. Where trafficking exists, in some cases authorities have also been implicated.”

The IOM said that most migrant deaths occurred as a result of “deliberate mistreatment, indifference or torture by smugglers, or misadventures by migrants themselves”. It went on: “Along all routes, cases of sexual violence against female migrants are commonly reported – particularly concerning those from the Horn of Africa – as well as explicit sexual exploitation and frequent disappearances of girls and women.”

The UN and AU must intervene

At September’s annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the outspoken Gambian President Yahya Jammeh dropped a bombshell on the issue of African migrants dying at sea, calling the situation “genocide”.

Without holding back, he told the UN in his speech to the UNGA: “The UN must conduct a full and impartial investigation into the man-made sinking, and capsizing of these boats carrying young Africans to Europe. If these boats are able to cross the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea only to sink on European coasts, we must find out what deadly mysterious force exists on the European Mediterranean coasts that causes boats carrying these young Africans to disintegrate and sink [usually] upon arrival…”

He added: “Enough is enough and the UN must intervene and intervene quickly or else we will all live to regret our failure to take appropriate action at the right time.”

That said, the other question being asked is: What is the African Union (the continent’s umbrella body of unity) doing to deal with what is undoubtedly a major social problem for the whole of Africa?

The illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa are overwhelmingly young males of working age, with around 85% of them being between the ages of 18 and 35. Why are these ripe-of-age, yet impoverished young people taking immeasurable risks to find their way to better standards of living in Europe?

When the African Union (AU) was launched in Durban just over 10 years ago, the continent’s leader made it clear that it was not going to be a continuation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) under a different name but an organisation that would drive and advance the development of the African people to unprecedented heights.

At the first session of the AU Conference of Ministers in charge of Social Development in Windhoek in October 2008, the politicians stressed that the AU’s social development programme should be “based on a human-centred approach that seeks to promote human rights and dignity”.

However, the Ministers noted: “…this aspiration is likely to be hampered unless the dire social developmental crisis facing the continent – reflected in, among others, a high burden of disease, lack of basic infrastructure and social services, inadequate health care and services; poor access to basic education and training; high illiteracy rates; gender inequality; youth marginalisation; and political instability in a number of countries – is sufficiently addressed.”

Written By
Desmond Davies

A former Editor of West Africa magazine in London Desmond Davies, originally from Sierra Leone, has been a journalist and commentator on African affairs for almost 40 years in the press, radio and television such as BBC World TV, Al Jazeera, Press TV and CNN. He has covered Africa extensively and has a wide range of influential contacts in the continent. Desmond holds an MA in Mass Communications from the University of Leicester in the UK. His specialities are strategic and political communications. Media and Communications Consult, Due Diligence Expert on Africa.

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