Lost at sea: African youth hungry for opportunities

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

It adds: “Moreover, competition for low-skilled jobs has increased with the larger flow of low-skilled migrants entering the country, meaning the availability of jobs is not always as strong as those arriving may have imagined.” But the report also adds that immigration from sub-Saharan African countries is also compounded by the high birth rate on the continent, which has 40 of the 50 countries with the highest birth rates in the world.

“The pressure these demographics pose for [African] economies, food security, physical security, services and facilities will be, and is already, huge. When compounded by rising inequalities in access to and opportunities in job markets, as well as an absence of equitable distribution of income and resources, it seems clear that the future management of this large, expectant population will be problematic to say the least,” says the IOM report, adding:

“One outcome that can be fully expected will be the compulsion to seek better opportunities outside sub-Sahara – out-migration. As long as such movement is restricted and illegal, irregular, clandestine and smuggler-managed movement will continue.”

The IOM believes that its report will begin to provide some clarity to what many consider to be a growing epidemic of crime against migrants. It says the report represents an initial step towards a more comprehensive account of what is happening to the victims and a wake-up call for governments.

“The paradox is that at a time when one in seven people around the world are migrants, we are seeing an extraordinarily harsh response to migration in the developed world,” said IOM director-general William L. Wing.

“Limited opportunities for safe and regular migration drive would-be migrants into the hands of smugglers, feeding an unscrupulous trade that threatens the lives of desperate people. We need to put an end to this cycle. Undocumented migrants are not criminals. They are human beings in need of protection and assistance, and deserving respect,” he added.

The IOM states that the dangers of illegal immigration should be constantly highlighted to serve as a deterrent: “Our message is blunt: migrants are dying who need not,” says IOM chief Wing, adding: “It is time to do more than count the number of victims. It is time to engage the world to stop this violence against desperate migrants.”

The IOM says that the true number of fatalities is likely to be considerably higher. Its report uses statistical data compiled by governments and other agencies, as well as NGOs and media sources, but collecting data on migrant deaths has never been a priority for most governments around the world.

“Although vast sums of money are spent collecting migration and border control data, very few agencies collect and publish data on migrant deaths,” says Frank Laczko, IOM Head of Research.

Many deaths occur in remote regions of the world and are never recorded. No organisation at the global level is currently responsible for systematically monitoring the number of deaths that occur. According to Laczko, data tends to be scattered, with a range of organisations involved in tracking fatalities. Some experts now believe that for every dead body discovered, there are at least two others that are never recovered.

Besides counting fatalities, the Missing Migrants Project is part of a broader effort to use social media to engage communities around the world. With September’s Malta shipwreck that left well over 500 migrants dead, IOM offices worldwide received calls and emails from family members across Europe and the Middle East seeking news about their missing relatives, many of whom have never been found, feared dead.

In all this, for young Africans, it is necessary for governments on the continent to counter poverty through economic development that would discourage young people from going abroad in search of economic opportunities. “The relationship between economic development, trade and migration is an important one,” as noted by the African Union’s Social Policy Framework.

Future social development in Africa will depend on, among others, the extent to which African Union member states are able to adopt and effectively implement the key recommendations of this Social Policy Framework. It is imperative, therefore, that the implementation and impact of the framework is effectively monitored and evaluated.

But until African governments address the serious situation of high youth unemployment, young people will continue to take the risk of trying to cross dangerous waters in search of what they believe will be better opportunities.

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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