The Ghanaian example
For many Ghanaians, a lack of jobs is identifiably one of the main reasons their highly skilled population looks to Europe. Yet the Ghanaian government will stop at nothing to gush about the country’s economic successes. Many Ghanaians have, however, sadly already died or are at risk of dying in the Sahara and in the Mediterranean, as they try to migrate to Europe and chase what are in reality non-existent jobs there.
Three years ago, a Dutch film production house made a documentary about the life of Ssuuna Golooba, a Ugandan immigrant in the Netherlands, titled Surprising Europe. The documentary was later showcased as a mini-series on Al-Jazeera.
Ssuuna was a photographer with a Ugandan newspaper who caught the travel bug, left his well-paying job and went to the Netherlands, hoping for a better life. He ended up doing odd jobs that did not even begin to challenge his education or intelligence. Like all undocumented immigrants, Ssuuna was in constant fear of being arrested by the Dutch police – the penalty being instant deportation. The pittance he earned cleaning public and shopping mall toilets was not enough to pay his rent and utilities. In the meantime, the family he left behind in Uganda did not see it that way, and always pestered him for money.
Surprising Europe beautifully captured the struggle African immigrants go through in Europe. There were scenes about the efforts people make to obtain the almighty EU visa, including invoking divine intervention at churches.
What surprises most is that after the vivid portrayal and harrowing experience of Ssuuna in the film, such lessons fall on deaf ears among many Africans, who believe Europe is a nirvana of prosperity. A section of students interviewed at Makerere University at a post-screening session of the documentary candidly said that nothing would deter them from pursuing the goal of reaching Europe, to try their own luck.
The same fatalistic attitude is very common in Ghana (where this writer lives and hails from). Over 40,000 Ghanaians reside in the Netherlands, where many of them have been doing menial jobs for several years with absolutely no better prospects for their future. Their tales are as harrowing as those portrayed by Ssuuna Gooloba in Suprising Europe, yet many Ghanaians are resolute in their determination to seek what they think are greener pastures in Europe or other parts of the world.
The country was hugely embarrassed during the last World Cup in Brazil when about 180 supposed football fans asked for political asylum, claiming political persecution. Political persecution in Ghana! Since then, many embassies have flatly refused to grant visas to Ghanaian sports supporters.
Had they known
In the Netherlands, where this writer lived for a while, the common lamentation in the Ghanaian immigrant community was, “had I known, I would have stayed home”. Once the hassles and the
hardship have come to bear, and the reality of suffering as an immigrant, with basic pay or no job at all, many immigrants get stuck in the situation as they are unable to even afford a plane ticket home. Some are so embarrassed to return home “empty-handed”. Of course there are also highly-skilled Africans such as doctors who have moved to pastures new in Europe or other parts of the world, where they earn better pay than in their home countries.