“Policy makers need to change their approach.” This was the conclusion of the United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) titled Climbing Fences, a report on the fight against illegal immigration, which was made public on Monday, October 21.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, notably, has been advocating public aid to develop those countries from their inhabitants are fleeing, but this solution would not be the right option at all.
“This type of approach sends a bad signal to the European electorates by making them believe that such strategies will work in the long term,” warned the report’s authors.
The latter is based on interviews with more than 1 900 African migrants living in thirteen European countries. The objective of the study was to determine the typical profile to understand the choice of African migrants.
According to the report, migrants were on average 24 years old when they arrived in Europe. Although they were not part of the elite, they had higher levels of education than the average person of their generation.
Some 43 percent had completed high school and nearly half of them had received some kind of income when they left. All these elements make it possible to deduce that the development of African countries finally encourages migratory movements.
Thus, the authors of the study denounce the fact that migration can be reduced through programmatic and policy responses designed to prevent it.
According to the testimonies received, the young Africans who leave their country do so because they feel they do not earn enough money and feel that their voice is not heard by the governments. “Their ambition has exceeded the opportunities available locally. Development is not going fast enough and its gains are unequal and limited,” the authors concluded.
The BBC reported in 2007 that the International Organization for Migration estimates that around 4,6 million African migrants live in Europe, but that the Migration Policy Institute estimates that between 7 and 8 million illegal migrants from Africa live in the EU.
According to Hein de Haas, the director of the International Migration Institute at the University of Oxford, public discourse on African migration to Europe portrays the phenomenon as an “exodus,” largely composed of illegal migrants, driven by conflict and “poverty”.
But he said this portrayal was not accurate, arguing that the illegal migrants are often well educated and able to afford the considerable cost of the journey to Europe. Migration from Africa to Europe, he argues, “is fuelled by a structural demand for cheap migrant labour in informal sectors”.
Most Africans also migrate on their own initiative, rather than being the victims of traffickers. Furthermore, he argues that whereas the media and popular perceptions see irregular migrants as mostly arriving by sea, most actually arrive on tourist visas or with false documentation, or enter via the Spanish enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla.
De Haas said that “the majority of irregular African migrants enter Europe legally and subsequently overstay their visas.”