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Long Stay Abroad Leads to Poverty, Research Shows (II)

Tue, 31 Jul 2012 Source: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong

Black Power

In the previous article published on ghanaweb.com, modernghana.com, peacefmonline.com and other online news outlets, it was established following interaction with African migrant workers in advanced countries, that the longer African migrants stay in the industrialized world, the smaller their earnings or savings become.

The research then sought to establish why most migrant workers in developed countries are earning and/or saving/investing less today than they were doing when they first arrived in the advanced world. This article thus highlights some of the factors accounting for the two phenomena in question. It must be emphasized, that the research did not involve illegal immigrants; and the so-called economic downturn was not given any serious attention.

To appreciate the content of this article, readers are advised to first read the part one, titled, ‘The Longer Africans Stay Abroad, the Poorer they Become, Research Shows’, available on http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=245496.

Securing Free Accommodation Upon arrival in the advanced world, some African migrants get the opportunity to stay with very close relatives and friends for up to a year or two. Such people normally spend very little or nothing on rents and utility bills; hence, they are able to keep or save a considerable percentage of their incomes when they get jobs, and thus able to embark on decent personal projects. However, as soon as their hosts realize that they (the guests) are making good money and probably earning more than them, they quite rightly ensure that the human parasites (i.e. the guests) either make equal contribution towards the rent and utility bills or vacate their property and find their own accommodation. Once these people start paying their own rents, council taxes and utility bills, their savings begin to diminish. It must however be clarified that only a handful of African migrants today, entertain relatives or friends in their homes when they first arrive in the advanced world; those who do, are only able to entertain them for a couple of weeks or months.

Eagerness to Return Home as Soon as Possible The industrialized world is deceptively portrayed by the African media, and some relatives and friends in the diaspora as the contemporary Garden of Eden, a place where milk and honey flow abundantly and supplied free of charge, an environment where people walk on money and anything one touches turns into gold, a place where calling credits are transferred gratis onto people’s phones on a daily basis, a place devoid of crime, a world in which immortals live, and the list continues. So when people arrive and the condition is not as cosy and rosy as initially depicted, a feeling of disappointment becomes inevitable; and the immediate reaction or plan is usually to work extremely hard, accrue as much money as possible within the shortest conceivable time, and return home for good. Such people could do as many as five jobs when they get the chance, and embrace a very modest or unattractive lifestyle. They are thus able to save and do incredible projects back home within a pretty short period of time if they get honest people to run things for them.

However, the enthusiasm and desire to return home, at times disappear after some few years, and things begin to fall asunder. Three of the factors that kill African migrants’ enthusiasm and their initial desire to make money as quickly as possible and return home are: Dishonesty on the part of families and friends, exaggerated and frightening stories about the socio-economic situation in migrants’ home countries, and poor health.

Failure of Family and Friends to Execute Projects they are Entrusted with The fire in some migrants get extinguished when they come to the realization that projects they had spent loads of money on and thought were nearing completion if not completed, are in fact non-existent. The dishonesty of family and friends, many a time, compel migrants to quite understandably decide never to return home. They quit some of their jobs and start adopting a more comfortable lifestyle without thinking about family and friends at home. The kind of lifestyle they usually espouse makes it almost impossible for them to make any meaningful savings or investments.

The Resolve to make the Advanced World a Permanent Home The horrible and frightening information usually received about the state of the economy of African migrants’ home countries, are enough to induce those in the industrialized world to make their various countries of residence their permanent homes. Others get stuck in developed nations as they never reach their target. In other words, some migrants decide, that they would return home only after accumulating a certain amount of money – £15,000; £20,000; £50,000; etc.; but many never get anywhere near their target before old age catches up with them. Of course others too are living permanently in developed countries because they have nuclear families there. But making the industrialized world one’s permanent home has its own negative consequences, financially.

One fact about life in the developed world is that, the longer one stays, the more assimilated they become. Once some African migrants become fully integrated and embrace the western lifestyle, they stop working hard and start living extravagantly on loans, credit cards, overdrafts, etc., which they spend the rest of their lives repaying.

Poor Health It has already been mentioned, that African migrants usually get disappointed when they arrive in advanced countries only to realize that the situation is not as comfortable as initially speculated. They thus plan to work tremendously hard, accumulate some money within the shortest possible time, and then return home for good. Such people could do as many as five jobs a day, so that instead of racing human beings, they are almost always racing buses and trains, as that is the only way they could make it from one job location to the other on time. The human body, just like a vehicle or machine, breaks down when it is caused to overwork itself. After a couple of years, the health condition of migrants overworking themselves, hits rock bottom and begins to deteriorate. They are forced to quit most, and in some cases, all their jobs, resulting in a significant reduction in their incomes or savings. The situation is even worse in countries where the national health insurance system is non-existent. Migrants spend the little money they have been able to accrue, on hospital bills and medicines.

Huge Friends and Family Demands and Pressures Most Africans travel to the advanced world without telling too many people about it, and are consequently able to enjoy considerable peace of mind. Their responsibilities are quite less in the first few months or years; they focus on themselves and their immediate family only, and are thus able to make good savings. But as time goes by, their contact information, particularly their phone numbers begin to spread like bush fire; and then the ‘disturbances’ from extended family members, friends, school mates and several others begin. Some are asking for money to pay hospital bills, to pay their children’s school fees, to buy cold water to cool themselves off because Africa has become extremely hot – hotter than it was a couple of years ago, etc. etc.; and others are demanding expensive electronic gadgets such as mobile phones, laptops, etc. Out of sympathy and/or for fear of being dubbed Mr/Ms Mean and being ‘embarrassed’ when they finally return home, some migrants decide to respond positively to the numerous demands. The minute migrants start meeting all these demands, their financial status begin to drop from good to bad or bad to worse.

The comments received via email following the publication of part one of this article demonstrate that a couple of readers did not fully understand the subject matter of the research carried out. But this is understandable considering the fact that full details of the research was not presented in the article. But as we know, articles for publication in newspapers and online news outlets are not supposed to be too long, and can therefore not be too detailed. In my next publication, I will be endeavouring to briefly address some of the concerns of readers who contacted me.

Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah (Black Power) is an Investigative Journalist, a researcher and the author of Fourth Phase of Enslavement (2011) and In My End is My Beginning (2012). He may be contacted via email (andypower2002@yahoo.it).

Columnist: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong