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Migration and Development. The challenge of our time?

Rural Migration Migration, as always, is of major concern to countries poor and rich

Tue, 18 Apr 2017 Source: Dela Russel

By Dela Russel

Migration, as always, is of major concern to countries poor and rich, and has in recent times, shaped electioneering campaigns and election outcomes in especially Europe and the United States.

Public opinion in these countries is in general opposed to what is perceived as uncontrolled massive immigration and that politicians have lost control of the situation.

In essence, irregular migration from developing countries now dominate the agenda.

Locally in Ghana, it is a common jest, for instance, that if a ship was to dock at Ghana’s Port in Tema, or a jumbo jet lands at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) calling for Ghanaians to come aboard to travel to Europe or the Americas as slaves, there would be a serious stampede. And that the ship or the aircraft would have to make several round trips to be able to ferry everyone.

The situation is not different in other countries of the West African sub-region which experience large scale emigration of people including the young and old, skilled and unskilled desperate to join the bandwagon in the search of greener pastures outside their home countries.

The situation of African immigrants in Europe is disturbing. The reality of this phenomenon hits one in the face when horrendous stories about immigrants getting drowned as a result of shipwreck, stowaway or travelling on the desert to reach Europe are made public.

Most of these dangerous trips are done at the peril of the individual or group of people.

It must be pointed out that migration to Europe and the other countries in the Americas, particularly the United States of America (USA) and Canada is not restricted only to Africans. People from the Eastern bloc countries in Europe, the South Americans such as Mexicans and other nationals have become part of the big phenomenon of migration.

Causes

Economic factors in many African countries, parts of Asia and the Middle East have been identified as the obvious motivation (or demotivation if you like) for people choosing to migrate to countries they felt had “honey and milk” flowing in abundance.

These economic factors - poverty, poor working and living conditions - have spurred the emigration of professionals and non-professionals.

While professionals mostly would travel with genuine documents or visit as tourists or for academic purposes, they often would change strategies that would make them become beneficiaries of the host system. And some could immerse within the system for many years as illegal immigrants, while others blend in by regularizing their stay through marriages, amnesty from the host government and or through some dubious schemes.

The other groups of immigrants are the non-professionals, or unskilled persons. They are the people who embark on perilous journeys by sea or land. Many of them lose their lives on such perilous journeys. According to Frontex, an agency responsible for coordinating the security of EU’s external land and sea borders, an estimated two million African immigrants travel to Europe annually.

Recent reports also suggested that some 1.7 million Ghanaians sought to migrate to the US though the US Visa Lottery Scheme in 2015. The visa lottery seeks to diversify the US immigrant population by granting visas to underrepresented nations. Reports suggest however, that it is facing elimination under several bills being considered by US Congress.

Ghana’s figure which is about 12 per cent (%) is said to be the highest from a single country of the total 14 million people that applied in 2015. One may thus be tempted to ask whether development helps to arrest or inadvertently prompt migration?

Development indicators

According to Professor Aderanti Adepoju of the Network for Migration Research on Africa (NOMRA), a Nigerian based non-governmental organisation (NGO) with special focus on migration research, the lack of up-to-date data on migration dynamics and development indicators had made monitoring an arduous task.

He was of the view that conceptual difficulties have constrained the efforts to link migration outcomes to development outcomes, and shaped the debate on whether and how migration influences and/ or is influenced by development, and in particular its impact on poverty reduction.

Professor Aderanti maintained that migration has crept to the top of politics and political agenda and correspondently research globally and increasingly in Africa only recently.

The challenges of capacity, data and resource deficit, he pointed out, vary across countries but have largely constrained the understanding of the importance of migration and the role of migrants in development at origin, transit and destination countries and communities, he told Graphiconline in an interview.

“For so long migration has not been recognized as a key agenda in African countries. So far, only a few countries including Ghana, Nigeria, have developed national migration policies to manage migration flows from, within and through their national territories”, Prof Adepoju said.

Positive Outcomes

Remittances, Prof Adepoju pointed out, is a positive outcome of migration and its impact on poverty alleviation for family members left behind.

The growing significance of migrant remittances from Africans living abroad for the purposes of establishing businesses, the building of new houses and other projects, Prof Aderanti suggested, has become a motivation for many people wishing to emulate those in the Diaspora.

The Government of Ghana (GoG) is keen to attract its nationals who are professionals abroad to come back to contribute to the development of the country.

As such, the National Migration Policy (NMP) which was launched in April 2016 for instance makes adequate provision for the readmission and reintegration of Ghanaian emigrants to help in national development.

The policy recognizes the important role the Diaspora could play in its economic advancement using trade, investments and the facilitation of dual citizenship among others.

Similarly, human trafficking is a major concern for the government owing to its adverse consequences.

There have been reported cases of illegal job recruitment agencies luring young women from Ghana to the Middle East and the Gulf countries as domestic servants.

In most cases, some of these women are abused, raped and tortured. One of such cases was that of a young lady (name withheld) who was rescued and brought back to Ghana in 2013 with serious mental conditions as a result of abuses she suffered in the hands of her masters in a gulf country.

An approach of public sensitization, arrest and prosecutions, had been introduced by government to protect such victims of trafficking in persons.

Columnist: Dela Russel