• Sophie Haaland Matláry

Africa has the solution to the migration problem:

Updated: Sep 24, 2019

Last year, 2275 drowned in the Mediterranean and many are expected to suffer the same fate this year. Many say that Europe is ignoring the drownings, and must take responsibility, but is the solution to open the borders?

Published in the magazine Minerva, in July 2019

There are naturally more solutions to the migration crisis, other than that the Schengen should open or close its borders. But in Europe, few if any, have talked about other possibilities than closing the borders.

The truth however is that migration to Europe from Africa will end with time, as countries on the other side of the Mediterranean will stop it - by actually opening the African borders completely, letting intra-African migration grow.

Some argue for migration to Europe by pointing out that humans have migrated for thousands of years. Of course, and they are right in saying so, but in ancient times, very few were able to establish themselves where they wanted to. The migrants that come today are largely from totalitarian, unstable and poor sub-Saharan countries. Several have spent longer periods in inhumane detention camps in Libya, often paid for by EU countries, and they have paid smugglers much more than what a regular plane ticket to Norway costs.

Smuggling and migration

African migrants are exploited by human traffickers at all levels. It starts with promises of a paradise that does not exist in Europe, and continues with demands for further payments upwards on the African continent, through Libya, where their families are again blackmailed for more money to transport them across the sea. Many end up in cruel camps where slave trade and torture are common. If they manage to pay for their trip further, most are then put out on the sea in a plastic boat. The smugglers' assumption then, is that an NGOs on a boat will pick them up. If they are outside Libyan territorial borders, they are taken to Italy or to another place in Europe. Ultimately, they will then be returned back to Africa, as their applications for asylum will usually not be granted, if not a life without papers awaits in a black labor market.

Everyone agrees that this cruel traffic must be stopped; as it puts people at risk of safety and life, as well as it gives huge profits to smugglers. Migration has become a megatrend, driven by knowledge of better countries via the internet, and by a sophisticated smuggling market.

Therefore, the only and most reasonable solution to the crisis, is that African countries become better countries to live in, politically and economically.

The African Renaissance

What we call a European migration crisis, is just as much an African migration crisis.

The 'crisis' itself is happening in Africa, not in Europe. The war and the conflict is there, not here. But we still talk about 'our migration crisis' making it our problem.

We must shift our focus; the focus should rather be shifted to Africa, because that is where the big changes are happening:

The African Union (AU) is in the process of finding the solution. There is an African "renaissance" going on. The goal for 2019 is to introduce common passports for all African countries. There is talk of an 'African Union' which should be as integrated as the European Union. 55 states will be part of the Union.

With a common passport, it will be possible to facilitate the free movement of people, as well as stimulate economic growth and promote trade on the continent. Trade integration has for a long time been a goal, but the continent's markets have been fragmented due to high trade rates. Rwanda's Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, says a joint passport will be 'one of the solutions to lift the barriers that stop intra-African trade'. In this way, Africa could become one of the world's largest trade unions, if not the largest, in addition to gaining a common monetary unit.

The positive consequences of such economic expansion are that poverty can disappear and economic growth takes place in all parts of the continent. This is something that is absolutely extraordinary, according to Mushikiwabo, and it will take time before we see positive consequences of such a combination of economies and people.

In the long term, this means that migration to Europe as a consequence of this union, will stop. Further, the ideal Europe will no longer have the same attractiveness. Examples of positive consequences of opening borders in Africa are migration from country to country. Burundian refugees were allowed to establish themselves in Rwanda when their country was in dangerous conflict - instead of the same people trying to travel across the Mediterranean.

EU and Africa

However, if we are to find a solution to the migration crisis for the EU and Africa, one important thing must change. The rhetoric the EU has been using towards African countries is outdated. The fact that EU bureaucrats hold meetings with the UN on the migration crisis without having African leaders present at the meetings, is a major problem in itself. Such an attitude means that the African Union (AU), the most important player in Africa, is not itself put in charge when it comes to finding a solution of its own.

Also, the figures show that the EU's share of refugees is minimal compared to the number of people in Africa. Sabelo Mokazi, head of migration and labor at the AU, says that 80% of African refugees move within the African continent, and a very small proportion travel to Europe.

The next part of the problem is that the EU has created bilateral agreements with countries in Africa, such as - Libya-Italy (detention centers), Spain-Morocco (effective/fast return), France-Mali (migration cooperation, security cooperation, economic cooperation). This has been done as the European countries have a common history with the countries and are easier to get diplomatic access to - especially so through large payments to these countries.

But such bilateral agreements are only short terms solutions to the crisis, and the migration problem internally in Africa will continue to grow nonetheless.

What the African Union wants is multilateral cooperation, where proposals for solutions can be discussed at common meetings, such as the Global Compact on Migration conference held in Sharm el Sheikh in February. These summits, led by the UN, are the only arena where European and African countries can find equal solutions.

Although it seems today that the entire crisis and its solution has stagnated, there is still hope, as an important man in the EU has pointed out. Dimitris Avramopolous, EU Commissioner for Migration, Citizenship and Domestic Policy, says that the EU's relationship with third countries is not about money. Those who believe that Europe can buy itself back into return agreements or good relations with third countries are wrong. The EU must partner with many of the resource-rich countries in Africa and, first and foremost, with the African Union and the Arab League. Now is the time to build official partnerships, as that is where the solution lies, he tells the magazine Politico.

Such partnerships can be based on strong economic and social ties, through security cooperation, trade, visa facilitation for students, cultural exchanges and so on.

Looking at the migration problem from our Western perspective is not useful in the long run. We must think bigger, and far beyond our own borders, but most of all we must remember that this crisis was never a European crisis. Therefore, it cannot be redeemed from Europe either.

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