It is a popular belief that migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach Europe, are illiterate and unemployed people. They desperately seek to escape violence, economic crisis, and corruption in their countries of origin.
A survey of nearly 2,000 Africans, living as irregular immigrants in Europe, revealed that they have more education than expected. Also, in many cases, they left behind jobs with higher wages than the national average.
Surprising data from the new report
According to the survey, economic factors drive many African migrants to leave their countries. Furthermore, a new UN report provides some surprising data that could change the way Europe perceives these African migrants.
“The report reveals that getting a job was not the only motivation to move. Not all irregular migrants were poor in Africa. Or, in other words, had lower levels of education,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Monday.
Many migrants had prior employment
“More than half of those interviewed had jobs or studied in school at the time of their departure. Most of those who worked also earned competitive salaries,” he said at U.N. headquarters in New York.
The report, called “Climbing Fences. Voices of Irregular African Immigrants to Europe” also found that 93% went through hardships on their journey as undocumented migrants. However, more than 90% of those surveyed would risk another similar trip if necessary.
Interview with 1970 migrants
The researchers interviewed 1970 migrants from 39 African countries, who traveled without the required documentation. Furthermore, they mostly lived in 13 European nations. They migrated mainly for work and were not seeking asylum.
They found that undocumented immigrants had not been living the experiences that are stereotypical of sub-Saharan Africa. About 58% had a job or were studying when they decided to embark on a risky journey north.
On average, respondents had three years more education than their home countries average. In addition, those who left their jobs on their African lands tended to have better than average wages.
Even so, money was a great motivating factor in seeking a better life. About half of those surveyed who left work said they did not feel they earned enough. Wages in Europe were always much higher than they could get at home.
“The report intends to show a clearer picture of why irregular migrants move from Africa to Europe,” Dujarric added.
Ungoverned to governed migration
The UN spokesperson considered that “the report calls for more opportunities and options in Africa while improving opportunities to move from ungoverned to governed migration.
According to the researchers, employment and money were not the only factors. Of those surveyed, 77% said they lacked a political voice in their countries of origin. Besides, 62% said their governments treated them unfairly.
Achim Steiner, the administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the author of the 71-page report, said it shows how African migrants often left their homes. Because of what he defined as “opportunity barriers” and “lack of choice” in economies plagued by corruption.
“The main message of this study is that migration is a reverberation of unequal development and not fast enough to meet people’s aspirations” that occurs in Africa.
Increased flows of migrants
It also “sends a strong signal to policymakers,” said Steiner, for whom it also speaks “particularly of a development trajectory that is failing African youth.”
European Union countries have witnessed increased flows of migrants in recent years. People are drowning in the sea during dangerous crossings, in rickety boats. They are often trapped in large, unsanitary camps in Greece and other European coastal nations.
This has increased political tensions within the 28-nation bloc, with Italy and others adopting anti-immigrant policies and member country governments struggling unsuccessfully to agree on a common reception for new arrivals.
No system to share responsibility
“As it stands, the bloc does not have a system through which member states can share responsibility for receiving migrants fairly,” said Shoshana Fine, a member of the Council of European Foreign Relations expert group, in a report this month.
“As a result, they continue to argue among themselves about which of them should house asylum seekers and other migrants arriving on Europe’s shores,” he added.
(Featured image by Kyle Glenn)
First published in IPSNoticias, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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