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The East African : May 10th 2015
12 In this video grab released by the Italian Coast Guard (Guardia Costiera) on April 17, illegal African migrants sit in a boat during a rescue operation on April 15, off the coast of Sicily as part of the Triton plan (Frontex). Picture: AFP The EastAfrican NEWS MAY 9-15,2015 Italian navy finds mig≥ant disaste≥ boat By A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT AFP THE ITALIAN navy announced Thursday it had located the sunken wreck of a migrant boat in which 700 people are feared to have died in April. The boat was found 85 kilome- Out of Af≥ica: Just who a≥e these emig≥ants and why do they leave? I n a paper on migration I presented at a forum held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre in Nai- robi in 1988, I argued that sooner rather than later, Kenyans would be migrating to other countries, particularly to Southern Africa. The murmurs that greeted that statement implied that I was out of my mind as such an eventuality was unimaginable. I argued that emigration of Ken- yans was inevitable because the country, having provided high-level education to its citizens, was not likely to provide adequate employment opportunities, forcing them to migrate to other regions. Today, Kenya has joined the league of leading African emigration countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal in West Africa; Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia in the Maghreb; Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon in Central Africa; and Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia in the Horn of Africa. Migration pundits have observed that migration, once begun, is unstoppable. The view held in most circles is that emigration largely happens for economic reasons. That African emigrants move in search of jobs that are not available in their countries, and that they move on their own volition or are recruited through advertisements, migration agencies or other means. Emigrant labour consists of high- ly educated and/or skilled persons, semi-skilled as well as unskilled individuals. At the top of the labour emigra- tion echelon is the so-called brain drain, in which the African story generates contrasting episodes. In the 1970s and part of the 1980s, brain drain was considered blatant robbery of Africa’s much needed professionals, educated and trained at a high cost by their poor governments. Yet, over the past two decades or so, brain drain is now considered an African blessing because COMMENTARY JOHN OUCHO “The view held in most circles is that emigration largely happens for economic reasons.” when reversed, it becomes “brain gain” when the emigrants return home, presumably with better skills, or if they choose not to return they contribute through remittances — the buzzword on everyone’s lips. With the developed countries stringently controlling immigration, the brain drain has turned into brain circulation — a process in which the best educated and skilled circulate from one economic zone to another. In many cases and unexpectedly so, the “loss of our brains” sometimes turns into brain waste whereby those who had emigrated are bound or forced by circumstances to be underemployed or placed in inapropriate vocations and consequently underpaid, incommensurate with their qualifications or skills. This happens in many ways. For example, there is a growing emigration of semi-skilled and unskilled Africans to the Gulf states that smacks of modern day slavery. Most of these emigrants are recruited by shadowy private employment agencies and more often than not are subjected to inhuman conditions including long working hours, confiscation of travel documents and denial of freedom of association. A good number of such emigrants are considered “trafficked” and go against the international conventions on labour and movement of people. Most cases go unreported even by the emigrants’ country diplomatic representatives except in the case of a death. African governments unfortunately treat emigrants callously and paint all of them with the same brush, never following up on their status in foreign countries. Yet migration is actually a blessing in disguise for the rampant unemployment in virtually all African countries, and also because emigrants’ earnings are transferred home as remittances that boost homeland economies. This explains why the term diaspora has been loosely adopted by African countries to claim all nationals outside their home countries whether they maintain links with, work against or never bother about their homelands. Refugees are another category of emigrants. These are a group running away from civil wars, ethnic cleansing and a host of other politically instigated reasons. Refugees and asylum seekers earn their status by virtue of the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which makes provision for assistance to those moving as a result of persecution and other conditions considered repugnant to their continued stay in their habitual residence. Illegal Clandestine emigrants: This group moves surreptitiously without statutorily acknowledged documents — entry visa, residence or work permits. They also include visa over-stayers who for obvious reasons cannot return home. Then there are illegal workers employed without due employment conditionality who are at the mercy of their employers, often paid a pittance. All these groups of emigrants make up the ever growing African diaspora whether patriotic enough to identify with their home countries or not. A special group of emigrants is that of African students who moved overseas for studies and had the option of returning home or remain- ing abroad. Emigrants are often young, the best educated and most development conscious group in the African population. They are youth aged anything up to 35 years, university graduates with diverse qualifications; there is no major gender distinction in emigration as males and females of the same cohort migrate for virtually similar reasons; the majority consists of single persons; all of them aspire to but lack employment; and they are highly motivated to move to destinations they know nothing about. In the United States, African immigrants, on average, have the highest levels of education of all immigrants from different regions but they may not earn the same respect and credibility because their qualifications are often treated as inferior and racial profiling puts them at a disadvantage. What happens after all the so- journs of Africans abroad? Some return, others stay as citizens of their new countries and others take up dual citizenship where permitted. On return migration, Francesco Cerase, of the University of Rome, in 1974, in a Study of Italian Migrants Returning from the USA, cautioned that returnees are by no means of the same ilk. They ranges from returnees who had been successful emigrants to returnees of failure, conservatism and for retirement back home. He attributes return migration to retirement, failure, conservatism, or innovation, the latter involving returnees with new skills and ideas to implement after returning. John Oucho is p≥ofesso≥ of population studies at the Unive≥sity of Nai≥obi and founde≥ of the Nai≥obi based Af≥ican Mig≥ation and Development Policy Cent≥e. Rescued immigrants. Picture: File tres off the Libyan coast at a depth of 375 metres, the navy said in a statement. Prosecutors in Sicily who are conducting a homicide investigation into the Mediterranean’s worst maritime disaster in decades had asked the navy to find the boat and see whether it would be feasible to salvage it. An estimated 750 people were on board the boat when it left Libya. Only 28 survived and only 24 bodies were recovered at the scene. The survivors have recounted how most of the people being smuggled to Italy were locked in the hold or in a lower deck when the boat capsized and sank following a collision with a merchant ship that had answered its distress call. Two of the survivors, the Tuni- sian captain of the boat and a Syrian who allegedly served as crew, are being investigated for suspected culpable homicide, causing a shipwreck, encouraging illegal immigration and illegal confinement. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has vowed that, if at all feasible, the boat will be raised and the victims given decent burials. Record breaking It was the deadliest such inci- dent since October 2013, said Federico Fossi, a UNHCR spokesman in Italy. Save the Children said there were several young male victims, probably minors, among the nine recovered, and also children among those rescued. The survivors were picked up by the IT Orione, an Italian navy torpedo boat, which was already carrying several hundred rescued migrants from other boats, Fossi said.
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