In mid-October, 600 migrants were rescued off the coast of Sicily by seven separate rescue efforts. A great bulk of them came from countries that were in a dire situation such as Eritrea, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan. Yet another group present came from Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Ghana. With the exception of Nigeria that’s facing a crisis in its north, none of these countries are facing a crises which would provoke their citizens to leave the country as a whole for the sake of their safety. Yet these citizens are risking their lives by embarking on an extremely perilous journey across the Sahara, into North Africa and finally (if the survive this leg of the journey), board an unreliable boat into the Mediterranean from Tripoli where the risk of death is high.
According to the International Organisation on Migration (IOM), the number of economic migrants from Ghana trying to cross into Europe illegally has gone up in 2016 by 27% in comparison to the year before. And this number is anticipated to rise as they risk it all to achieve a better life in Europe where in reality, that “better life” may be much harsher.
For countries like Ghana – which is a stable middle income country that is free from ethnic and political turmoil – it is vital that the governments works to not only dissuade its citizens from embarking on the such journeys and but also work to given Ghanians greater reason to stay and not leave, offering greater relief to the on-going humanitarian crises in Italy and Greece which is currently running out of time before it cracks under the lack of support from the European Union, especially with the rise of politic actors such as newly elected Sebastien Kurz in Austria who is working to close pathways for migrants coming in from Italy.
Working on initiatives to encourage citizens to stay in their counties needs to be both a greater priority and emphasis for African countries with large influxes of economic migrants, especially with Ghana’s newly elected government, sworn in late 2016. In a region plagued with overwhelming bureaucracy, reducing hurdles in setting up businesses, accessing jobs and encouraging meritocracy are key to establishing a sense of trust amount population that there is a sense of opportunity and positive outlook locally. In fact the continuing disinvestment in giving its citizens a greater reason to stay only reduces the full economic potential of the country with the African “brain drain” itself being the result from the lack of stable jobs and economic opportunities that caused Africa’s brightest and most innovative to seek fortune yonder.
I’ve been to Ghana many times, working in Kumasi Metro region with local health authorities and a team of amazing doctors to implement training programs that strengthen the quality of health for women locally via OB/GYN Ultrasound training local health professionals. The trainees we’ve worked with are not only intelligent but highly ambitious, with full hope in the potential that both an education and opportunity can bring. It’s this shattered hope which inspires many to take the desperate (if not insane) journey to Europe in which many of these gifted individuals die along the way or are even more shattered by bleaker opportunities in Europe, where a brain drain is crippling the economic output of the countries they arrive in (eg. both Italy and Greece).
Stopping the flow of economic migrants is not the work just of the EU or neighbouring countries such as Libya, but also the work of the very home countries of these migrants. And failure to do so will result in more deaths and more migrants. In this era of a greater global community, greater global effort is needed as well for greater peace.