Discussions about migration and its effect on a given society are numerous. Political, economic and various other conditions often influence the individual’s desire to migrate from one place to another.
Then there is this aspect where people profit by serving as passage guides to desperate migrants. And because activities of such passage guides or smugglers are unchecked, their effort seems very profitable just as many migrants complain of the hell they undergo by associating with such passage guides.
In the end, we often hear of the extent of conditions under which they live are inhumane and dangerous; high rates of mortal accidents occur in the effort to reach their final destination and such accidents also occur in their final destinations; migrants are forced to work to pay their debts in terms of transportation; they also end up engaging in illegal activities linked to criminal organizations; and if a migrant seeks to escape and he is recaptured, he is severely punished or killed etc.
And in spite of all these, many young, ambitious and talented young people in sub Saharan Africa and other developing countries have been caught in the web of such fraudsters in their effort to journey abroad for greener pastures.
The greener pastures is not as it seems. Because at their final destinations, they arrive there as undocumented migrants and experiences amongst many in such conditions include: lack of access to services in the destination country; exploitation of labour; prostitution, slavery, injury, illness and even death.
First and foremost, migration, as defined by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is “the movement of a person or a group of persons, either across an international border, or within a State. It is a population movement, encompassing any kind of movement of people, whatever its length, composition and causes; it includes migration of refugees, displaced persons, economic migrants and persons moving for other purposes, including family reunification.”
Then there is this relevant concept of “irregular migration”. And it is the movement that takes place outside the regulations of the sending, transit and receiving countries. For the sending or the transit country, the irregularity takes the form of an international boundary’s crossing without a valid passport or travel document.
And finally “illegal migration” refers to cases of smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons, and combines the violation of national and/or transnational regulations disciplining people’s movements with the – usual –infringement of human rights.
Wikepedia states that three major methods are used in the entire migration process and these are:
- Illegal border crossing
- Overstaying visa
- Sham marriages
But this feature discusses the dangers of illegal border crossings made by sub-Saharan Africans. Their passage guides or smugglers operate like slave traders who wait patiently for their victims to fall into their web of deceit. And they have developed a niche in every category of the sector but make unrealistic demands which are often not apparent to the victim.
The youth are falling and will continue to fall for these smugglers due to their quest to become wealthy and that the only way out is to travel to Europe through whichever means possible. And there have even been reported instances where people have been made to pay for their passage by selling their body parts.
In Ghana, prior to adventure into the various destinations, agents of various kinds promise heaven to the victims. In 2016 alone, the International Organization on Migration (IOM) reported that between 320 to 350 migrants passed through Adadez in Niger every day. And Ghana according to the report is among the top five countries in West Africa with the largest number of irregular migrants.
Ghana launched its National Migration Policy on April 8, 2016 with the aim of promoting the benefits and minimizing the costs of migration. The development of the National Migration Policy was supported by IOM through the IOM Development Fund (IDF) project ‘Developing a Migration Policy to integrate Migration into the National Development Framework for Ghana’.
I was recently in a conversation with one migrant, who had travelled legally to Saudi Arabia and according to her although she was a nanny working under harsh conditions, the economic benefits far outweighs her experiences here in Ghana.
From all indications, she was determined to travel outside the country to an European country after returning due to the expiration of her contract with the agency that assisted her journey. As at the time of conversation, she told me she was looking for every opportunity to leave the shores of Ghana.
This lady may be seeking to travel to Europe in a legal manner but looking at her determination and desire, if situations prove difficult, she would easily succumb to any alternative way to reach Europe.
It is true that many young Ghanaians if given the least opportunity would seek to leave the shores of this nation and this calls for the need to restore hope and confidence that one can make it in whatever endeavor or business activity he finds himself within this country.
The advantages of various policies initiated by government like the ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’ and the ‘One district, One factory’ amongst others should be made clearer to such would-be migrants for them to know that one can also make it here as many are already doing and even exporting their produce abroad.
Government must also be willing to support journalists who sacrifice their lives to expose the activities of human traffickers and agents to serve as a motivation for others. Indeed investigative journalism must be encouraged through sponsorship and fellowships backed with consistent capacity building efforts for those who participate in such onerous acts.
There is also the need to effectively and efficiently sensitise the youth, especially in migration prone communities, to see the dangers of illegal migration and the deceptions posed by human smugglers.
This short piece is also a call on the government and our development partners to move more development projects to the local communities because development still seems to be concentrated in urban areas. Economic opportunities should be made accessible to the average Ghanaian to boost the confidence level of such individuals.
As mentioned earlier, two years after the launching of the National Migration Policy for Ghana, its implementation has not been felt as it should and more effort should be made by all stakeholders to ensure its success.
In sum, fighting illegal migration also requires stakeholders to ensure well managed travel procedures; promote international protection of undocumented migrants; involvement of state institutions in all forms of migration processes and stiff sanctions should be placed on those involved in human smuggling and producers of fraudulent travel documents.
By Julius K. Satsi