Crushing Dreams Will Not Stop the Rush from Africa

The response to mass migration is knee-jerk, brutal and unfair, and refuses to address the reasons why people risk everything for a better life, says Vijay Prashad. (Photo: AFP)

Crushing Dreams Will Not Stop the Rush from Africa

Two sides of Africa plunge migrants into deep despair. Thousands from the continent's central belt head to Libya, load themselves on boats bound for Europe, and never reach their destination.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State group abducts Ethiopian migrants and murders them. The militants of the IS do the work of European fascists, who would rather see these forlorn men and women dead than on their shores.

At the other end of Africa, reckless statements by Zulu leaders send equally wretched men and women to riot against migrants.

The king of the Zulus, Goodwill Zwelithini, channelled the anti-immigrant political parties of Europe when he called on foreigners to "pack their belongings and go back to their countries".

Violence has torn through Durban and into Johannesburg, often against people from countries that provided South African freedom fighters refuge during the fight against apartheid.

Rising unemployment and political instability have created the toxic conditions for mass migration and with it the rise of anti-immigration sentiment.

The EU and the International Organisation of Migration go after the symptoms of the problem, and target migration routes.

The EU is eager to destroy the boats on the Libyan coast so that they cannot carry their human cargo. The IOM suggests that the experience of anti-piracy on the coast of Somalia can be brought to the Libyan waters.

There is no focus on the plight of the migrants, nor what they are fleeing and searching for.

These migrants are fleeing the structured collapse of their economies and political structures. Youth unemployment is a serious issue across Africa.

The African Economic Outlook over the past few years has cautioned about rising growth rates without the promise of employment.

This growth has come because of rising exports of primary commodities out of Africa - but these are commodities (such as palm oil and petroleum, gold and diamonds, cocoa and timber as well as cotton).

The rate of return to African economies is minimal thanks to the unequal global trade order.

Over 10 years ago, the presidents of Mali and Burkino Faso, Amadou Toumani Toure and Blaise Compaore, wrote an impassioned article in the New York Times simply entitled "Your Farm Subsidies Are Strangling Us".

Thanks to the privileges of power, the US has been allowed a subsidy-tariff regime that protects its farmers and strangles those in Africa.

No wonder that these are regions prone to al-Qaeda, migration and trafficking mafias. The social consequences of trade policy and of warfare result in the kinds of chaos that now paralyses so much of the Global South.

None of this will enter the discussions of tragedies such as the deaths off the coast of Libya, the death of the Ethiopians in Libya or the violence in South Africa.

Each is treated separately and in need of some kind of palliative care. Debates about causes are off the table. They are too close to home. Far easier to blame "culture" for the tragedies in the world - corruption and sectarian conflict are the explanations de jour.

Much harder to come to the heart of the matter: to the policies that capture and nurture the dreams of people.

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