Illegal African Migrants Rush Toward Europe As Controls Tighten

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Written by Soumaila Diarra

Sometimes putting their lives at risk, thousands of illegal African migrants in North Africa attempt to enter the European territory. According to illegal migrants defense organizations, most of those sub-Saharan Africans are fleeing poverty and insecurity in their homelands.

The Italian government announced on March 20 that more than 2,000 migrants coming from African coasts had been saved in 48 hours by national marines alongside the peninsula.

“All the young people who dream of going to Europe are prepared to die through their trip. In their mind, staying here is a kind of death,” Alassane Dicko, a member of the Malian Expelled Migrants Association (AME), told AFKInsider. “We don’t see this interest of illegal African migrants as a new trend.”

Illegal Migrants and Would-be-Immigrants 

This organization, created by Malian migrants expelled from different countries across the world, is now a watch-dog in touch with some of the Sub-Saharan Africans who are trying to immigrate to Europe.

“We receive phone calls from illegal migrants when they face difficult situations like arrests by police,” said Dicko.

Illegal immigration attempts to cross European borders has risen since last year, as over 500 African migrants drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean in October 2013.

The United Nations Regional Information Centre suggested that on top of the European immigration issue, human trafficking has become a strenuous and difficult layer to abate.

However, the UN agency also says, “the widely held perception that ‘human traffickers’ and ‘people smugglers’ can be used interchangeably to describe shadowy criminal networks preying on desperate and naïve people, is in fact incorrect.”

“Smugglers provide a service that migrants are willing to pay for,” UNRIC reported. “The demand for such services has increased exponentially as states around the world have shored up their borders over the last 10 to 15 years, making it more difficult for would-be-migrants and asylum seekers to enter countries legally.”

Security, Conflict and Migration Restrictions

According to AME, the rising movement of Africans toward North Africa and the Mediterranean borders is linked to political and security troubles in Africa. Most of the migrants come from the center of Africa, especially Congo, where regions have been facing conflict for decades.

Restriction measures against migration in some African countries is another reason behind the current rush towards Europe.

“It’s more and more difficult to migrate to Equatorial Guinea and Angola, which are among the favorite destinations of West African migrants,”Amadou Coulibaly of AME told AFKInsider.

Migrants defense organizations believe the desire to move toward the Mediterranean borders is somehow related to new security problems like the Malian Islamic conflict and activities of Nigeria’s Boko Haram.

“The regions affected by those criminal organizations were concentration areas of illegal migrants. The end of migrants gathering in those regions had put pressure on North Africa,” Coulibaly, who receives expelled migrants at the international airport of Bamako daily, added.

Although the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) makes an effort to enforce state rules against illegal migrant smuggling, the exact number of people involved in such activity is unknown.

Criminal Link to Migration and Immigration 

The UN agency statement explains further:

“Currently, data is too scattered and incomplete to paint an accurate picture of numbers of people who are smuggled each year and the routes and methods used by those who smuggle them.”

Every day, AME receives at least one expulsed migrant from Europe at the international airport of Bamako and all of them are not Malian natives.

According to UNODC, “criminals are increasingly providing smuggling services to irregular migrants to evade national border controls, migration regulations and visa requirements.”

On February 6, twelve African migrants died trying to jump over the barricades of Spanish island of Ceuta, near Morocco. According to the Spanish Interior minister who spoke to a parliament commission, civil guards in charge to dissuade illegal migration into Spain shot into the air. According to migrants defense organizations, some eyewitnesses said the Spanish police first shot the migrants who drowned later.

African authorities try to combat illegal migration with the help of EU country member states through a center of information in the Malian capital.

March 27 ended the Malian authorities’ drive to inform youngsters on the risks of illegal migration. Meanwhile, migration is contributing to the development of the country according to Abdramane Sylla, the Malian minister in charge of the Diaspora.

“But we have to notice that migration, especially the illegal one, is the cause of many tragedies,” Sylla said in the inaugural ceremony of the drive against illegal migration on February 27.

Those tragedies, linked to larger immigration issues are expected to worsen.