Few years ago, I stumbled on an Aljazeera documentary about an immigrant boat that recently docked in Italy. The Aljazeera crew went to the migrant detention centre to interview some of the new arrivals who just crossed the Mediterranean Sea. This happened before the current migrant crisis started; there were fewer migrant boats then.
So, the crew interviewed this Nigerian lady. From her name, you could guess that she was a Christian southerner, probably uneducated but she looked descent. The question was: why did you decide to embark on this dangerous journey, knowing fully well that you could lose your life? The Lady said: “I was staying in Northern Nigeria when Boko Haram struck the area where I was staying and I had to flee for my life. They (Boko Haram) have killed a lot of people, especially Christians, and Nigeria is no longer safe for me. I have come to Italy to seek for asylum as going back to Nigeria will endanger my life”.
Okay!!! Let’s address this, one issue at a time. I am a Nigerian, I live in the Southern part of Nigeria. At the height of the Boko Haram crisis, only about five or six states and the Federal Capital, Abuja had been attacked out of thirty-six states in Nigeria. The southern part of the country was relatively safe and all the Boko Haram attacks had been in the North. With that in context, you could tell my amazement when I had a southern Nigerian lady, speaking from a detention camp in Italy that her life was not safe in Nigeria and that she had to risk that same life to cross the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean instead of heading for Lagos, Nigeria.
I sympathise with the migrants going through hardship in the hands of the Libyan traffickers and I hope that all the traffickers are brought to justice. Anyone who deceptively puts another human through that kind of ordeal belongs in jail. The other side of the coin is that: Is the journey worth the trouble? The amount of human bodies we see on television, floating on the Mediterranean, just in a bid to get into European countries that have little opportunities for uneducated migrants is not worth it in my opinion. I agree that there are migrants who are genuinely escaping from conflicts; but there are safer passage points for most of them. The lady in question probably had a good case but even though there were safer alternatives for her in Southern Nigeria, she chose the riskier, more unreasonable option.
There are racist elements in all parts of the world, Europe inclusive. But to say that the people voting for Governments that are anti-immigrants into power are racist leaves too little to be desired. Who among us will not want something to be done about scores and scores of migrant boats arriving on your shores? You have no idea who the people are, what their ideologies are or where they are coming from? In my opinion, if you are worried and want something to be done about it, you are not racist; you are human. Haven said that, there are people who really want to hurt other races and are intolerant of immigrants because of their skin colours; that’s racist.
As an African, I cover my face in shame for the ways our leaders have handled this migrant crisis. I agree that the continent is battling with a lot of challenges (most of them are caused by corruption and greed) but if this migrant crisis were to be happening in any other continent, your guess is as good as mine; the reaction from the leaders will be different.
The campaign to discourage migrants from proceeding on this suicidal mission is even being spearheaded by others; the “fierce urgency of now” about a situation that is embarrassing the continent is not being exhibited. This is a continent where people get into Government to be served and not to serve. Let me us a local parlance: “God is watching all of us in 3D; judgement is coming”.
To our European friends; Hmmm. Some African leaders corruptly siphon the continent’s resources and guess where they transfer it to? Yes, you are correct; a lot of the funds find its way to Europe and America. The leaders of the countries where the funds are taken know that those funds were stolen and that this pilfering will cause enormous suffering for hundreds of millions of Africans; yet they care less. They collect the funds, invest them in their own economies while many Africans are hoping that stolen funds will find no home abroad. I hope you now have an idea why many people are heading to your places and why some of them are so desperate to risk their lives on the Mediterranean?