OPINION: African Migration is Not a Crisis

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf accepts the Mo Ibrahim Prize in 2018. (Lagos Television)

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf accepts the Mo Ibrahim Prize in 2018. (Lagos Television)

Since March 26, both Afrobarometer and the Mo Ibrahim Foundation have published reports on migration trends in Africa. The two organizations both found that more than 70 percent of sub-Saharan African migrants move within the continent, rather than to foreign destinations such as Europe.

Additionally, Africans make up only 14 percent of global migration flows, while 65 percent of migrants come from Europe and Asia. Migrants are mostly young and educated and spend approximately 85 percent of their incomes in their host countries.

Many European nations still consider African migration a crisis, however. Some states, such as France, have pursued what many feel to be transparently xenophobic policies, such as requiring border police to “systematically check the identity documents of people who do not have the right skin color,” according to French NGO La Cimade. Others, like Germany, which initially pursued a policy of Willkommenskultur by welcoming millions of immigrants, have faced significant challenges from populist and anti-immigrant branches of their parties.

Shortly after the release of the Mo Ibrahim report, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for an end to perceptions of African migration as a crisis, emphasizing the “very positive impact” of African migrants on their host countries.

“These are people moving across borders carrying skills, carrying capital, carrying technology, information, creating jobs, paying taxes,” said Johnson Sirleaf, as reported by Reuters. They are a benefit “not only for Africa but for the countries in which they are hosted because they do bring diversity, they bring culture ... and they also contribute to the life of the country.”

Rather than demonizing migrants by framing African immigration as a crisis, European nations should recognize both their contributions and the actual scale of their migration. Only by avoiding traps of racism and fear-mongering can those nations implement effective migration policy