For the last five years, there has been an upsurge in the rate of illegal immigration into Europe by Africans. The immigrants have continued to endure the dangerous journey through the Sahara desert and risk drowning in the Mediterranean Sea all in the hope of reaching Europe. But why do these people risk their lives to this extent?
Worn out, dehydrated and hungry, hundreds of African immigrants reach European shores every month holding unto nothing else but hope for a prosperous future in the new land. These represent the lucky who have managed to successfully land in Europe compared to many others who end up drowning in the Mediterranean or worse get sold as slaves in a well-established slave trade market in Libya.
According to a report released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Friday, July 27th, more than 55,000 immigrants have crossed the Mediterranean to reach Europe so far in 2018. Though this may be a drop from the 111,000 and 250,000 recorded in 2017 and 2016 respectively, the number is still high and portrays the relentlessness in which African immigrants want to reach Europe. The report further indicates that in the last five years, more than 1500 immigrants died per year during transit, but this does not dampen the spirits of others.
The majority of the immigrants making the dangerous journey to Europe are young men and women below 35 years of age. Eurostat reported half of all immigrants were below the age of 28. They represent a strong, skilled and relatively educated group that has the potential of creating a formidable workforce for any country. But due to frustrations back in their countries caused by poor governance, lack of support, conflict and even climate change, they’re left with no choice but to seek for alternative sources of livelihood.
Immigration into Europe is an enticing alternative, and Europe itself has partly been playing a key role in fueling immigration. The working population in Europe is aging and largely made of older people who will have all retired in the next few decades. According to Eurostat, the population pyramid of Europe is widest at the middle and narrowest at the bottom meaning the “proportion of people of working age in the EU is shrinking while the relative number of those retired is expanding”. This has made the demand for labor such as in hospitals and manufacturing industries to continue rising, and with such a demand, Africans are drawn into Europe.
The population of Africa is rapidly expanding, and as long as there is a labor demand, immigration to Europe will continue in droves. Curtailing immigration may prove difficult, perhaps instead favorable immigration policies and agreements should be reached to allow for mutual benefits between the two continents.
In many cases, the kind of benefits that immigrants can bring to a country often means that immigration can help a country. The French national football team which won the cup in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, for instance, had more players of African origin than white players. Kakuma, a refugee camp in Kenya injects $56 million yearly into the Kenyan economy through its vibrant economy.
In 2016, the Center For American Progress reported that Syrian immigrants have advanced degrees at twice the rate of American born citizens. Syrian immigrants also start businesses at more than three times the rate of native Americans.
A 2017 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at both the costs of refugees and the positive economic impact of refugees. Researchers identified a group of 18-to-45-year-olds who resettled in the U.S. over the past 25 years to do so.
The study’s authors found the “U.S. spends roughly $15,000 in relocation costs and $92,000 in social programs over a refugee’s first 20 years in the country. However, they estimated that over the same time period, refugees pay nearly $130,000 in taxes — over $20,000 more than they receive in benefits,” as FiveThirtyEight reported.
Jeffrey Sachs, an economist, senior UN advisor and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, told PBS in 2016 that the economic impact of refugees overall was positive.
“For the world, it’s positive, because people are leaving desperate situations and getting to economically better situations. For the U.S., on net, it’s positive, because there are gains when people come, add to the labor market, add skills and generally, earn less than what they can contribute to the society as a whole. So there are benefits, but there are distributional consequences that can be quite complicated,” Sachs said.
While immigration overall is a positive Sachs conceded that the economic impact could be complicated in how it affected a country. Who the immigrants are, where they are coming from, their age, their education levels and how many dependents they have all affect how immigration impacts a country.
Sachs also told PBS correspondent Paul Solman that the U.S. had a role in creating the refugee crisis and thus had a responsibility to help.
“We are so interconnected, whether it’s Ebola, whether it’s climate change or whether it’s refugees. This is one interconnected society. But in the case of refugees, it’s even more than that, because it’s not just something that’s happening and then the United States feels the impact. The United States is one of the main protagonists of the wars in the Middle East,” said Sachs.
“And so our responsibility, our role in all of this violence is much more direct. The more one understands the details of that, the more one should say, “Of course, the United States will play its role and its responsibility in helping people flee for their lives.”