Chika Okoli: The perilous road from Africa to Europe


Travelling to any country through irregular means is never an easy deal. From the physical and psychological risks to financial and relational burdens, irregular migration often ends in futility. For many migrants attempting to reach Europe from Africa, recent trends show that more restrictions and dangers now exist both internally and externally. Over 900 people are reportedly dead in 2019 while attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.

By the day, tougher migration decisions and policies are being implemented across Europe, especially by frontline states, making undocumented arrivals and stay unwelcomed. Italy’s decision to close its borders to rescue boats operated by NGOs left many African migrants stranded on the sea, without an option but to return to Libya. The justification is that unplanned entries put pressure on social security systems, thereby affecting the economy and citizens. Study shows that one in two Germans is against increased migration.

In July 2019, Spain approved additional €30 million to help the Morocco fight irregular migration; this came after the European Union’s €140 million promise to Morocco for the same cause. Such partnerships and investments underscore Europe’s willingness to push back on irregular migration.

Back in Africa, many Europe-hopeful migrants are stuck in their journeys with thousands of them trapped in the worst human conditions across detention centres in Libya. Irregular migrants are vulnerable to gross misuse and abuse, torture, rape, slavery, detention and exploitation. The Libyan coastguard with support from Europe, through real-time surveillance, ensures that Libyan water lines are kept free of migrants who attempt to cross the sea to Europe. Many of those arrested are held in detention camps before possible repatriation which may not happen.

Hundreds of migrants are also held in detention centres in Niger and other parts of Africa such as Rwanda, an East African country that will soon commence receiving stranded African migrants. The Europe Union, in collaboration with other stakeholders, continues to seek African-based processing and resettlement centres to reduce the number of irregular arrivals at its shores.

In the wake of what has become the deadliest Mediterranean tragedy of 2019, where over the 150 migrants drowned after leaving Libya to Italy, the United Nations has said that “Libya is not a safe country of asylum.” This further lends credence to the state of insecurity of life and livelihood for African migrants who choose to travel to Europe through the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea.

With the ever-increasing dangers and odds of getting to Europe irregularly from Africa, potential migrants must understand the risks and realities of irregular migration thinking of the cost – financially, physically, mentally, relationally, and ultimately life.


Chika Okoli is an Abuja-based media entrepreneur and social commentator

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