Saturday, November 01, 2008

Voices of Africa Share Their Visions and Concerns at People's Global Action

By Nunu Kidane

Priority Africa Network

Black Alliance for Just Immigration

I must admit, coming to Manila, I was convinced that the Africa agenda would be nowhere and participants from the region would be few – at least much fewer than last year in Brussels. Was I wrong. Not only was the process intentionally inclusive of Africa focused issues, but the were about 20 participants from Africa, about 3 times the size that was in Brussels, and they were all amazing people. [Right: Discussion the issues at the "Borders, Detentions & Deportations" workshop at the People's Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights in the parking lot of the Malate Catholic Church gathering. All photos: Arnoldo Garcia]

Most came from West Africa where they shared issues of concern on the increase of migration, both internally within the continent and as the flows head north to the Meghreb and the Mediterraian. We were Anglophone and Francophone from Sub Sahara Africa where some worked directly with migrants in addressing livelihood and survival needs while others worked in policy advocacy. There were a few of us from diaspora organizations who are based in Europe and myself from the U.S. representing Priority Africa Network & the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.

Making the Connections on Africa & Migration:

From Colonialism to Frontex

Making the connections among us was an important first step towards forming a common agenda. We all realized that comparatively, there are major gaps in information when it comes to migration from Africa. We also work in different sectors and concerns which keeps us busy and with limited funding and it get challenging to address the multiple layers of issues we face.

The common analysis we shared was that none of what is happening now can be seen separate from the recent historic past of European colonialism of Africa. The current political and economic instability of Sub Saharan African countries can be traced back to the past and to the current system of bilateral and multilateral economic agreements (SAP etc.) which have not served the needs of the African people. Neither do we discount the responsibilities of African leaders for failure to protect the rights of their own citizens – and in many instances, for being the main cause for migration in the first place. [Right: Nunu Kidane speaking at the opening mass-up and march of the People's Global Action in Manila.]

While we all saw the national-level advocacy and policy change as necessary, it was equally important to work regionally and continentally – including regional bodies like ECOWAS, SADC and IGAD, as well as with non-governmental organizations.

Migration is becoming an issue of great concern globally, and Africa is no different in this respect. As we look at the trend of migration over the next decade, all indicators are that there will be a vast increase of people on the move in the coming years.

The level of desperation that is pushing people away from their homes is already high – environmental destruction, access to land and water resources, protection of rights and decreasing opportunities for young people – all contribute to push people to consider moving to Europe or elsewhere as destination points.

What is happening in European immigration policy needs to be exposed for the hipocracy and double standards. There is a great deal of xenophobia in the social and political attitudes of Europeans when it comes to non-European immigrants, and especially Africans – despite the fact that Africans have been going to Europe in large numbers for the past half century, they continue to be seen as difficult to assimilate. [Left: A delegation of migrant rights organizations and unions attending the governments' Global Forum on Migration and Development's "Civil Society Days" come to address the big labor-led march "SALAG," the Solidarity Action of Labor against the GFMD.]

To curb the migration of North and Sub Saharan Africans into their territories, European union enacted FRONTEX in October 2005 This militarized system of ‘border control’ has broad mandates with little oversight and transparency in its overall program. It is a combination of national troops in coordination with local police and border control officials which go beyond what is considered official European territory of land and sea establishing permanent operations in countries like Senegal.

Frontex officers in full uniform gear are visible in even villages throughout the countryside where they gather data on migration patterns with the purpose of curbing and controlling the flow of migration of Africans. Furthermore, similar to Guantanamo Bay, there are detention centers off of islands and costlands of North Africa over which no one-country has clear jurisdisction and clearly no oversight of international organizations. Conditions, needless to say are deplorable and violations occur on a large scale.

All these and more are issues of concern that we hope the Africa group will continue to work on and expand on as we move ahead into the coming months. There are challenges, but there is commitment to tackle them with at lease very basic level of communication set up among the group in order to ensure that the links we have built continue to be strengthened in the coming months. [Left: At the Africa migration and human rights workshop at PGA, Manila.]

Information on our respective organizations and the work that we do will be posted on a page of the Migrants Rights International (MRI) website which will have English, French and Spanish versions.

We will use our collective voice to highlight issues of current concern and to prepare well ahead of the next annual gathering of the Global Fund for Migration and Development in Athens in 2009. We invite other groups to join us in our effort to expand the voices of migrants from Africa, especially groups that are already working on trade, resource extraction, debt cancellation, gender rights and other issues, to consider migration as a concern which links to their agenda. As always we are in gratitude for the folks in the Philippines and from Asia in general who welcomed us and stood in solidarity with us. [Right above: Listening to the dicussion at the PGA's Durban Process Review workshop.]