MOST of the irregular migrants who made the perilous journey from Africa to Europe would do so again, despite now knowing the life-threatening dangers involved, a new survey from the United Nations suggests.
Irregular or illegal migration is the movement of persons outside of the law, regulations, or international agreement.
In a survey of 1970 migrants from 39 African countries, who had settled in 13 European nations, 93 per cent said that they had experienced danger on the journey. Just two per cent said that they would have stayed at home had they known the risks at the time.
The findings were published in a report from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Scaling Fences: Voices of irregular African migrants to Europe, on Monday. It investigates why, having made the decision to leave home, people chose to bypass formal immigration procedures in favour of people-smugglers and other illegal methods of crossing borders.
Two-thirds of respondents were either earning (49 per cent, most of whom were on competitive wages) or in education (nine per cent) at the time of their departure, suggesting that finding work was not a motivation for leaving home. Half the people who had been working, however, said that they had not been earning enough in their home country.
More than three-quarters of respondents (78 per cent) sent money back to their families in their homeland — a third of their monthly income on average in Europe: the equivalent of 85 per cent of their previous income. “Average earnings in Europe far outstrip average earnings in Africa, even in real terms,” the report explains.
One migrant, Yerima, said: “If you have a family, you have to ensure they have food, shelter, medicine, and education. I have a young daughter. People may ask what kind of father I am, to leave behind my wife and infant daughter. But what kind of a father would I be, if I stayed and couldn’t provide them a decent life?”
A higher proportion of women were sending money back, even women who were not earning, the report states. The gender wage gap between men and women in Africa is reversed in Europe: women earned 11 per cent more than men in Europe, compared with 26 per cent less in Africa.
A slightly higher proportion of women fell victim to a crime than men in the six months before being interviewed for the report. Significantly more women than men experienced sexual assault.
Respondents said that being treated unfairly by their governments (66 per cent) was a reason for leaving, for reasons including their ethnicity and political views; 77 per cent said that their voice was “unheard”, or that the political system in their home country had meant that they were unable to “exert influence” on government.
The UNDP administrator, Achim Steiner, said: “Barriers to opportunity, or ‘choicelessness’, emerge from this study as critical factors informing the calculation of these young people.
“By shining a light on why people move through irregular channels, and what they experience when they do, Scaling Fences contributes to a critical debate on the role of human mobility in fostering progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the best approaches to governing it.”
Of the people who did not want to stay permanently in Europe, 67 per cent said that their communities would be happy if they returned.
Forty-one per cent wanted to live permanently in Europe.