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African Youths and their Perilous Journey to Europe through Sahara Desert: Causes, Effects and Remedies

Updated on January 17, 2015

"The journey of African youths to Europe and America do not start today. It has been a trend in all ages but in the olden days, they travel with dignity in search of knowledge, the same way Europeans came to African in search of raw materials. When they come back after studies, they took active part in building Africa"

African Youths Migration to Europe

Every year, thousands of African youths risk their lives daily as they journey through the Sahara desert with hopes of reaching the North African coast, where they take a small boat and sail for a week or two to Europe, their dreamland of greener pastures, liberty and luxurious life. A man’s difficult situation they say, confines him in a struggling mood to find a better breeze of live. African youths are not exception to this law of nature, as the bad economic situation in Africa has force most of them to embark on a perilous journey to Europe in search of greener pastures; in a land where in they Africa believe manna fall from heaven. A land where there is no struggle because their progenitors built “money barn” the same way Africa’s built yam barn before they die. Endless fairy tale on the lips of African youths about Europe!


The journey of African youths to Europe and America do not start today. It has been a trend in all ages but in the olden days, they travel with dignity in search of knowledge, the same way Europeans came to African in search of raw materials. When they come back after studies, they took active part in building Africa like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe (the Great Zike of Africa) and Dim Odumegwu Chukwuemeka Ojukwu, both of Nigeria, who studied in USA and United Kingdom respectively as well as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana (the first president of Ghana) who studied in USA and United Kingdom, not forgetting Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania that studied in the United Kingdom and host of others. They all wrote their names boldly in the history book of their nations in particular and Africa in general. However, the trend had recently changed from search of knowledge to material wealth, and the rout is Morocco via Sahara desert. Thus, Morocco has become an important transit hub for sub-Saharan African seeking to enter Europe literally by foot.

The Journey across Sahara Desert to Morocco

Sahara desert (the Great Desert) is the world’s hottest desert and the third largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic, and the largest on the continent of Africa. It is over 9,400,000 square kilometer and covers most of North Africa. It stretches from Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts to the Atlantic Ocean. Sahara desert covers large parts of Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Western Sahara, Sudan and Tunisia. It has the harshest climates in the world and the prevailing north-east trade wind often causes sand storms and dust devils.


The quest for greener pastures has made host of African youths who do not possess the necessary travel documents (visa) to embark on a precarious journey to Europe through the death zone (Sahara desert), with the hope of entering Spain via Morocco. Morocco shared a boundary with Spain at Tanger Gibraltar separated by the Mediterranean Sea that borders the Spanish enclave, Melilla, and their traffickers are always smart to present them with a copy of world map, pointing out for them the location of Morocco and Spain while convincing them on how less difficult it is crossing the border fence and razor wire to Spain once they get to Morocco, travelling 3000 kilometers through the desert of Niger and Algeria. Only few survived this trip to Morocco while a fraction made it to Spain, though at the risk of deportation but thousands have perished in the last 15 years during this dangerous journey.

"Poverty in Africa is at its peak and this is largely due to misuse, mismanagement and misappropriation by corrupt government officials and individuals alike. These terms are synonymous to Africa; no one wants to get it right because African nations are called Developing Nations, and one wonders when Africa will be developed."

Causes of African Youths Migration to Europe

A flog they say in African proverb does not run without a cause on the daylight. What then can be the cause of this deadly migration? Before we condemn the acclaimed future leaders of Africa for abandoning their homeland and embark on an unjustifiable journey to Europe, it is imperative that we take a look at factors behind this odyssey.

Poverty in Africa

Poverty is ravaging Africa, thus making Africa the poorest continent in the world in terms of basic human needs of the people despite her hug natural resources. According to UN, African nations typically fall towards the bottom of any list measuring small size economic activity, such as income per capita or GDP per capita, despite a wealth of natural resources. In 2009, 22 of 24 nations identified as having Low Human Development on the United Nations Human Development Index were in Sub-Sahara Africa. In many nations (Africa), GDP per capita is less than USD$200 per year, with the vast majority of the population living on much less.


Again, Africa’s share of income has been consistently dropping over the past century by any measure. In 1820 for example, the average European worker earned about three times what the average African did. Today, the figure has risen to about twenty times. Tell me why there should not be massive migration to Europe? The youths are not to be blame. Poverty in Africa is at its peak and this is largely due to misuse, mismanagement and misappropriation by corrupt government officials and individuals alike. These terms are synonymous to Africa; no one wants to get it right because African nations are called Developing Nations, and one wonders when Africa will be developed. We are paying dearly, with extreme poverty, to our complacent attitude towards resource control and management, and the result is youth migration.

High Rate of Unemployment and Corruption in Africa

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Unemployment in Africa

The youth population in sub-Sahara Africa is increasing rapidly and youths are becoming better educated. According to The World’s Youth 2013 Data Sheet, estimate shows that the proportion of 20 – 24 years olds who complete secondary education will increase from 42 to 59 per cent over the next 20 years. Sadly, youth unemployment remains a barrier to the region’s development. The highest rates of continents unemployment are from the sub-Sahara region where 51 percent of young women and 43percent of young men are unemployed. This large unemployed population indicates lost potential since communities and nations fail to benefit from the young people.


The reason for high rates of employment is largely due corruption, mismanagement, not enough jobs, over population, lack of industries and investment growth opportunities to mention but the few. The difficulties in finding and sustaining meaningful employment detract from a young person’s lifetime productivity and earnings, making it more challenging to escape poverty, and the end is migration to Europe or America.

Reasons for Africa - Europe Youths Migration

  • Poverty in Africa
  • Unemployment
  • Corruption in Government
  • Pressure on African Youths
  • Pathological Urge for Material Wealth
  • Greediness in African Society

Corruption in Africa

Meanwhile, corruption is the root of all evil in Africa. Corruption is a major problem in the region, although not limited to Africa but rooted in Africa. Many native groups in Africa believe family relationships are more important than national identity, and people in authority often use nepotism and bribery for benefit of their extended family group at the expense of their nations. Job creation and recruitment are not exception to this practice as it is the major cause of unemployment in Africa. In Nigeria for example, jobs are kept for yet unborn generation of some group and their relatives at the expense of the teeming qualified youths rooming round the streets in search of non-existing jobs. Sometime ghost workers (nonexistent workers) are pay rolled, giving government falsified data of youth employment. The practice is obtainable not only in Nigeria but virtually in all African nations.

Pressure on African Youths

This present generation of youth is under intensive pressure and when it is not manage properly, the end is always disastrous. Africa is under a change which has brought about cultural erosion and value degradation in African societies. As the saying goes, “change is the constant thing in nature”, but how these changes affect our lives and environment depend largely on the nature of the change - whether positive or negative. Our youths are under exhaustive societal pressure as a result of negative changes taking place in our society; knowingly or unknowingly. The pressure ranges from conformity pressure to economic, peer group, political, and academic pressure to mention but the least. Above all, they are under pressure to succeed and the slogan is, “either I succeed or I die”.


Sadly, parents who have a role to play in guiding and giving direction to their children and wards are not leaving up to these expectations rather they contribute to the predicaments of this generation. They want their children and wards to be like that of other families at all cost. It is often argued that societal or peer group pressure help to motivate an individual but this is not always the case. The truth is that, it makes them to work beyond their limit and when the pressure is not managed properly, the result is frustration.


Our youths are in the horse race of conformity with the moving trend of fashion, music, wealth and material possessions, and when these are not obtainable due the economic situation of African nations, the death-defying migration to Europe becomes the available option.

Pathological Urge for Material Wealth

Again, in a contemporary African society, values are long gone and virtues like honesty, kindness and faithfulness have become anachronistic and are no longer what define a person of honour but the amount of material wealth (money) under your possession. Societal erosion of old African virtues has infested the evil of material wealth acquisition in our society, and youths have been negatively affected by this “malicious wind”. A society where chieftaincy titles are offered to the highest bidder and only the rich have a valuable contribution in a community gathering, one wonders why the youths will not do anything to become rich, even to commit crime or risk their irreplaceable live on a risky journey to Europe.


The pathological urge to acquire wealth in the present-day African society is the mother of all social problems in Africa; corruption, political instability, nepotism, crime, unemployment, lack of development, misuse, mismanagement, misappropriation and so on. However, there are a lot of means through which one can get rich, only if you care to acquire wealth in a sincere manner, like trade, farming, craft, music and entertainment, football and white collar jobs, but it is often argued by the youths as a long journey to wealth and riches. Thus, the fastest route to slake the public thirst for material wealth is to jump to the streets of Europe in search of fragile oyibos (white men) to dupe. This trend has left most of our youths devastated and depressed; some have lost their lives.

"Greed is killing Africa and this is why Africa is poor. It cripples anything called development; be it intellectual or infrastructural development. Most of African leaders are richer than their nation and the question is, if Africa is poor and live on foreign aid, how do their leaders amass their wealth?"

Greediness

Furthermore, the present day extreme longing for material wealth had given birth to spirit of covetousness. Call it a chain reaction, but this is the situation in contemporary African society. The rich wants to be the richest. Greed is killing Africa and this is why Africa is poor. It cripples anything called development; be it intellectual or infrastructural development. Most of African leaders are richer than their nation and the question is, if Africa is poor and live on foreign aid, how do their leaders amass their wealth? For instance, according to Daily Graphic, in 1993, Margaret Thatcher’s wealth was put at $6million, she was UK Prime Minister for eleven and half years, while Kamuzu Banda of Malawi had his wealth estimated at $320million; that is more than 53 times the wealth of Margaret Thatcher. Is Malawi richer and developed more than UK? How do you explain this variation? What then can you say of Sani Abacha, former military president of Nigeria? Abacha’s wealth (the accountable once) was estimated at billions of US dollars. Why not pay a visit to Nigeria and see how poor the country is? Yet our leaders are the richest politicians in the world. Greed has become very pervasive in our society at all level and youths are not exception.


It is really unfortunate that most of these youths that embarked on this lethal journey to Europe are not the very poor in the society rather they want to be the richest, thus abandon their business, education and trades, while others sold their properties. Their compulsive urge to get richer makes them vulnerable and gullible to be wheedled by the verisimilitude stories of their traffickers, “once you get to Morocco, you are already in Spain”.

"They perish on the way through dehydration, starvation, intense heat, sickness and other causes. Sadly, most families still believed that their loved once are living in Europe to come back with riches, unbeknown; they have gone to the world beyond."

Effects of African Youths Audacious Journey to Europe through Sahara Desert

The search for better live has made some African youths to lose their sense of reasoning, and embark of on audacious odyssey through Sahara desert to Europe. The only thing on their mind is that they will succeed and change their stories to success, “I will make it to Europe and no border control or fence will stop me”. Some due consult their pastors who proclaim a year of success and divine manifestation for them, and ask them to go and possess their possessions. What a pastoral joke! Meanwhile, when the news of this “glamorous” journey to Europe is broke to their parents at home, they are filled with joy and happiness. But, unbeknownst to these youths, their parents and pastors are the following (but not limited to) grave consequences of this mission.

Death

Traffickers of these hapless youths always cajole them with verisimilitude success stories. Unfortunately, many souls have been lost and family lineages have been wiped out as result of death of their heir through this journey. They perish on the way through dehydration, starvation, intense heat, sickness and other causes. Sadly, most families still believed that their loved once are living in Europe to come back with riches, unbeknown; they have gone to the world beyond. They will meet to path no more on the last day - God willingly. According to Danish journalist Thomas Estrup, “thousand have perished in the last 15 years during this perilous journey”. As the border control gets tougher and the system stricter, they run a higher risk by going longer by boat in attempt to cross fence to Europe. Majority of the deaths are recorded on the transit across Sahara desert. A blog called Fortress Europe registered the deaths of 1,343 African migrants between January and October 2007 alone who died while trying to enter Europe, even as the actual number is believed to be higher. “Our main concern relating the migrants crossing into Europe is death of thousands of them, the risk they take by crossing the Sahara desert and crossing into Europe”, says Julien Attuil-Kayser, who is an adviser to the Commissioner for Human Rights of Council of Europe.


Consequently, the miserable parents and relatives left behind are heart-broken. Some die of psychological related illnesses when the sad-news of the death of their loved once get to them or when they did not hear from them after a long period of time. Meanwhile, many have been expose to evils and exploitations in an attempt to know the fate of their loved once after an uncommunicative period of time.

Frustration and Crime

In addition, only an exiguous number survive this trip across Sahara desert and they are faced with different kinds of frustration. In Morocco, about 15,000 migrants are stuck on their way to Europe. Only few have been recognized as refugees according to the UN Refugee Agency. The rest are considered illegal immigrants while some have settled for a life in the North Africa of Algeria and Morocco. Most of these illegal immigrants faced deportation by Moroccan government while the unfortunate once end up in jail.


The very fraction that made it to enter Spain is not spared as they face high risk of deportation and difficulties. As life become more and more difficult for the survivors in Europe, some are lured into drug peddling and ended up in jail and deportation after jail. Back to their countries after expatriation, they are greeted with shame and frustration. How to start again from the pity of hell after all the hype-hope of luxurious life became a problem. They ended up in depression and find solace in drugs, thus become drugs addicts and reprobates. As the search for a spare life after a hapless sting in Europe continued, most of them engaged in criminal activities such as robbery, rape, advance free fraud, political thuggery and so on. Hence, crime becomes the order of the day in the society.

"society must discard their habitual urge and admiration for material wealth, and if possible bring back the old virtues of honesty and integrity thus making way for accountability."

It Increases the Pressure in Society

Furthermore, it increase societal pressure and fueled the obsessive thirst for wealth. The very small number of youths that have actually made their way to the streets of Europe and come back to show off their riches and luxurious life – be it fake or real, have infested the community and other youths with neurotic desire for riches adding to the pressure in the society. Many youths have been distracted and rendered hopeless, and societal values became eroded since wealth becomes the ultimate.

Economic and Political Backwardness

Economically, massive migration of young African to Europe indicates loss of potentials since communities and nations fail to benefit from what young people can contribute. Our arable land for agriculture lays fallow, and ministries and agencies are left in the hands of the aged workforce. Meanwhile, on the political point of view, this deadly trek to Europe tarnishes African image. One has only to think of the bulwark that Europe erected at her borders to comprehend that the colonial picture of the ‘inferior,’ ‘unreasonable,’ ‘barbarian,’ - the African – still prevails in this era. Until Africa grows up, becomes developed, and joins the industrialized world, the overseas representation of her will remain. At the height of her modernity pursuits, Europe’s interests burdened the African with a classification that has defaced her since the age of the Enlightenment.

"I suggest that our educational system be reviewed and tailored to needs of the society. The pathological quest for University education should be reduced to the barest minimum and technical education encouraged consequently, making our educated youths more creative than “educated slaves”."

Solution to the Menace of African Youth Migration to Europe

Physical mobility is a feature of the human race. While threat to life, poverty and joblessness, war and persecution, quest for fortunes, etc. may force people to emigrate, no group of people has ever engaged so massively in international migration as did the Europeans but solution seems to have been found. One out of ten Africans has the Irish blood running in his veins. At present, there are at least 40 million Irish residing in the United States of America. One third of the Swedes migrated at difficult times. At present, Swedish government constantly engages in a think-home drive to lure her citizens back into her borders. Between 1800 and 1900, Germans departed their countries in droves in search of greener pastures. Ever since the age of the Enlightenment, the British have not ceased to migrate and settle in foreign lands. Among the colonialists in Africa were those who had no purpose than to make a career in far-flung Africa. And Europe-to Europe ‘economic migration’ is also very significant. While European governments offer African leaders financial support to impede Africa-to-Europe migrants, African governments face the dilemma of providing jobs for millions of their jobless citizens. Hence, unless the root cause of migration – poverty and underdevelopment – is addressed, neither European Union nor African governments will successfully stem the tide of Africa-to-Europe migration.


Therefore, Africa leaders should emulate from their European counterpart (since they have been face with youth migration in the past) and alleviate if not to eradicate poverty in Africa by providing employment for the teeming youth population. I suggest that our educational system be reviewed and tailored to needs of the society. The pathological quest for University education should be reduced to the barest minimum and technical education encouraged consequently, making our educated youths more creative than “educated slaves” – China had shown that this is possible, thus they have taken maximum use of their population.


Meanwhile, for the aforementioned to prove effective panacea to this menace, society must discard their habitual urge and admiration for material wealth, and if possible bring back the old virtues of honesty and integrity thus making way for accountability. Subsequently, the youths will be relieved of the dreaded societal pressure, and our community will be cured of her corruption and greediness.

Finally, youth migration is as old as the world and no nation should claim innocence of this act but history will not be fair on West African youths who have decided to embark on perilous trek across Sahara desert with the intention of sneaking into Europe. The dignity of human life should not be compromise for any struggle.

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    • profile image

      Ruby 2 years ago

      Such a heartfelt article. Prayer is definitely needed.

    • harisnefo profile image
      Author

      harisnefo 3 years ago

      Dineo, thank you for your concern.

    • profile image

      Dineo Rachere 3 years ago

      On the whole the article is okay but remember Africa is vast but your article is full of generalizations. You should stick to the region you are referring to instead of using the name Africa so loosely. Next time get someone to edit and proofread your articles before publishing.

    • profile image

      tesfabrhan hadgu 3 years ago

      O God please give for Africa full

      Peace and keep us

      In our country

      Z

    • harisnefo profile image
      Author

      harisnefo 3 years ago

      Its a pleasure Mecheshir! Thank you for your time.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 3 years ago

      Great read. Very informative. Thanks for sharing. Voted up for awesome and useful.