Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Europe´s ´Migration Partnership´ with the Sahel Zone

On 28 August, France's President Macron had invited the presidents of Niger, Chad and Libya to the Élysée Palace to find solutions to the refugee crisis. Also present: the leaders of Italy, Germany and Spain. The mini summit came up with a plan for the eschewal of African migrants. As it were, Macron, Merkel, Rajoy & co decided to extend the European external borders up to the Libyan coast and now even well into the Sahel zone: forefield control as a populist waste disposal instrument. No matter how cruel the reception camps. Euphemistic label: ´Migration Partnership´.
Berlin has an increased interest in Africa because it fears that immigration in the public is unpopular. In a recent survey on the Bundestag election 2017, there was no other topic (poverty, unemployment, crime) that worried the Germans as much as the immigration and integration of foreigners. Clearly more than half of the interviewees, 56 per cent, consider migration the greatest societal problem currently for Germany. In fact, the irregular migration to Germany and Europe - mainly via the Mediterranean - had increased strongly until 2015. To be sure, migration from Africa is still low compared to Africa´s total population and relative to the refugee wave from the Middle East. But African migration to Europe will rise.
Historical experience - formerly in Europe, East Asia and North America, but also in China and India - has shown a demographic transition pattern that is closely linked to economic development. In the preindustrial phase, high birth rates and high mortality rates cause weak population growth. In the first part of the demographic transition, mortality rates begin to drop while birth rates and population growth remain high. In the second part of the demographic transition, declining birth rates and declining death rates lead to a slowdown in population growth. In the (post-) industrial phase, low birth rates cause weak or even declining population growth.
In one world region, however, the demographic transition is still slow although per capita income has risen: Sub-Saharan Africa. Demographic standstill includes Africa's most populous state, Nigeria, which already has nearly 200 million inhabitants. South of the Sahara, the decline in birth rates is agonizingly slow: the figure fell from 5.1 per woman in 2000-05 to only 4.7 per cent in the period 2010-2015. By 2050, according to UN projections, Africa's population will double to 2.5 billion[1]. Medical advances and the expansion of health care systems have led to higher life expectancy but living standards remain low, not least because of the associated rise of total population. One has to fear that without birth control and vigorous educational measures for the young Africans part of the continent will stay in the first phase of the demographic transition for too long. Some African societies have been stuck in the Malthusian trap.
The migration potential of Africa, the total number of African migrants, is likely to rise from a demographic perspective as long as the population grows strongly. From an economic point of view, the willingness to emigrate will remain high due to lack of training and labor market opportunities for a growing working population. The IMF categorizes 85 per cent of African migrants as economically motivated, only 15 per cent as political refugees[2]. Politically, Africa's migration potential is fueled by government failure, instability, political persecution and human rights violations. The attractiveness of political stability, democracy, the rule of law and social policy in Europe explains part of the migration to Europe. The migration potential of Africa is also likely to increase from the ecological point of view because water scarcity and the degradation of soils will increase as a result of advancing climate change and growing population pressure. Whether the African migration potential will manifest itself in migration to Europe also depends on the absorption capacity of the African target regions (such as southern Africa and North Africa).
In fact, African migration has so far mainly remained within the continent. According to IMF data, the share of immigrant migrants in the total population in Africa is relatively low (2%) compared with the other developing countries (3%). The reason is simple: the poorest cannot afford to emigrate. It is Africa´s future migration dynamics that worries politicians most. Today, a total population of just fewer than one billion Africans translates into 20 million migrants. In 2050, it will be 50 million if Africa´s migration percentage stays at two percent and Africa's population rises to 2.5 billion. How many of them will leave Africa?
According to the cited IMF note, the proportion of African migrants who actually leave their continent has increased from a quarter in the last quarter of the 20th century to a third today. Their numbers ranged from one million in 1990 to today's six million. Population growth and the growing share of African exodus suggest that their number will rise to 20 million over the coming decades. Most Africans migrants want to go to Western Europe these days. European governments want to prevent this with all their might, at the cost of betraying their own basic humanitarian principles. “So sad.”

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