12 June 2015
“Africans should only move out of Africa when they want to, not when they are forced by circumstances,” said the chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, during the opening of the organisation’s Executive Council meeting on 11 June.
She warned that the increased number of migrants and asylum seekers leaving Africa for Europe in search of better opportunities would have a devastating effect on African states grappling with skills shortages and struggling economies.
Dlamini-Zuma challenged African leaders, who are in Johannesburg for the AU’s 25th summit, to do everything in their power stop the migrant crisis. She said there was a risk in reversing the achievements the continent had made over the past decade.
Many desperate migrants cross the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe boats from North African countries to get into European countries like Italy and Greece. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates deaths in the Mediterranean Sea had increased 18 times in the months from January to April compared to the same period last year.
“Approximately 101 900 migrants have arrived on Europe’s shores on smugglers’ vessels since the beginning of January. The vast majority came to Italy and Greece: 54 660 migrants reached Italy (mostly via Libya), while 46 150 migrants reached Greece (mostly via Turkey),” said the IOM.
The United Nations also called migrant deaths “a tragedy of epic proportions”.
The European Commission (EC) revealed the European Union (EU) received approximately more than 600 000 applications for asylum in 2014, the highest number of applicants since 1992.
Dlamini-Zuma said African leaders should make sure conditions in their countries improved to stop citizens from seeking better opportunities abroad. “Africans should be able to acquire and use skills within the continent,” she said. “We want to ensure that African citizens can use their qualifications to work anywhere in Africa.”
She further warned that if Africans continued to migrate as they were doing now, the continent may find it difficult to achieve its Agenda 2063 goals of a prosperous continent at peace with itself.
The AU and EU
In a joint meeting with European Union Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in April, Dlamini-Zuma admitted: “If people don’t have livelihoods at all, they are not going to sit and die of hunger, they are going to look for greener pastures. We don’t have an instant solution but we are going to be looking at and taking steps but we can’t say those steps will solve this thing tomorrow.”