How migration affects development
It has become a way of life for many people, both the rich and the poor and has been with African countries for many centuries and has become a vital component of the survival and mobility strategies for many individuals, families, and communities, especially in the developing countries.
It is an economic, social, and political process that affects most Ghanaians to migrate to Europe for a better life.
Globalization of Crime, a transnational organised crime assessment has indicated that on 14th July 2010, there were an estimated 50 million irregular migrants in the world, with about 55,000 migrants from Africa to Europe annually.
As a result of global inequalities and restrictive immigration policies, many workers from developing regions are willing to borrow heavily from their communities and risk their lives to access opportunities in more affluent countries.
They often look for organised criminal groups to assist them migrate and because such services are illegal, those who provide them have tremendous power over their charges and abuse them during the process.
Many Ghanaian migrants travel by land through the desert, and a substantial number die from thirst, hunger, and physical exhaustion and some also travel with genuine visas but overstay them.
Thus, their visas expire before reaching their destinations, which renders them illegal migrants.
Some others also encounter robbers and rebels on their journey exposing them to hazardous situations and making their lives full of miseries. The females, on the other hand, are often raped and some even end up with unwanted pregnancies on the way.
Their misery creates an illicit market for smugglers, who traffic in people with millions in profits taken in, often for the ultimate price.
The smugglers often charge migrants a lot of money and sometimes offer them false papers or jobs, which do not even exist. In some cases, the smugglers may be collaborating with employers, who would pay the illegal immigrants’ little money for hard, physical work, which these illegal migrants have no employment rights whatsoever.
Mostly women among the illegal migrants were often forced or lured into prostitution while for some illegal migrants, it may take many years before they can obtain official papers, feel safe in their new host country, and even reach the country they always wanted to go to.
Ghanaian context of migration
The 2021 Population and Housing Census (PHC) Thematic Report on Migration conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) has disclosed that more than 77 per cent of Ghanaians leaving the country to seek greener pastures in other counties fall between the ages of 20-49.
The report further revealed that over 37% of Ghanaian immigrants went to Europe with 23.7% relocating to the Americas. The report also indicated that more than 35.9% of the migrants moved to settle permanently while 24.9% also moved due to marriage and family reunification.
The PHC 2021 also revealed that 10 out of the 16 regions had more people migrating out than migrating in with the Volta Region having the largest net loss of people.
It also indicated that of the six regions that had a net gain of migrants, Greater Accra had the highest gain.
Further, the leading destinations for persons emigrating from Ghana to settle outside the country were Europe and America. Mostly, Ghanaians travelling outside the country were for employment and to pursue education or training to enhance their knowledge.
Internal migration in Ghana
Ghana faces a huge internal migration challenge characterised by the high rate of migration of youth from rural and smaller communities to large urban centres for living commonly referred to as Kayayei, women and girls who are head porters.
This has resulted in increased population pressure on the resources of the urban centres, homelessness, health risk, and diverse socio-economic challenges for the communities of origin.
The lack of development of many rural communities and insufficient employment opportunities for the youth at the rural levels are responsible for this negative migration trend.
The Northern Region is sparsely populated with many rural areas where subsistence farming is the predominant economic activity of the people.
The Ghana Living Standards Survey Round Seven Report in 2017 indicated that the poverty incidence in Northern Region was 61.1% compared to the national average of 23.4% whilst the incidence of extreme poverty in the Northern Region was 30.7% as compared to the national average of 8.2%.
The young men have a higher tendency to migrate to Europe through the desert and the young women also migrate to the urban centres and in the process are exposed to various dangers and violations of their human rights.
In an interview with Ghana News Agency (GNA), Ms Madia Suli, a 14-year-old girl from Kumbungu District of Northern Region, said she was the fifth born of her family with eight children.
She dropped out from school to migrate to Tamale for the Kayayei business to improve her prevailing socio-economic status due to poverty and family pressure for early marriage.
A professional teacher at the Karaga District, who does not want his name to be mentioned due to his personal reason, told the GNA at the Passport Office in Tamale during his application for passport processing, that he wanted to travel to Europe for a better life and to enable him to take safe care of his family.
Role of technology in exacerbating the crime
Mr Munkaila Aminu, Executive Director of African Development Organization for Migration (AFDOM), in an interview, said because of the extreme poverty and limited livelihood opportunities, there was a high tendency of the youth from the area to migrate to Europe or other urban centres in search of non-existent jobs.
He said technology was one of the aggravating problems, which some of the smugglers were openly advertising their services.
Mr Aminu said: “The successful individuals, who benefited from this migration, lured others through mobile phone communication to undertake similar ventures.”
He said irregular migration in most of the West African countries such as Ghana was as result of the harsh economic conditions where the youth were highly affected due to the high rate of youth unemployment in the nation.
He also stated that poverty was one of the factors especially in the rural areas of Ghana and community and family pressures coupled with low levels of education and lack of employable skills.
Challenges associated with irregular and illegal migration
These are some of the challenges attributed to illegal migration such as human trafficking and smuggling, high rate of school drop-out by the youth, sexual assault and rape on the part of the female migrants, another set, who suffer a lot, are those, who travel through the desert, loss of lives trying to cross the desert and the Mediterranean Sea, diverse form of slavery and torture on the desert.
Other challenges are the state of stranded victims in the form of shortage of water and food and those who are not able to withstand the harsh weather conditions are left behind to die.
Their human rights are often violated; and another issue of concern is about health hazards, often most of them return to their countries of origin with dangerous diseases like HIV/AIDS.
Undocumented migrants, in their attempt to seek greener pastures, use unapproved routes to their destinations and during their movements, they were caught and got themselves entangled with the laws of these countries.
Recommendations on how the country can solve migration crises
The challenges of managing migration have grown dramatically over the past few decades as more people are driven to move out. Beyond border control, countries should approach migration from a holistic point of view, which seeks to take advantage of its potential to boost their economies while also addressing the risks of the process and the causes that drive people out of their countries.
The government should promote stability, education and employment opportunities and reduce the drivers of forced migration including by promoting resilience thereby enabling individuals to make the choice between staying in the country or migrating.
The collection, analysis and use of credible data and information, among other things, demographics, cross-border movements, internal displacement, diasporas, labour markets, seasonal trends, education, and health are essential to create policies based on facts.
Regional cooperation can help minimise the negative consequences of migration and preserve its integrity, which can also contribute to regional and global development goals by improving human capital through sustainable development and ensuring longer-term economic growth.
Civil Society Organisations must support the government to sensitise the public on the dangers associated with irregular migration in schools and communities.
Government must produce a strategy to support farmers through the sustainable agriculture concept especially in the rural areas to improve their conditions of living to reduce people from the rural areas migrating to urban areas for better livelihoods.
Stakeholders should also support the government by promoting entrepreneurial skills training in schools and communities to reduce internal migration.
We also need better systems to manage migration to migrate under safer and better conditions thereby allowing them to contribute optimally to the development of the communities where they belong.
By Comfort Sena Fetrie