Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe, a UN Development Programme (UNDP) report, explores the adventures and reasons behind the migrants who prefer to travel to Europe through dangerous conditions to cross the border with the guidance of dangerous human smugglers. The motivations of avoiding the official immigration processes and routes. About 1,970 migrants from 39 African countries were interviewed and they admitted coming to Europe through illegal means and not for asylum-seeking basis. They had all migrated to Europe through irregular means and lived for at least six months before they were interviewed for the study.
The report finds out that jobs or education were not the only reasons for the irregular migration. And a number of these migrants were not poor, unemployed or uneducated before migrating to Europe. Approximately, 58 per cent were schooling, working or running some businesses earning competitive incomes but half of those working argued that they were not earning enough. Before leaving, the respondents have spent at least 3 years more in school than their peers back home.
Most of the migrants who were working or about to earn, before migrating, noted that the jobs or money they earned was not something that could hinder them from travelling.
Lack of opportunities or choices on jobs in their home countries, according to the research are major factors behind the migration. Most of the respondents talked about the challenges they faced in their home countries – not able to help or provide for their families and siblings.
According to the report, irregular migration is an investment in a better future: embraced by individuals whose development trajectory is already in ascendance, enabling a radical rejection of the constraining circumstances at home in order to scale metaphorical and even physical fences to personal fulfilment and better opportunities.
The risky outcomes of migrating to Europe through non-official immigartion means has not reduced the irregular migration from Africa to Europe. For example, 93 per cent of the 1,970 respondents experienced danger on their journey, but only 2 per cent admitted that they would have changed their minds if they were aware of the dangerous events they faced during the journey. The UNDP report advocates for efforts to increase more opportunities and choices in Africa.
Yerima, one of the migrants who spoke with the UNDP, he says, “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 with a decent life?”
“It was all to earn money. Thinking of my mom and my dad. My big sister. My little sister. To help them. That was my pressure. That’s why Europe.”, says Drissa, another respondent noted.
The shame of not providing for their families keeps the influx of migrants to Europe. Around 78 per cent sends money back according to the report.