The Pope’s clarion call to Europe’s heads of governments not to succumb to the surging waves of populism sweeping the continent’s political coastlines and threatening the foundation of its very revered liberal culture at a recent summit held in the Vatican was not only timely but also a reinforcement of his stance towards showing greater commitment to humanity.
His call was one that was anchored on tolerance, sympathy, and most of all love. Why should Europe now become intolerant, divisive and resenting of her famed and long established liberalism that has long fostered and groomed her multi-cultural diversity thanks to her robust and lenient policy on immigration? The reasons are not far -fetched. Terrorism, Islam and a decline in economic fortunes which have put pressure on its social welfare program has suddenly made Europeans to give ‘cold shoulder’ to immigrants no thanks to the swelling ranks and vociferous voices of far-right movements.
The populist movements are quick to attribute insecurity and many other socio-economic woes bedeviling Europe to her ‘open-arm’ policy on immigration and feel their citizens would be better-off by closing her borders.
However, the papal call would come as a soothing balm to the millions of vulnerable and less privileged refugees (most especially Africans) caught in the snare of “life and death” situation as they attempt the dangerous Mediterranean Sea crossing in their quest to flee persecutions, poverty and wars in their home land.
It is a horrendous, nightmarish and not too profitable journey that has left many casualties in its wake, yet, attracts more, willing to stake their lives and embark on this deadly expedition. The unquenchable urge to leave the miseries behind in their home lands and start afresh in a land where they feel offers them more opportunities; opportunities Europe (mostly the Western part) guarantee would always make this life-threatening adventure an enticing project to these immigrants.
Over the years immigration had always been a contentious issue for the countries in the Northern hemisphere as they have been the recipient of the burden and side-effects that come with thousands, if not millions of immigrants from the South swarming their borders.
Although immigration has always been on the front burner of the West and even the United Nations, the surge in this human activity no thanks to the burgeoning role of human smugglers feeding on the desperation of their victims to get to Europe’s shores through the back door in the past three years have become an embarrassment to the West and international community.
Sordid tales of inhumane conditions immigrants are subjected to by the smugglers as they cramped into a rickety boat or ship to make the dangerous Mediterranean crossing from Libya and the ill-fated journey that sees hundreds drown in the sea due to the frail conditions of the ship they are sailing to withstand the turbulence and extreme conditions at sea have pushed illegal immigration especially from Africa up into the political menu of European governments.
It is now a sore wound Europe can’t cut off but, must nurse. Europe for what she represents on the global stage is a continent that has both moral obligation and strategic role in curbing this menace happening in her backyard. The safety of the refugees, and halting the influences of human smugglers in this illicit act would be a welcome development. Though, she has made giant strides in the former by creating Naval Patrol intervention unit to comb the waters off Libya and rescue immigrants from dying at sea, the latter is still an area more work needs to be done as it requires confronting the remote factors that push these immigrants into the hands of the smugglers.
Africa is a continent endowed with human and mineral potentials which largely remain untapped due to poor leadership and corruption. It is a fact that most of the problems confronting African countries are self-inflicted.
The senseless wars, poverty and persecution are all symptoms of poor government.
Sit-tight leaders have not only thrown the continent into confusion and persecuted their citizens, they have also impoverished their people due to massive and festering corruption that has swelled their pockets and that of their cronies.
Tales of looted funds vacating in Western banks while their citizens languish in poverty is not hidden.
This economic apathy and butchery by the continent’s rulers that has led to massive army of unemployed youths in Tunisia, Nigeria, and Senegal to mention a few will always push many Africans to Europe’s doorstep.
On pockets of instabilities and civil strife visible on the continent, political actions borne out of greed and selfish ambition of the leadership is also to blame. The persistent rumblings in the DR.Congo, brouhaha in Burundi, the ongoing civil strife in South Sudan and Isiah Aferwakhi’s oppressive rule in Eritrea paint an ugly picture of the political leadership structure steering the wheels of governance on the continent.
It is a problem that even Nigeria’s number one citizen, President Muhammad Buhari identifies and acknowledges.
“We must wake up and deliver the dividends of good governance to our people. Only if we make conditions at home better can we prevent our youths from embarking on this treacherous journey to Europe,” the former military general stated in his speech at last year’s 25th summit of the African Union which had in attendance former US President Barack Obama.
No doubt that the dearth of leadership is the conundrum hindering Africa from unearthing and realizing her potentials-A toxic problem that has stunted her growth and development for more than three decades.
However, the time to get it right is now. The immigration crisis and its accompanied strain on Europe provide Brussels the opportunity to reduce the influx of illegal immigrants landing on its shores by cross-examining its relationship with Africa’s leadership establishment.
How? Simple: By holding African leaders responsible and accountable to the rule of law and also dismantling the conduit pipes and structures that facilitate smooth movement of looted public funds to European banks.
Making the latter unattractive is a sure bet to reducing corruption in government.
Corruption and other financial vices have succeeded in impoverishing millions of Africans; it has created a huge economic gap between the rich and the poor-A cancerous ailment that seems to be degenerating no thanks to the culpable roles of foreign financial institutions that accept these stolen monies.
Europe must rein in the financial activities of its banks. By doing so, it will discourage looting and at the same time instill a little bit of sanity in public finances in African governments’ circles. And most importantly intensifying diplomatic contacts with the continent’s leaders at both the regional and AU level aimed at tasking them on good governance would further boost political and economic security which, in the long term would discourage their citizens from embarking on the treacherous migratory journey to Europe.
Berlin has led by example. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visitation to several African states in the autumn of 2016 shows her commitment to addressing the issue. The rest should try and follow her cue while at the same time seek to confront the causative and remote factors that keep making the ‘treacherous’ journey through the backdoor to Europe attractive but, till then guess the continent might just have to continue to welcome these unwelcomed guests from Africa.