African Economic Migration: What pushes Ghanaians away from their “safe” land?

This article was translated from french to english
by DR Maria Grazia Grech
Original version by Régine Psaila here

A view of the Bimbila-Gushiegu road taken in the centre of the city of
Yendi (Northern Region, Ghana). Photo Creative Commons

Ghana in Africa is considered a model of political stability par exellence. Its history is similar to that of all African countries who underwent the yoke of colonial rule: it has had its fair share of coups and instabilities. The peaceful departure of Jerry Rawlings in 2001 after his twelfth mandate as head of state stirred hope in the almost predictable destiny of the inhabitants, used to – like all the Africans – to the constitutional bulimia of their leaders, avid power grabbers and impetuous manipulators of the constitution once elections approach.

Bref politicall story of Ghana
In Ghana, four presidents, all democratically elected have succeeded Jerry Rawlings without bloodshed.The only relevant and negative story that caught the attention of the media about the incumbent president was a scandale  for rumours of plagiarism. Nana Akufo-Addo, who came into power at the beginning of the year, copied whole passages of his inauguration speech from speeches of Bill Clinton and George Bush.

And yet the country suffers from the immigration of its youth.

What are the catalyst of immigration?
The root causes of immigration of Subsaharan Africans to Europe are civil wars, dictatorships and poverty. Today, Eritreans, Sudanese and Libyans received the most attention from UN refugee agencies. However in the ranks of asylum seekers, there are others, who come from so-called “safe”  countries, which the Geneva conventions on international protection do not recognise.They leave their countries for reasons not less important than war, they escape misery and lack of prospects, dazzled by the images of happiness and wealth that Western television generously feeds to them. They are the economic migrant.
The great majority of West African asylum seekers are classified in this category synonymous with repatriation.

The case of Ghanaians
Once stranded on the Italian coast, they dream of reaching England with whom they have the language in common. Numerous Ghanians arrived against their will in Malta in the past few years, when the boats loaded with this human cargo could still land on its shores. This West African country is member of the World Trade Organisation, known for promoting free trade without distinction, indifferent to the level of development of the countries involved. Ghana is a signatory of Structural Adjustment Plans (SAPs) imposed on the Southern countries by the International Money Funds in the 90s. Signing these plans was the condition for getting loans from these international banks.(EN/FR).
Austerity being the chief word, there were drastic budget cuts in public service. The SAPs decided, for example, to decrease the personnel in public service and an important salary base.
The SAPs dictated the non-discrimination in investment which increased the rights of foreign investors, killing local investments deprived of big budget and thus non-competitive.
Ghana is also a signatory of Economic Partnership Agreements. The EPAs applies to all of Africa. These are also agreements imposed by the international financial institutions ( FR) with the aim of “balancing world trade and abolishing the preferential treatment granted to certain poor countries of Africa“. In short, African countries have to open their markets duty free to 80% of European products. Like the case of SAPs, the small, local businesses will not survive an avalanche of cheap European products packaged with EPAs.
In 2006, Jean-Claude Lefort, an EU MEP spoke out about this:

“Can we take responsibility for leading Africa, which in a few years will house the largest number of people living on less than $1 a day, towards more chaos, under the guise of respect for the rules of the WTO.”

Social life in the diaspora
It is difficult to say how many Ghanians reside in Malta, but the number is sufficiently high to justify the creation of an association whose aim is “to meet and discuss the problems which our citizens face”.
Francis Abankwa, president of Ghanians in Malta says:

“We are here because we are poor back home. People don’t leave their countries if all is well”.

In Malta, the state gives national protection to asylum seekers which are not eligible for refugee status. These are as follows:
•The THP (Temporary Humanitarian Protection). It is renewable every year on presentation of pay slips.
•The THPn (Temporary Humanitarian Protection new). Granted as a charity because no law provides for it. It mainly encompasses the vulnerable persons such as single mothers, sick people etc. It was revoked last november and the beneficiaries may end up joining the last tier, which is those who are rejected.
•The Yellow Card for rejected. The have a working permission valid for three months, renewable on presentation of pay slips. They represent the most vulnerable category because the depend on the whims of their employers. They don’t have any travel document and no identity card. Officially they are awaiting repatriation. However, some of them have been waiting at least ten years, thanks to or because of pressure from NGOs on the government.

Stuck in limbo: “Our situations are at time dramatic.”
“The worst is that you cannot leave the country and travel.”
says Hassan, a Yellow Card holder.
Going to Africa to visit the family or visiting Europe is the dream of all the migrants who flee to Europe, regardless of reason. Some organise reunions outside of their homelands, but for the people without status, no renunion is possible in absece of travel documents. “Our situations are at times dramatic”, says Francis Abankwa, who appeals to Ghanian leaders:

“It’s time for them to think about arranging things with us. There are numerous countries where nobody even dreams of taking the road of exile, countries where things more or less work well. It would be good to copy their example and let us live in our country in dignity. We wouldn’t be here if we had a choice”.

Watch the video: Ghanaians appeal for strong African Leaders

 Régine Psaila 

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