ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS AND STOWAWAYS


175 Million people currently reside in a country other than where they were born, double the number since 1975.

˝ a million illegal immigrants who enter Europe each year, one-fourth come via Spain.

The main entry point to Spain is the strait of Gibraltar, where the rough waters, claim the lives of many would-be asylum seekers.

Last year Spain police intercepted some 14,000 illegal immigrants and 663 illegal vessels. 2.7 million foreigners in Europe about 1 million have no valid papers.

Spain’s long coast and proximity to North Africa make it attractive to people smugglers.

In average income is 12 times higher in Spain than Morocco. 

The income gulf is even larger between Spain and West Africa.

The entry points in Spain are Barbate, Algeciras, Gibraltar and Malaga. Smugglers are demanding US$ 1,000 for the short dangerous crossing of the strait of Gibraltar.

It hurts very much to say that, the smugglers tell people to wound themselves, to make sure they get to a hospital because the hospital will give them papers.

Another entry point to Europe is Lampedusa, a tiny Italian Island North of Tunisia and Libya and South of Sicily.

Lampedusa, is situated some 125 miles South East of Sicily and just over 60 miles North of Tunisia.

More than 5,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe since 1996.

2 million people have moved towards the North African Coast in the hope of being able to reach Europe via Italy by Boat. Most come to Libya from West Africa, the Horn of Africa and East Africa through Chad, Niger and Sudan.

In the 1990s Libyan leader Col. Mummar Gadaffi opened his country’s boarders to thousands of Sub-Saharan Africans in the name African Unity, about 600,000 came.

Today Libya’s leadership has ratified laws to restrict immigrants and to expatriate immigrants who have no steady jobs.

Some Africans come to Libya as their first step to reach Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea and entering Italy.

They use rickety boats to me the trip. 200 would be illegal immigrants drowned last year when their Fishing boats capsized.

Immigration in Europe is worth more than US$ 3 Billion per year. The trip across the Mediterranean alone cost as much as 2,000 Euros (USD$ 2,400.00) per person. They are 1.5million illegal immigrants living in Germany, 300,000 in Italy while France has 400,000 inside its borders. 

The total number of undocumented aliens currently residing in South Africa is 12million. This includes both people from neighbouring Southern Africa countries, East Africa, West Africa, the horn of Africa, Central Africa and more distant countries such as Mexico, Brazil, China, Pakistan, India and Eastern European countries.


STOWAWAYS

Many Stowaways immigrate to other countries before boarding Ocean-going vessels to Europe.

Sources of Stowaways are; Tanzania, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Guinea and Ghana.

Areas affected by migrants Stowaways are; Mozambique, Algeria, Ivory Coast and South Africa.

Tanzanians and Kenyans travel to South Africa through Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Nigeria and Ghanian Stowaways often travel away from their homelands before boarding ocean-going vessels.

Morocco and Algeria are used as paths for Stowaways travelling towards the Mediterranean and Europe and people smuggling is rife in the area. Turkey acts as a magnet to immigrants and Stowaways trying to illegally enter Europe.

Large number of African and East European Stowaways successfully transit Europe before boarding vessels at East European Ports.

As at September 30th, 2004 total number of Stowaways incidents reported is 2,384. A large influx of stowaways from China into North America is on the rise. A significant increase can be expected in Stowaways crossing the Pacific Ocean in specially adapted containers.

In one recent case 32 Chinese were hidden in two boxes. They were well-equipped with food, water, a latrine, winter clothing, fans and rope ladders.

Trap doors had been cut into the sides and bottoms and made to look like simple repairs. These, however, could be broken open with a hammer – also provided when the ship reached next port of call.

Several countries are getting tougher on the disembarkation and repatriation of Stowaways.

In the Netherlands, for instance, the authorities and the master of a Dutch Chemical Tanker have been engaged in a stand-off for the several months over the fate of three African Stowaways.

The Netherlands authorities are insisting the Ship to take the Stowaways back to where they came from in North Africa, while the Master of the vessel is refusing to take them back on board.

Migrants workers and their families, totalling 120 million globally, are amongst the most exploited and least protected in the world.

Women represent an increasing proportion of the migrant population, as much as 70% of the migrant labour force in some countries. Yet they are subject to discrimination on two fronts – as migrants and as woman.

Europe attracts more migrants workers than any other region – some 30 million including families. These workers, who mainly come from developing countries and are now being joined by increasing numbers of migrants from Eastern Europe, are often employed in low skill low pay jobs, particularly in Labour intensive industries such as cleaning or the restaurant trade.

In the agricultural sector, where local labour is in short supply, the demand for migrant labourers is particularly high. Most of these labourers come from Africa, Central and Eastern Europe. They work long hours for poverty wages, are in unstable employment and are subject to appalling health and safety conditions.

Majority of the migrant workers is recruited informally or even by Mafia-type organisations.

It hurts very much to note that, many host countries have failed to ratify the new international convention on the protection of migrant workers and members of their families, which came into effect in July, 2003.

Despite, the fact that majority of the illegal migrants and Stowaways come from Africa, it is a disgrace to note that the African states are doing nothing unto this matter.

Many African illegal migrants have lost their lives at high seas and many African Stowaways have been discovered – dead or in a poor state in rudder housings or chain lockers.

East Africa and West Africa has the highest number of Stowaways in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Few of the Stowaways reach their destinations, mainly in Europe as many are cast adrift in Coastal waters or tossed into the high seas and left for dead. In extreme cases Stowaways are thrown into the seas to drown, as happened in 1985 when a Greek ship MV Garifalia threw 11 African Stowaways into shark infested waters off the Somali Coast.

Africa has more youths running away from biting economic hardships as Stowaways than any other continent.

It is disheartening to say that Xenophobia is rising alarmingly. Unpunished attacks on foreigners are disturbingly common; and foreigners are regularly victimized by the police, coast guards and by guards at detention facilities.


Andrew Mwangura
Programs Co-ordinator
Seafarers Assistance Program

 

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