West is complicit in current global immigration crisis

Sunday January 14 2024

Spanish Search and Rescue plane patrols as refugees wait to get on-board a rescue vessel after being rescued from a wooden boat sailing out of control in the Mediterranean Sea near Libya on June 15, 2017. PHOTO | ANADOLU AGENCY via AFP


It’s not just African immigrants who are desperate to escape poverty and violence. Thousands of people from Latin and Central America are also fleeing their impoverished and crime-infested countries.

For each of these groups of people, reaching their destination involves unimaginable risks. The Africans trek through the Sahara to get to the Libyan coast. Many of these will end up as skeletons in the sands of the unforgiving desert. Some of those who reach the Libyan coast will end up in watery graves in the Mediterranean Sea.

For the Latin Americans, their odyssey, while not as deadly, is no walk in the park either. Some are kidnapped and tortured by drug cartels to extort money from them or their families. Women are raped and killed. Those who reach the American border face years in detention centres while their asylum application is processed.

Read: NGUGI: Decriminalise migration to curb deaths at sea

These deadly journeys have increased exponentially in the past couple of years, creating an immigration crisis for America and Europe.

Their solution is foolhardy, hypocritical and, in the end, futile. They tighten immigration laws, increase immigration police patrols, they ramp up deportations.


Some build walls, others bribe bordering countries like Mexico and Libya to keep the immigrants there.

All these will not stop desperate people from seeking better lives. They will find ways of circumventing those tough laws. They will scale the walls.

They will breach the security cordons of countries trying to hold them back. They will break out of detention centres. Someone who has trekked through the Sahara or survived drug cartels develops unique psychological and physical strengths. In any case, all these non-solutions only make human trafficking, with its inherent dehumanising aspects, a very lucrative business.

The solution, therefore, lies elsewhere. In eliminating the conditions that cause illegal immigration. This means helping those countries to strengthen governance institutions and the rule of law, stopping the pillaging of countries by their leaders in cahoots with Western profiteers, and finding an international system of holding the thieving political class in these countries to account.

The hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the West in this matter is just astounding. How do you roll out the red carpet for a fellow like Yahya Jammeh, as Barack Obama did, thereby legitimising and strengthening his despotism, then complain when thousands of impoverished Gambians come knocking on your door?

Read: NGUGI: From ‘grievance culture’ US can only bleed lives

Of course, these Western leaders know the likes of Teodoro Obiang and his clones across Africa will not develop their countries, but they will not say so because they hold Africa to a different standard.

When Greece was mismanaging its economy, its leaders would be given a tough talking to before being given financial or other support. The West expected and demanded much better from Greece.

When it comes to African and Central American leaders, it’s platitudes about development and democracy. Back at home, the endorsement by Washington or London legitimises plunder. Plunder equals poverty, violence, and immigration.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator