While Carola Rackete becomes a media case, we forget the real reasons behind migration flows

The court case on the Sea Watch captain Carola Rackete is just a move to distract us from the reasons behind migration flows.

Destabilization. This is probably the word that best describes the phenomenon of migratory flows that in recent years have increasingly affected European states. I it is true that every human being has the right to migrate in search of better living conditions, it is also true that he is often forced to do so. In this regard the question arises: forced by whom or by what?

It is here that the interests of European countries make an entrance. The African continent and most of the Middle Eastern states possess a great deal of natural wealth that is exploited by Western countries often with the complicity of dictators and local governments.

Just think at the Opl 245 case which saw Eni and Shell, the two most important multinationals in the oil, energy and petrochemical sectors, on the bench. The two companies have been accused of international corruption in Nigeria.

In 2011, Eni and Shell paid $ 1.3 billion to buy the largest oil field in Africa off the coast of Nigeria. However, it seems that only part of this money went into the Nigerian state coffers.

This case is just another example of how the natural resources of the African countries are often exploited to enrich the local elites, with more or less explicit connivance of Western companies.

All this, of course, to the detriment of citizens and the growth of the nation. Suffice to say that the sum invested for the acquisition of this oil field could have covered 80 per cent of Nigerian health expenditure for the year 2015.

Another case that allows us to understand how European countries control and determine the lives of African states and their respective citizens, is the one that sees Macron France as its protagonist.

Paris still controls 50 percent of the monetary reserves of 14 African countries thanks to the CFA franc. For France, this coin is an essential tool for controlling the former colonies. In fact, none of these states has full power over their economic and monetary policies.

Hence, because of this unfair situation, the Economic and Monetary Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) is now willing to adopt, starting from 2020, a new common currency, the Eco. However, the road to the new currency does not seem so simple, especially in terms of economic stability.

Despite the phase of de-colonisation, which took place between the 1950s and 1960s, the economic and political influence of Western powers on the African continent is still very strong. At first, it happed through US-USSR bipolarity, but today it is the presence of large Western multinationals that often, thanks to the turnover higher than the states’ GDPs in which they operate, enjoy the greater negotiating power for access to raw materials.

The economic and political influence of Western powers on the African continent, therefore, does not seem to cease. Besides, the stakes were too high in the past like they are now, and which state renounces to oil, precious minerals, diamonds and the exploitation of immense territories for agricultural use?

In fact, Is not surprising to see large multinationals and foreign companies that, with the complicity of governments and local authorities, are in control of a large part of the African lands. Not much weight is put upon the consequences of these policies. Facts related to Africa are often explained as simple, apparently disconnected events. In reality these events are perfectly inserted within a historical, economic and geo-political panorama where it is possible to identify the causes and the responsibilities of the single actors.

The conflicts and instability of the black continent are also the result of an African policy that, too often, has succumbed to external interests and personal ambitions. Africa has once again become the playing field for the affirmation of the large and medium powers.

To all this is added the growing destabilisation of many geographical areas (to which European weapons are contributing) such as, for example, Libya.

There are currently two governments in the country and many ISIS fighters are moving from Syria to the African country. In this context, we must not forget that the Libyan subsoil is rich in oil and gas deposits. For the two governments it is therefore essential to have control of these resources in order to forge trade agreements with the major world powers, including the Italian Eni.

But who is with whom in this intricate political framework? The government of Tripoli recognized by the international community is the one led by al Sarraj, however it seems that the one in Tobruk (led by Haftar) enjoys the support of Russia, Qatar, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In this context, Libya uses migrants as a means of pressure on Europe, and on Italy. General Haftar began bombarding the detention centers in the Tajoura area, killing 53 people (including six children). Sarraj continued shooting at height man to migrants who tried to escape and threatening to free eight thousand people who could land in Italy. Haftar concluded by agreeing with his rival and effectively threatening Europe and Italy.

Civil wars like in Syria and Yemen and the eternal conflict between Shiites and Sunnis are contributing to the destabilisation of the entire area, to the detriment of great economic interests. And it is probably for this reason that Europe has Middle East countries among the main buyers of arms.

This form of buying and selling falls under the umbrella of “security”, “defense”. However, most of these weapons are used to suppress fundamental human rights and to support terrorist groups. According to a report by Amnesty International, in fact, the United Arab Emirates have armed and are arming, with weapons supplied by the United States, Yemen militias accused of war crimes.

Western policies have therefore destabilised most of the African and Middle Eastern countries with significant consequences also on the neighboring areas. Suffice it to say that for several years European states have been trying to appease what can be called “migratory haemorrhage”, through different solutions such as, for example, imposing sanctions on European public and private companies that exploit the natural resources of Africa, import in Europe, African products monitor and reduce the arms trade in the countries of Africa and the Middle East which are affected by the war.

These are just some of the political solutions launched by the European Union, but to what extent will they be achievable? How long will Europe maintain its image of a generous and philanthropic Union? But above all, to what extent will the solutions adopted so far be feasible in the future? The economic interests of the individual states and the influence of the powerful multinationals on the governments of African countries are very strong, so much so that for years bloody conflicts have been hidden, ignored and undervalued in order to preserve Western interests.

Needless to say, the dichotomous logic “we” versus “them” has simplified an extremely complex reality. We have been too busy to accuse each other, to protect our interests, to study the costs and benefits of migration policies to be able to respond in a unified manner to this migration crisis, such as Europe in the first place, and then as individual countries.

Just think of the episode that involved Carola Rackete. Between Friday 28 and Saturday 29 of June, Carola, commander of the ship Sea Watch3 (German NGO), decided to force the naval blockade and enter Italian waters to rescue the 47 migrants who had been aboard for two and a half weeks. And if the reception of these 47 people has triggered a real media and political case, we must be aware that the “real” numbers are not these.

Let us take as an example Ethiopia which, with 110 million inhabitants, is the second most populous country in Africa and has 4 million displaced people, of whom 3 million are internally displaced, due to ethnic conflicts, while a million come from neighbouring countries such as Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea.  

Meanwhile, as if we did not want to understand the true nature of the migration emergency, the Capitana is under investigation for the violation of the Security bis decree and of the navigation code and for facilitating illegal immigration, a strand of the investigation for which the Rackete will return today to Agrigento for interrogations.

Africa has about 1.2 billion inhabitants and most of them have no intention of leaving the continent. However, how can we guarantee the future and wealth of a country where people are often forced to migrate?

Many suggest “helping them at home”, but how are we helping them? Helping African development does not mean removing resources and stimulating armed conflicts. When we talk about resources we don’t just mean subsoil, but also brains and professionalism. Robert Skidelsky, British historian and economist, noted that half of the doctors in the African state of Malawi now work in London hospitals.

Is it therefore by subtracting human resources that we would be able to help these countries? And if at the base of these migrations there was the will of the West to weaken the African continent specifically in order to exploit it for its own interests? Moreover, it is known that immigration impoverishes the country of departure.

For too long games and political strategies have made us believe that we have nothing to do with these people, deluding ourselves that the individuals of these States are “something else” compared to us.

Massimiliano Fanni Canelles

Viceprimario al reparto di Accettazione ed Emergenza dell'Ospedale ¨Franz Tappeiner¨di Merano nella Südtiroler Sanitätsbetrieb – Azienda sanitaria dell'Alto Adige – da giugno 2019. Attualmente in prima linea nella gestione clinica e nell'organizzazione per l'emergenza Coronavirus. In particolare responsabile del reparto di infettivi e semi – intensiva del Pronto Soccorso dell'ospedale di Merano. 

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