Interview in the taz newspaper – April 29, 2020

Read below the interview given to the German’s newspaper taz where I discuss the post COVID 19 migration perspectives and the recommendation of the German Federal Advisory Council on Migration (version in German:!5681946/).

African economist: “Beyond borders, it’s about migrating with dignity”

Samir Abi of Togo criticizes the trend towards closing borders that could arise in the post-coronavirus crisis (COVID-19). He wants a migration policy that does not humiliate people. Samir Abi founded the West African Observatory on Migration based in Togo and represented African civil society at the United Nations Global Compact on Migration.

Taz : M. Samir Abi ,The coronavirus has halted mobility worldwide, including in Africa. What are the consequences ?

The Ebola crisis in West Africa five years ago showed that sustainable border closings are doing more damage than they prevent. Africa lives on trade, in particular at international level with China, but also at regional level. The closure of many borders has stopped this trade in many cases. This is directly visible in the income of many people and particularly affects the poor. Those working in the informal sector quickly lost everything during this period.

What will the corona pandemic mean for mobility in the medium term?

I am absolutely certain that some politicians in Africa, as elsewhere, are trying to maintain mobility restrictions. I remind you that the United States, for example, has requested HIV tests in the past for travelers from certain African countries. So far, no vaccination is required when entering Europe. It could change. This can fuel moods that are already emerging.

What moods?

From the start, one of the most widespread reactions to the Corona pandemic was to consider that migrants have spread this plague. Africans have been attacked even in China. In Spain and the Netherlands too, migrants were stigmatized like those who had introduced the virus. This stigma must be pushed back to allow mobility again. But I am very optimistic about the return to mobility in the near future.

Why ?

If you see the economic consequences of global containment, it won’t be long before things change in terms of people’s mobility.

An advisory body to the federal government has now proposed that African women receive temporary work visas in return for a bond. Is it a good idea ?

Yes, absolutely. We have been talking about it for over ten years. And if such an institution now makes such a proposal, it is an important political signal, also at the international level. It is about valuing migration with dignity. Because what migrants are forced to do today is unworthy on a human level.

Doesn’t such an approach continue to exclude many of those who cannot pay the down payment?

Anyone traveling from Africa to Europe, through clandestine routes with the help of traffickers, needs at least 3,000 euros today. He risks his life and the money can also disappear. African students are required to provide up to 10,000 euros of bank guarantee if they want to study at a university in Europe. My analysis is this: if there is a prospect of making money in Europe, people will find ways to get such a deposit – especially since the money can work in the meantime and they know that ‘they will find their deposit back to the country. The amount of the deposit is less important even if this measure also concerns low-skilled people from poor backgrounds who wish to find a job outside Africa.

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