INSIGHT-Occupation: Migrant. One African's 12-year quest for Europe

Mon Sep 12, 2016 4:00am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Edward McAllister

AGADEZ, Niger, Sept 12 (Reuters) - On Mayango Jallah's second attempt to reach Europe, he recalls, the dinghy he was in came within sight of southern Spain.

"We saw the light, bright," said the Liberian political science graduate. "It was like we were reaching heaven."

But the coastguard caught him and he spent a month in a Moroccan jail.

That was in 2006. The experience was no deterrent.

European politicians worry about the influx of what they call "economic migrants" from Africa, saying more must be done to improve living standards there to stem the flow. But for all those who reach Europe, many are thwarted along the way. Jallah's story shows why even those with relatively high education and strong prospects at home don't give up.

"I am not prepared to go home - I can't go back empty-handed," said the 39-year-old between sips of pineapple juice in an outdoor bar in Agadez, Niger, the major crossroads for thousands of travellers from West Africa each week. "I want to go to school, earn a Masters... If I have a European degree I can work anywhere."

In all, Jallah reckons, he has spent about $14,500 on five attempts over a dozen years to reach what he calls "normal society." He made the money teaching, doing odd jobs in construction and bricklaying, and forging refugee documents.

War in Syria has driven millions from home and is the short-term focus of Europe's migration crisis. Longer term, senior officials in Brussels say, Africa is what really worries them.   Continued...