Entrepreneurship as Leverage for Legal Migration
by Kebba-Omar Jagne
There has been a major upsurge in the number of migrants risking their lives at sea with the hope of reaching Europe. Pressure and influence, mainly from the entertainment media and peers who’ve successfully made the crossing, foster the desire to attempt the crossing. The activities of the latter are very effective in digging deeper into the already vulnerable minds of those looking for a way out. Additionally, it is very likely that some of them have exposure to the documentaries and media outlets, which do well to highlight the dangers of the journey, but not the difficulties of obtaining asylum and the laws around it.
Distinguishing the countries that represent the asylum seekers into conflict and non-conflict countries highlights that emigration is a necessity for some and a choice for others. The former are dominantly in the Middle East e.g. Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, with some current (or former) pockets of conflict zones in sub-Saharan African, most notably Northeastern Nigeria. Thus the majority of non-conflict countries are in sub-Saharan Africa where the cause for migration is largely economic and the type, voluntary. However some from this region are still fleeing from various forms of abuses to their basic human rights.
For countries in conflict, it is hard to present alternatives to emigrating given the difference in the identification of those fleeing conflict as refugees, and in that it is mostly entire families rather than individual youths that are the ones fleeing. In recognizing this dynamic of deep-rooted and sometimes ethnic tensions e.g. in a place like Syria, one should consider the applicability of the alternatives provided beyond the individual and in some cases even the family level. And so, besides the unit and whether they can go about it alone, the environment also matters for putting the alternatives provided into context i.e. how they could possibly accomplish their aims.
When we read “go about it alone”, the word entrepreneurship might come to mind. It has become a sort of global cult phenomenon that is expected to solve all the diverse challenges of the 21st century. This is happening despite the slow pace at which other factors like policy are aiding the process or indeed at which relevant indicators are changing i.e. probability of entrepreneurial success, which in most places remains very low.
The challenges for entrepreneurship in the migrant source countries are even more discouraging given the lengthy bureaucratic processes and the high startup costs usually involved. To bring this problem to root, many working age youth are simply not prepared to succeed as entrepreneurs due to a several reasons including poor grade school education and lack of basic skills necessary for success when exploring even basic professional and vocational endeavors. Naturally, this responsibility is expected of schools, but we are not critical enough of the role of governments in facilitating access to opportunities for those youth. This net is also cast over the private sector, which has the same, if not greater abilities to create such opportunities because they operate in a policy environment overwhelmingly defined by the public sector in the case of migrant sources countries.
Essentially, the aim is to foster job creation. Another item in the toolkit of our actors to create employment opportunities is to promote domestic investments, particularly in infrastructure development projects, which is needed in all source countries. Two other relevant sectors are the energy and agriculture sector, largely so because they have the capacity to create jobs that build up internationally relevant skill-sets for the 21st century. They have the potential to contribute to internal stability and to satisfy ambitious youth that what they seek by risking their lives to go abroad is actually available at home. Thus the availability of food can be the difference for someone considering whether or not to leave. When opportunities are lacking in these sectors or in the local economy as a whole, it is easy to see why some become desperate and prepared to risk their lives to find them elsewhere. So among the ways to make the necessary gains is to make such sectors attractive to young people, which can become outlets for building or supporting a family, if that is what compels them, with means close at hand.
Sparking any of the change cut out above however must be preceded by job and skills training. It is not only technical skills that can help the process, but soft skills like language training that those wishing to end up in Europe can use as a means to explore legal migration. Education and awareness would do a great deal to inform the would be asylum seekers that refugee status is not guaranteed or is it permanent, and secondly, about which countries have the most open policy to addressing the EU wide problem of ageing populations, something which they can help to address.
Although conflict countries might not be able to provide such options, along the way to their destination countries where possible, refugees and migrants might consider the funds intended for continuing on a crossing where life is not certain, for investment into something that improves their skills. Due to the already large and increasing number of people opting for illegal migration, possessing more skills such as knowledge of the language in the destination country would make one more competitive. While this is less of an alternative than an improvement, it would be naive to join the global narrative that preaches that no matter how chaotic or overwhelming the situation, one can climb out of it through sheer will and determination. Ultimately, the reality is indeed twofold, that we cannot succeed alone and need an enabling environment to increase any chances of success.
While the situation lacks a permanent and viable solution, the current approach to it may work for some, but as policymakers contend with disgruntled and concerned constituencies, bills that look to curb this trend can be expected in the near future, and this will affect everybody. Therefore those who are already victim to this crisis and other would be migrants, must apply the same strategic thinking in choosing Germany because it is wealthy country or Sweden because it has a generous asylum policy or even the UK because of its welfare system, to make a final decision, if they must, perhaps based on their skill-sets and where they’d be relevant. While the future remains uncertain, these steps might help to avoid the worse.