As Africa’s economic fortunes rise and the continent
continues to be charmed by superpowers, spare a
thought for the millions of Africans in faraway lands.
African migration has never been well-documented.
While we know that some of the great presidents of
our times – Jomo Kenyatta, Hastings Kamuzu Banda,
Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Thabo Mbeki – all
passed through some far-flung university or another,
millions more after them did the same and many
more in this 21st Century have landed on European
or US shores.
But every now and again, a backlash of predictably
blinkered vision finds a finger being pointed at
immigrants of every type and shade and the
accusation “illegal” is thrown in their direction and
fevered opinion declares that there are thousands of
people milking the system. Folk are disliked for their
physical difference and decades of contributions and
hybrid families featuring an African heritage are
casually ignored.
We recently heard, for instance, of an Angolan
man who died on a plane while being forcibly
removed from his adopted home, from his five
children and from his 15- year life in the UK.
And also of an Italian cabinet minister of
Congolese decent being likened to an
orangutan by a fellow Italian politician, whose own
looks would not make Italian Vogue.
‘Throwing bananas’
Cecile Kyenge has been thrown into the lion’s den by
her portfolio as Italy’s integration minister as she
actively campaigns for an easier route to make
immigrants Italian citizens.
If you are born in Italy, Ms Kyenge believes, you
ought to be an Italian citizen.
As she gave her speech last week, bananas were
thrown in her direction – following on from the
“resemblance to an orangutan” gag from Roberto
Calderoli, vice-president of Italy’s senate.
Ms Kyenge’s reasoning is sound to the rest of us, for
there are hundreds of Italians born in African
countries who have the luxury of dual citizenship,
despite Italy’s 20th Century adventures in Asmara
and Addis Ababa.
So, the footballer Mario Balotelli may have been
adopted by Italian parents but had his Ghanaian
parents held on to him why could he not become an
Italian citizen as one born in Italy?
As it happens, Mr Balotelli’s goal-scoring feats in the
Azzurri’s colours have never really stopped the
ignorant from throwing bananas at him either.
North of the Mediterranean in the UK a new king-to-
be was born just the other week; it would have been
possible to imagine him a century ago as being the
future head of a realm in which most of Africa on the
maps was painted in the pink of empire from Lagos
to Lamu, Cairo to the Cape.
Of course young Prince George will not inherit so
wide an empire as the Georges who came before him,
but so shaken are his great grandmother’s ministers
at the prospect of increased migration, African or
otherwise, they have taken a cricket bat to the
problem and decided to pummel it in the head.
Mugabe on the UK
Firstly they proposed that certain visitors, including
Nigerians, pay a £3,000 ($4,600) “security bond” for
the privilege of being a tourist in the UK.
The figures say Nigerians are the
sixth biggest-spending tourists in
Prince George’s future kingdom –
above them are the people from
China, the Middle East, Russia and
Thailand – but none of these will be
asked to pay a deposit.
The shops, including Harrods, have
been wondering what her
majesty’s ministers are doing
chasing away good Nigerian
money.
Not content with going after the rich, the ministers
then sent a lorry onto the streets of London in areas
deemed to contain high populations of migrants,
carrying the crude billboard message – “In the UK
illegally? Go home or face arrest”.
Everywhere you look it seems the walls of intolerance
are rising.
Of course such messages are aimed at every shade of
migrant, including the millions who stepped over
from eastern Europe, but it is difficult to escape the
feeling that migrant means you. Yes, you.
Meanwhile, on the campaign trail just the other day,
one of Africa’s oldest statesmen – Zimbabwe’s
President Robert Mugabe – could see the issue clear
as glass.
Bemoaning his countryfolk’s tendency to jump the
borders when things get tricky at home, he invited
them back.
“If you said: ‘Mugabe’ they would just say come in,
come in… But see now, they are saying these people
are too many…let them go back,” he said of other
country’s immigration policies.
“Why run to Britain, a very cold and uninhabitable
country where the houses are very small, why go
there? Can those who went there show us what they
did with their time?” he asked.
While mansions have been built across Africa on a
cleaner’s salary, children educated on a bus driver’s
wages, economies revived by money transfers from
across Europe, families raised in Europe’s high rises
and beyond – questions are ringing for Africa’s army
of migrants

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