Salah Sarrar, Reuters, Nov. 23, 2006
Migration is an age-old fact of life that governments must accept if they want to manage the flow of job-seekers moving from Africa to Europe, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi told an Africa-Europe conference on migration.
“Action against nature is like rowing against the stream, which leads to failure,” Gaddafi told African and European interior ministers at the first African Union-European Union conference on migration, the Libyan news agency reported.
Gaddafi’s comments put him squarely on the African side of the debate about how to control the sharp increase in the number of impoverished Africans seeking a better life in Europe.
Africa has urged Europe to be more open to legal migrants and argues a crackdown on migrants, without more development aid, will only push the flow to other places.
Routinely dismissed by Western commentators, Gaddafi’s opinions are listened to closely in Africa thanks to his advocacy of African unity, support of African Union bodies, funding of African development projects and his oil wealth.
Libya’s role as a transit point for migrants heading north gives it a strategic importance in efforts to manage migration. The country of 5.5 million says it plays host to two million illegal migrants, which it calls a threat to the social fabric.
The conference is intended to send a signal that the two regions can improve security cooperation on land and sea borders and address the poverty that is forcing Africans northwards.
LAND BELONGS TO ALL
Gaddafi said migration had complex roots, nurtured by a powerful mixture of world population growth and war as well as a historical legacy of colonialist intervention and slavery.
“Political borders, official papers and identities set for every group of people are new, artificial things not recognised by nature,” the news agency reported him as saying.
“Land is property of everyone, and God commands all human beings to migrate on earth to seek a living, which is their right.”
“Europe itself encouraged Asian and African migration to compensate for the manpower shortage caused by the death of scores of millions of men in both First and Second World Wars, which were sparked by Europe.”