Migration, its effects and management

By Delassie Mabel Awuku


No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”
Warsan Shire.


I have lived in Weija, raised my five children and haven’t been saddled with ejection. It has been difficult, nevertheless, to stay in a place like that because when danger looms, one cannot tell when and how it roars its unknown until one experiences it. I lived with my husband at a part of Weija that we all call safe and as life may allow me, I built a two-bedroom apartment with the support of my husband and never planned to vacate Weija until recently the worst of the spillage of the Weija dam took my son’s life compelling me to move from that area to start life afresh and to protect the remaining children for whom I have laboured all my life.


I am now living in a wooden structure among a den of thieves in the slum in the central business district which, though risky and too populated, is safe as compared to Weija where the unexpected could happen anytime. My life begins all over again since my toil at Weija has been in vain compelling my husband to go to Germany to seek a better life for the children and myself.


What is migration?

Migration can be defined as the movement of people across a specified boundary for the purpose of establishing a new or semi-permanent residence. It should be noted, therefore, that when people are migrating into Ghana, they are referred to as immigrants while the reverse is referred to as  emigrants.


In countries across the world, people refer to immigrants who do not have proper documentation to stay in their destination country of residence as illegal immigrants―the use of which term is, however, discouraged.


The use of the term ‘illegal immigrant’ is discouraged because an individual can only be termed as an illegal immigrant per the pronouncement of a court of competent jurisdiction;  hence the preferred terminology is documented or undocumented immigrants.


What accounts for migration?


There are several reasons why people migrate, with poverty accounting for most of the world’s migration across the globe. The others are wars, natural disasters, cultural and religious reasons among many other very pertinent reasons.


Unfavourable weather conditions, one form of danger or the other, poor economic conditions, unfavourable policies or the lack of favourable policies such as free child care, medical care and other social benefits and remunerations are other factors that push people out This is  mainly called the push effects of migration.


One cannot leave out personal sentiments, beliefs and prestige― attraction― as a pull factor that drives people   to migrate.


In Ghana, migration accounts for the loss of not less than 40 per cent of human resource (brain drain) who become useful in other economies, thereby crippling the Ghanaian economy and development. Indeed, Ghana also benefits from immigrants  whose human resource and expertise are used in the development of our economy (brain gain) although the losses are much more damaging than the gain, hence the emphasis on the brain drain effects of migration.


Types of migration


There are various types of Migration, namely rural-urban migration, urban-rural migration, rural-rural migration, urban-urban migration and international migration.


Ghana, as a country, places more premium on urban-rural migration to encourage more farming, discourage over-population in the urban areas across the country and to avoid pressure on resources in the urban centres. Another is its accompanying economic hardships.


Most preferred destinations of Ghanaians migrants include Germany, United Kingdom and the United States of America.


Risks involved


All over the world, migrants are exposed to serious dangers. According to analysts of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), migrants were exposed to an estimated death toll of more than 10,000 in 2016, with the fatalities attributed mainly to the route of migrants and the mode of transportation en-route to their destination of choice.


Most migrants prefer unofficial routes to their country of destination, especially Europe, and are mainly seen crossing on motor vehicles and/or on foot while others resort to arriving on bicycles because some border posts are not opened to pedestrians. This means that migrants ought to be in a car, motorbike or bicycles before they can cross the borders.


It is, therefore, to avoid the rigorous scrutiny at the borders that migrants resort to unauthorized routes.


Others prefer using the Mediterranean Sea by stowing away― most, indeed, more than half of whom end up being swallowed by the ocean.


In Ghana, international migrants who use unauthorized means are mostly seen crossing the Sahara deserts on foot to Lampedusa, one of the Pelagic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, southern Italy, subjecting themselves to very harsh and distasteful weather and other varied uncomfortable conditions.


In addition, migrants are raped, tortured emotionally and psychologically, and made to live in such underprivileged conditions as though they are prisoners.


Any benefits of migration?


Notwithstanding the hazards of the journey, migration brings numerous benefits both tangible and intangible to all involved and to their countries of origin. Migrants generally gain access to higher levels of human development, higher income, better access to education and health for themselves.


Thus, if properly managed, migration can be of immense economic benefit for the countries bedevilled with its negative effects. For developing countries like Ghana, one can mention capital inflow (remittances). Available information indicates that about half of the population of Ghanaians have relatives abroad who send monies or remittances weekly or monthly, which remittances are taxed by government.


Aside cash inflows, there are exchange of goods and services that enhance trade and provide jobs as well as generate economic benefits in the form of taxable returns. Again, apart from monetary benefits, there are also relationship benefits in the form of friendly ties between countries, thereby increasing bilateral and business relations among countries.


Yet, it remains a fact that to a larger extent, migration is a disadvantage to the countries that experiences its push effects rather than the pull effects. A country whose labour force is being utilized by another is deprived the human resource which it has trained for her development. Human resource is the backbone of every thriving economy without which a country cannot thrive no matter the wealth it acquires.


The need to discourage massive migration of cities cannot, therefore, be overemphasized. 


Role of government


Government, over the years, has made various interventions to curb the increasing migration tendencies, particularly among the youth in Ghana. Some of these interventions took the form of policies and other measures including the National Health Insurance (NHIS) policy which seeks to provide affordable healthcare for all Ghanaians, irrespective of their financial standing.


Government has also introduced the Free Maternal Care which provides free healthcare for expectant mothers and the compulsory National Service scheme which mandates all citizens to  serve the nation after tertiary education rather than think of travelling outside Ghana, immediately after school, in search of better conditions of life.


There is also the free Senior High School (SHS) programme which is expected to ensure that access to secondary education is made accessible to all with the objective of adequately preparing   them for the tertiary level as well as for the job market.


Government intends make farming and the agricultural sector a lucrative area for graduates to find it attractive.


The anomaly of a brain drain among Ghanaian health workers whereby they are trained only to be poached is also being tackled with measures and policies to help curb the practice and to help  build a strong and resilient economy. Indeed, some of these policy initiatives aim to train more nurses and export or tax them to bring in capital rather than lose them completely to other countries.


The role of stakeholders


Migration, though a very difficult area to manage, can, however, be effectively handled if all stakeholders join forces to t overcome the challenges. With a strong initiative from government, support from the media and the Ghanaian populace at large, the debilitating effects of migration can be controlled. No institution, organization or individual can fight the ills of migration unless it is given that unifying support by all.


And to migrants and potential migrants, remember that home is what you make it and not what others make it to be for you.


The writer is a staff of the Information Services Department (ISD).

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