The current public debate on African migration to Europe is largely fuelled by visions of boats crossing the Mediterranean Sea, filled with desperate people in search of a better life. The narrative positions Africa as a “continent on the move” whose people are surging into Europe on a seemingly endless tide.
European politicians propose that Africa must be helped with investment and development aid to reduce the poverty and conflicts that drive Africans from their homes. In the meantime, barbed wire, border patrols and reception camps ought to help manage the situation.
Although media images of desperate African refugees fleeing to Europe do portray the daily reality and the often-tragic consequences of the treacherous crossing, the framing conceals more than it reveals. Certainly, the number of Africans living in Europe has increased. But, as Asmita Parshotam points out, most African migrants and refugees still move within the region and never leave the continent. For those who do look beyond Africa to improve their lives, Europe is not the only destination. Countries in Asia, the Americas and the Middle East are increasingly important for African migrants.
We hope that the articles gathered here will help to shed new light on aspects of the movement of African migrants that have remained on the margins of discussion, and to place the pressures experienced in Europe within a broader perspective.