by Fr. Sony Pottenplackal SDB
We hope that the distressing images of illegal immigrants and castaways continuously broadcast in the last 3/4 years managed to inform collective consciousness about the profound problems related to present societies, such as large-scale migration and the incapability or lack of willingness of receiving nations to accept and integrate migrants.
The birth of Liberia, the first independent country of Africa, can properly be traced back in migrations: in the 19th century, about 15.000 Afro-American colonists came from the United States. In the course of the 20th century immigration to Liberia continued, until the civil war of the ‘90s reversed the trend. Today, many years after the end of the war, the conditions of life in Liberia have not gone back to acceptable levels. The present situation leads people to consider that “nothing good happens at home” and that “one must leave or at least help a member of the family to leave the country”.
Besides, returning migrants provide misleading incentives. Their standard of living gives the bad impression that whoever migrates manages to secure a good and easy life, whereas in reality the majority of them only with multiple jobs and hectic rhythms manage to survive and send some poor savings back home.
“The American Dream” still enjoys a good health in Liberia. The idea that “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” feeds aspirations to follow the same path, but this implies a cost for the country and for the entire continent. It exacerbates the temporariness of life in Africa, promoting some sort of passivity: “Why invest time and resources on what is available here, since I have to begin again elsewhere?”
Migration causes a “brain drain” and fragments families. Unless we create better living conditions and visionary leaders, unless we uproot poverty and guarantee justice, poor nations will continue to feed migration.
In the present situation, which is the way out? Work, work, work! How to attain it? Through sensitization, education and development of the skills of the young.