Bad Season for Immigrants: Persona non-Grata Everywhere

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The North Africa Journal:  28 February 2017: The new American President Donald Trump has accelerated the debate over immigration, at least in North America. The Europeans, have been dealing with their migrants and refugee problems for quite some time, and the ever rising right-wing and nationalist movements promises more drama to come as several European countries face the potential of a nationalist take over in upcoming elections, from France to the Netherlands. The general picture emerging on the immigration front is that it is bad season for would-be immigrants. Wherever they go, no one wants them. Obviously, the issue is not just affecting the west. Many countries around the world are grappling with the unchecked and uncontrolled flow of foreign nationals that could carry major political consequences on governments at the domestic level.

Immigration has been front-and-center in many countries that are being under-reported in the global media. Let’s a take a look at how some countries deal with their migrant problem: North Africa has been facing its own set of issues, some known to the public, others not so. Libya comes first to mind when one thinks of immigration in the region. We all have seen those heart-breaking pictures of lifeless bodies washed up on Libyan beaches. Those who perished did so as they tried to cross to Europe in search of a better life.

Neighboring Algeria has been increasing its interception and deportation of Sub-Sahara Africans who try to cross its territory or attempt to settle there. Virtually every day our sister company MEA Risk tracks these interceptions and deportations. There are thousands of people who are sent back to Niger, Mali, Chad, Nigeria, and many other countries.

Morocco is dealing with a similar pattern, but it is also using this migrant crisis to score some political points with the European Union. This is because camps housing illegal migrants have been erected in Moroccan regions bordering the enclaves controlled by Spain. If the EU does not agree with Moroccan policies, it would cease controlling the borders, allowing migrants to move into Spain in droves. That happened last week already as Morocco and the EU feud over an agricultural agreement that involves the contested Western Sahara territory.

Elsewhere, the rising anti-immigrant sentiment has taken a deadly turn in South Africa these days, were even legal migrants are not being spared. Properties and shops owned or operated by non-South Africans have been raided and looted in increasing violence of the past few days. Although the issue of African migrants in South Africa has always been a source of tension, the most recent attacks are justified by their perpetrators who argue that the shops are centers of drug trafficking and crime. These are somewhat similar arguments used by anti-immigration campaigners in the West too. Trump likes to target Muslims because they may be “terrorists” and points the finger to Mexicans because they may be “bad dudes or bad hombres.” But the poor economic conditions of the attackers and the weak performance of the countries where such rhetoric and violence take place are the real issue. Unemployment and misery attributable to bad economic policies are the real reasons behind the despair.

In Nigeria, which protested the alleged killing in South Africa of 116 of its nationals as a result of this latest wave of anti-immigrants, has major problems too, which many state governors and politicians blame on foreigners. One of its many big problems these days is the so-called grazing wars. Regional authorities and the media are quick to point the finger to ethnic Fulanis who graze their cattle on farm land they don’t own, resulting in constant conflicts with farmers. MEA Risk has been recording hundreds of people killed in these grazing wars in Nigeria, with the southern parts of the central state of Kaduna witnessing the biggest conflict pitting herders and farmers. But these days many politicians point the finger to alleged “foreign” Fulanis, more specifically people from nearby Niger, Chad and even Mali as the source of the crisis.

Foreigners are indeed an easy prey. They have no power, no lobby groups, no political clout, no money to counter attacks against them. Saudi Arabia is another case where vulnerable immigrant populations are feeling the wrath of the government and those in power. Between 2012 and 2015, almost a quarter million Pakistani immigrants were expelled from Saudi Arabia. This year, they were 40,000 low-level Pakistani workers to have been forcibly pushed back to their country. The Saudi authorities, as we hear everywhere else, says the migrants broke some kind of law and may have overstayed their visa. Authorities there have been unleashing their deportation force to get rid of them. But once again, economic affairs make this group of people vulnerable. In Saudi Arabia, tens of thousands of immigrants who actually have been abused as their employers withheld their wage payments in the face of a toughening economy. The Saudi government’s response has been to deport the victims, instead of dealing with the perpetrators. The authorities have been consistently tagging specific migrant groups as potential terrorists. The Pakistanis, and now increasingly the Syrians are suspects from the get go, and are closely monitored for “terrorism” activity. That sounds a familiar argument, but US courts disagreed with the Trump administration and managed to debunk and destroyed this non-sense.

A broad check of global immigration these days, and it has become clear that immigration policies have now fallen on the hands of ultra-nationalist groups who have deeply-rooted opposition to the free movement of people. If you want to immigrate these days, wait a while, and then try again four years from now.

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Arezki Daoud is The North Africa Journal Editor and MEA Risk LLC’s Chief Executive and Lead Analyst. At the North Africa Journal Arezki oversees content development and sets the editorial policies and guidelines. Arezki is an expert on African affairs, with primary focus on the Maghreb, Sahel and Egypt. His coverage of the region spans from security and defense to industrial and economic issues. His expertise includes the energy sector and doing business in the region. At MEA Risk, Arezki overseas all aspects of the company’s development, from the research agenda to growth strategy and day-to-day business activity. Arezki brings a wealth of skills. After college, he worked for oil company Sonatrach, then held research, forecasting and consulting positions for the likes of Harvard University, IDG and IDC. Arezki can be reached at daoud@north-africa.com, at US+508-981-6937 or via Skype at arezki.daoud