By Bolaji Akinola
In case you missed the story last week, Emmanuel Chidi Namdi was a Nigerian killed during a row that broke out in a small Italian town called Fermo.
Fermo, a town of about 37,000 people, is located on a hill at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a natural destination for many African migrants who manage to survive the perils of travelling through the Mediterranean Sea.
Emmanuel’s killing in the Italian west coast town is believed to be racially motivated; more of a hate crime.
The deceased reportedly fled Nigeria with his partner named Chinyery, 24, after their families came under attack from Boko Haram terrorists. The couple’s only child died as they made their way across the Mediterranean Sea late 2015.
Emmanuel’s death further underscores the dangers faced by Nigerians and other Africans trying to escape from conflicts, poverty and hunger in their home countries.
The Mediterranean Sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant. The sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, although it is usually identified as a separate body of water covering an approximate area of 2.5 million km2, with an average depth of 1,500 metres or 4,900 feet
The Mediterranean has been a holiday destination for decades but in recent years, it has acquired new fame as the world’s deadliest sea crossing. Migrants seeking better life in Europe have died by the thousands in the sea while fleeing poverty and bloodshed in their countries especially in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The precise number of deaths is unknown as authorities count only those bodies found in the sea, on shore, or aboard boats. Survivors often tell of fellow passengers who lost their lives at sea, but the bodies are never found. The men, women and children attempting these perilous journeys in unseaworthy boats come from many countries including Eritrea, Afghanistan, Somalia and Nigeria.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reports an estimated 227,316 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 3 July, arriving in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain.
So far this year 2,920 deaths have been recorded, compared with 1,838 through the first six months of 2015. Migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean in 2016 are now 1,082 more than last year’s mid-year total. The 383 deaths in June – slightly fewer than 13 per day – were the highest monthly total for June in three years.
The main departure country for the migrants has been Libya, followed by Egypt.
Migrants pay thousands of dollars to human traffickers in Libya and other refugee transit hot spots for the perilous voyage across the Mediterranean.
Libya’s plunge into anarchy has created an ideal environment for smugglers, who pack people fleeing war and poverty in the Arab world and sub-Saharan African onto rickety boats that set sail for Europe — mainly aiming for Italy or Malta.
The high level of risk has not stopped migrants from making the journey. If anything, the volume seems to be increasing.
While one must commend the Italian government for condemning killing of Emmanuel, Italy and Greece have also done remarkably well to cater for survivors of the Mediterranean Sea voyage even in the face of dwindling resources. However, a lot more still needs to done to provide safe passage for those who wish to migrate to Europe.
European leaders and African governments must also institute measures to stop people smugglers from pushing people to sea in derelict crafts.
African leaders must also make life tolerable for their people to stem their exodus out of the continent. In terms of natural resources, Africa is the world’s richest continent with 50% of the world’s gold, most of the world’s diamonds and chromium, 90% of the cobalt, 40% of the world’s potential hydroelectric power, 65% of the manganese, millions of acres of untilled farmland, as well as other natural resources. Yet, despite these vast resources, the bulk of Africans live in abject poverty.
African leadership struggles to stimulate and retain it strongest resource — the people. They either live in unnecessary frustration, hopelessness and poverty, die of preventable disease, or run to the West to live meaningful lives. The greatest crisis in Africa is not due to HIV, religion, or famine, or even war. It is leadership. African leaders must become more committed to their people to begin to change this narrative.
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