There is a severe nationwide strike action embarked on by the G.N.A.G.T to pursue their petition for salary increases and better conditions of services. Two of its members, George Mensah and Julius Berkoe, fed up with the dire lives they're living in their country decide to leave for Europe in the hope of bettering their lots. But the journey is an illegal affair altogether, which entails very great perils and ordeals, for it has to be done solely by land through the Sahara. They see an immigration agent who links them up with a team of human smugglers and other immigrants who share the same goal as them. Then their harrowing and perilous landfaring adventure across the Sahara begins. A journey that guarantees no survival. Armed with both faith and a good plan they are unnerved. They believe they'll make it across the Mediterranean.
But alas things don't go as planned and bloodshed, misery and death begin to befall them along the way..............
Across The Mediterranean vividly describes the adventures of these illegal immigrants as they venture across the Sahara desert in the hope of making it across the sea and into Europe.
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"Eldorado", "The Promised Land", "Canaan", "Green Pasture" “The land of honey and sugar” These are some of the interesting names desperate African migrants refer to the continent Europe. Every year thousands of Africans, both old and young get to Europe by legal or illegal means. Basically these people struggle to get to Europe to seek greener pastures and a better prospect in life. Ninety percent of them being economic refugees fleeing a life of poverty in their respective countries for the haven that is Europe. Most of these people before becoming illegal immigrants applied for visas to Europe but were refused on spurious reasons after spending large sums of money during the application process “Since they refuse us visas I guess illegal migration is our only way out” James from Nigeria said.
These immigrants tend to take a number of tough and perilous routes in order to reach Europe with the hope of achieving their dreams there. They either trek through the Sahara to Morocco, from there they either cross the Mediterranean to Gibraltar- Spanish mainland or get over the imposing barbed wire fences which separate the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. The alternative to these routes is towards the Spanish Canary Islands, which is part of Europe. Other routes include Libya to Malta or Italy and Tunisia to Sicily - Italy. Thousands of Illegal migrants die every year trying to get into Europe via any of these routes. Salif is one of the thousands of African migrants who attempted the perilous almost ten day journey from Africa to the Canary Islands in an open fish boat. He was caught and deported back to his country Guinea. "That journey was the most frightening experience in my entire life," he said. "And had we not been picked by the authorities we would have died."
Guinea is one of the world's poorest countries and Salif felt he had no future there. Amani Mustapha from Ghana said he attempted scaling over the high barbed fence into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta every night. But he usually returned to the mountain camps where he lived with hundreds of would be immigrants with cuts and bruises from the Spanish border police. He told me he would keep on trying until he made it through. Not even the news that ten people died after 500 people stormed the fence at the same time would deter him. "After enduring extreme hardships as we crossed the Sahara desert to reach Morocco, many of us who attack the fences are no longer afraid of dying" he added.
Another migrant Thompson Ezu from Nigeria said, "I am determined to reach Europe or die trying. After everything I've gone through I don't care anymore, and the recent death of six people trying to storm the fence will not deter me" Ezu usually returned to his home in the woodland with a lung full of teargas and a few bruises from the Spanish border police. He lives with the hope that he would someday strike it lucky. It must be said that from their homes in the woodlands the would-be immigrants can easily see Ceuta. The mountain camps or 'Ghetto' as some call it is the abode of migrants from across West Africa. Each nationality seemed to have its separate section of the camp. Some have lived there for years armed with the belief that they would strike it lucky someday. "Though we are of different nationalities we are united by the common goal we share - that's Europe" Awudu a Senegalese said.
From afar one could see a few patches of plastics glinting in the sunlight across the green wooded mountain valley. When the wind blows in a certain direction one could hear the sound of distant singing and chattering, along with wafts of smoke rising from their fires.
Sometimes migrants who successfully entered the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla are housed in holding camps or sent to mainland Spain to await expulsion to their countries of origin. "Life in such holding camps is no better than life in concentration camps" A human rights organization said.
The treatments meted out to migrants by the Moroccan and Spanish authorities can be indeed worrying. Most migrants repatriated from Morocco and Spain to their countries of origin accused the security forces of ill-treatment. Recently, migrants were even reported to have been dumped by the Moroccan and Spanish authorities in the desert.
Quite recently hundreds of illegal immigrants were deported from Spain to their countries of origins. "The return is a catastrophe to me and my family, for we sold all our belongings just to get money for my trip" said James, one of the deportees and a student. Describing his perilous journey to the Canary Islands "All of us in the boat had been ill for several days, but luckily none of us died" James added. "However when we arrived on the Spanish Islands we heard rumors that a compatriot boat carrying 60 people had not been so lucky at sea and all on board had drowned" A classmate of his was among the dead. "In spite of this I'm not deterred" he said. "I would venture another trip again, for here in my home I have no future"
Basically people struggle to get out of Africa for a better prospect in life. David, a Togolese migrant had this to say "Life in Togo is hard. There are no jobs, there's no food and there's lot of corruption. There's such poverty and I have to make a better life for my self so I can help my family back home. I left home on May 2, 2000 and began my journey. I traveled north across the Sahara desert and into Morocco. Here I worked wherever I could. There was in fact no odd job I did not do. I was caught by the police on several occasions and given the beatings of my life. I met a smuggler who helped me. I and 40 others boarded a makeshift boat bound for the Canary Islands but alas tragedy struck. The boat capsized, drowning a great many of us. I and a few others were lucky to be spotted by the authorities and were instantly rescued. Thereafter I was deported back to Togo - back to square one. I've not given in yet. I'll still try again. I hope that God sees me through the next time around"
Diana from Nigeria had this to say, "I and some friends from school went through Burkina Faso and into Mali. There we paid a truck driver to take us to Morocco but he dropped us in the middle of the desert and sped off, leaving us to our fate. For two days we stayed in the desert with no water nor food. Two of my very close friends died. Luckily for the rest of us the Moroccan authorities spotted and rescued us. I am very afraid of making this journey again"
Harunah from Burkina Faso saw a close friend die while attempting to get over the barbed fence but he did not have the courage to let his family know.
Iddrisu from Senegal attempted cutting the fence and entering into Melilla. But he was caught and beaten senselessly by the authorities till his legs dislocated. Then he was thrown back into the woods. Musa from Liberia got his front tooth knocked out after a policeman knocked him with his riffle butt. His offence was trying to scale over the fence into Melilla
Will the fences stop the migration?
"Can the fences stop the wind?" one migrant asked, shaking his head. "We are just like the wind. They can triple the razor wire fences to the heavens but this shan't stop us. Nothing shall! Not even God can."
Hence the bodies of would be immigrants frequently seen washed up on Spanish and Moroccan beaches after their rickety boats capsize. Unless living standards are raised in Africa, young men and women will continue to risk their lives trying to get into Europe.
And as one of them observed, Unfair world trade policies coupled with bad and selfish governance have destroyed the African economy and continent blessed with an abundance of resources...............