Europe: A land of broken dreams

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ON October 3 a boat carrying about 450 immigrants, mostly from Africa, capsized near Lampedusa Island, Italy, killing more than 300 immigrants on board.
Today the Mediterranean Sea has become a major killer of African immigrants hoping to reach the shores of Europe to start new lives.
Among the victims of the recent Lamepdusa disaster was a mother who died together with her newborn baby still attached to her by the umbilical cord. Maybe she hoped to reach Italy before giving birth and give birth to an ‘Italian’ baby.
Lampedusa is an Italian island and home to about 6 000 Italians.
According to the Time World (October 3 2013), nearly 6 500 immigrants have died in Mediterranean Sea between 1994 and 2012 in their quest to reach Europe.
As if to mock the dead immigrants, the Italian government granted the dead immigrants with Italian citizenship posthumously while the survivors will be deported and/or face criminal charges of illegally trying to enter Italy.
Is a dead immigrant better than a living immigrant, some have asked.
Every year hundreds of African immigrants gamble with their lives as they undertake these dangerous journeys in overcrowded and sometimes un-serviced boats.
What is there in Europe for them?
Europe is no longer as attractive as it may have been a few decades ago.
There is increasing unemployment and people, especially African and Asian immigrants, live in overcrowded and appalling conditions.
Most of us already resident here, feel trapped in Europe and we are struggling to find means and ways to return to our home countries.
For the majority of Africans, or people from developing countries, coming to Europe is regarded as a greatest achievement.
Sadly though this is a misleading notion inherited through colonialism and parcelled to us through cultural imperialism.
The reality in Europe, for many immigrants like me, is racism (both institutional and overt racism), poverty, underemployment and loneliness.
We become economically, culturally and politically dispossessed both in Europe and in our own home countries.
We are neither here nor there.
We become lost in space and time as we get locked in delusional dreams for a brighter future ahead.
We dream of returning to home countries with truckloads of money!
We live among Europe’s most poor, in squalid and appalling conditions.
We are never accepted as equals by our hosts.
We have many broken and unfulfilled dreams.
For most of these immigrants who undertake dangerous journeys through seas and desserts into Europe, Britain is the ultimate destination.
Many young women, especially from West Africa, who get to countries like Italy, find themselves trapped in prostitution.
According to the BBC World Africa (April 25 2005), there were between 10 000 to 20 000 Nigerian women working as prostitutes in Italy alone.
They are lured to come to Europe on the promise of better jobs.
Some leave school and hope to come to Europe to earn quick money.
“The women in turn agree to repay hugely inflated costs for arranging documents and transport. But it’s often not until they arrive in Italy that they are told that they will have to prostitute themselves in order to pay off the debt” (https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/4481863.stm).
Human trafficking is a major international problem especially for Africa.
It is like continuation of slavery, only that this time around it is voluntary.
On the eve of Bulgaria and Romania joining the European Union, many Africans, especially from West Africa, are already migrating to these two countries where they engage in shame marriages with Bulgarian and Romanian women so that they get an easy passage mostly to Britain.
I have heard of educated Nigerian men working in Bulgaria as cow-herders as they wait for the EU to take in Bulgaria!
Since April 2001, I have always had this chat with a Jamaican man, now in his 60s, Ras Immanuel, who, each time I talk to him, always tells me that he is now ready to go back to Jamaica and only needs to save “a likkle bit of money to set up mi own business over deh.”
He tells me he came here in the early 70s when he was a teenager.
Like many immigrants, he hoped to work in Britain for only six months and go back to Jamaica.
He worked in factories and the construction industry as a labourer.
He walks with a limp and complains of incurable backache; evidence of decades of menial labouring!
He tells me he has not been back to Jamaica since he came here almost 40 years ago!
Why, I ask.
He has been saving hard to go and start a ‘likkle’ business, but because of commitment to children and his mistress (a British underclass white lady), he wanted his pickney to grow old before thinking of going ‘bek’ to Jamaica.
He is lonely, smokes weed and drinks cider to kill time.
Like many, he will probably end up in a nursing home where he will die, lonely. Ras Immanuel is not the only one who dreams.
His is the unfulfilled dream of many immigrants here, who, like me, come to Europe in their prime years; toil hard in industries, care homes, farms and factories.
His is the dream of immigrants exploited by capitalism, and yet the same capitalism will reject them and eject them into an unknown world as they become older and incapacitated.
I, too, have a dream.
I want to return to Zimbabwe and start my own little business and live in a mansion!
During my recent visit back home, I stated that Britain is not a paradise.
I also refuted the claims that the pastures are green here.
There is no gold paved on the streets of London, or Europe.
There is poverty.
Europe has its own underclass and slums.
It has its own homeless, mostly immigrants from former colonies.
European economies are struggling.
There is recession.
According to The Economist, “GDP rose by just 0,1 percent in Germany, the biggest economy in the euro area and declined by 0,2 percent in France, the second biggest.
“Falls in southern Europe were much bigger, with GDP declining by 0,5 percent in Italy and Spain and 1,3 percent in Cyprus” (The Economist July 18 2013). The unemployment rate for young people was 7, 6 percent for Germany in March, 56 percent for Spain and 64 percent Greece in February this year.
In the UK a survey carried out in 2009 highlighted that “more than a third (36 percent) of 15 to 18-year old men held in youth custody in England and Wales are from black or other ethnic minority groups – and the number is growing” (https://news.uk.msn.com).
Yet we still risk our lives to come to Europe.
The USA is also facing major economic challenges, and on October 1 we heard of the government shutting down; whatever that means.
A colleague of mine, Jimmy Malunga, a mental health practitioner, says there is need for combined effort between African countries and the EU to stop this dangerous migration into Europe.
He blames Europe for destabilising and exploiting African countries.
Malunga also urges African governments, especially where most immigrants come from, to desist from corruption and betraying the aspirations of their citizens by selfishly seeking personal wealth.
“African governments need to take the concept and essence of empowering local communities seriously,” he said.
In my next articles I will explore the daily lives of young black men (from Africa), in Britain: their challenges to get jobs, what most are doing for survival, and their struggles with the police under the racist Stop and Search laws.

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