Europe must welcome migrants just as Africa did

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Italian police officers look on as shipwrecked migrants line up to receive first aid from Italian Red Cross personnel as they arrive in the Italian port of Augusta in Sicily on April 16, 2015. As many as 41 migrants drowned after a small boat carrying refugees sank in the Mediterranean, Italian media said, days after 400 were lost in another shipwreck. Four survivors told Italian police and humanitarian organisations that their inflatable vessel sank not long after leaving the coast of Libya for Europe with 45 people on board. AFP PHOTO / GIOVANNI ISOLINOGIOVANNI ISOLINO/AFP/Getty Images

WE have recently seen headlines of Africans trying to migrate to Europe as refugees.
The pictures of desperate Africans crowded in small boats is a disturbing one.
We have also seen Syrians seeking to migrate to Europe.
In recent decades, migration from the previous colonial world has been dominated by people called illegal labour migrants and asylum seekers.
And yet, the history of migration is not new.
The current economic hardships, social, political global changes and traumas forcing people to migrate have always been there in history.
Immigrants and refugees have shaped the world’s population history for centuries.
America is full of migrants from Europe and Africa.
Among the migrants to America were Italians, Germans, Poles, Frenchmen, British, as well as some Swiss, Belgians and Dutch.
The words written on the Statue of Liberty were taken from a sonnet by Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus written in 1833.
The message to the migrants to America states: “Give me your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
“Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
When we look at Africa, we see that long before the massive Atlantic Slave Trade, Africans were forced to migrate to Europe as slaves in southern Spain and Portugal.
Later on some of them were exported from Portugal to Brazil and from there they were taken to British, French, Dutch, and Danish America.
Africa then became the provider of most of the world’s migrants.
It is estimated that between nine and 12 million Africans were taken into slavery and transported to America, although it is very difficult to know the exact number.
The 19th and 20th Century major upheavals in Europe forced people to move and look for a better life through emigration, but the biggest migration was introduced by the British.
During the British Empire, Britain created dominions, protectorates, territories and trading posts for Europeans to settle in Africa.
People from Africa and Asia, serving as soldiers and contract labourers in the European armies during the First and Second World War, moved to Europe after the war.
These settlers were migrants.
Many of them were refugees fleeing from hunger or war in Europe.
Pieter C. Emmer and Leo Lucasses have written a book titled, Migration from the Colonies to Western Europe since 1800.
In this book, the two authors point out that colonialism resulted in more than 60 million Europeans migrating overseas.
Such migration also included millions of Asians, Africans and Amerindians to Europe.
Emer and Lucasses wrote that: “By 1922 the British Empire had over 458 million people, one-fifth of the world’s population at the time.
“The empire covered more than 13 000 000 sq miles (33 670 000 km2), almost a quarter of the earth’s total land area.”
At the peak of the British Empire, there was a saying that: “The empire on which the sun never sets.”
These words describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.
For British emigrants, their main destinations in the British Empire were the colonies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, although significant numbers were encouraged by the Empire Settlement Act of 1922.
Through the Empire Settlement Scheme, many British people migrated to Southern Rhodesia.
According to a report titled ‘Empire Settlement’ recorded in the British Parliament on July 26 1926, Volume 198, there is discussion in which a Mr R. Smith asked the secretary of state for the colonies whether it is the policy of the present Government to encourage emigration of British people to Rhodesia and Kenya.
Mr Amery then replied: “As regards Kenya and Northern Rhodesia, the question of emigration in the ordinary sense does not arise.
“It is certainly no part of the policy of the Government to discourage the settlement of suitable British people, but it is primarily for the local Government to consider how far and under what conditions they should be encouraged.
“In the case of Southern Rhodesia, a land settlement scheme under the Empire Settlement Act has been entered into with the Southern Rhodesia Government.”
Mr Smith goes on to ask if compulsory service will encourage British people to go to Southern Rhodesia.
This is followed by a general consensus that Southern Rhodesia was a good colony for the British to settle in.
When the colonialists to Southern Rhodesia started increasing in number, those settlers were migrants.
The major difference between the British migrants to Africa and other migrants to Europe lies in the nature of colonisation, slavery and exploitation of the people and the natural resources of the continent.
As the world looks on at global migration of all races to Europe today, the earlier part of forced migration of Africans as slaves to Europe should also be remembered.
At the same time, the presence of Europeans in Africa is a testimony of the migration that occurred through colonisation.
This means European countries should welcome Africans and other races to Europe and give them a home because Africa did that in the past.

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