The Myth of Invasion: The inconvenient realities of African migration to Europe

01 October 2008

Hein de Haas

Third World Quarterly Volume 29, Issue 7 October 2008 , pages 1305 - 1322 DOI: 10.1080/01436590802386435

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African migration to Europe is commonly seen as a tidal wave of desperate people fleeing poverty and warfare at home trying to enter the elusive European El Dorado. Typical “solutions” proposed by politicians include increasing border controls or boosting African “stay-at-home” development. However, such apocalyptic views are based on fundamentally flawed assumptions on the (limited) magnitude, historicity, nature and causes of this migration. Dominant discourses obscure that African migration to Europe and Libya is fuelled by a structural demand for cheap migrant labour in informal sectors. This explains why restrictive immigration policies have invariably failed to stop migration and have had various perverse effects. Also African development is unlikely to curb migration as it will enable and inspire more people to migrate. Despite lip service being paid to “combating illegal migration” for political and diplomatic reasons, neither European nor African states have much genuine interest in stopping migration.