Black Africans' Migration to Europe: Historical Migration Trends, Current Migration Processes, and Its Effects

Black Africans' Migration to Europe: Historical Migration Trends, Current Migration Processes, and Its Effects

Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7631-0.ch003


This chapter examines issues concerning the epochal migration trend of Black Africans to the UK, which oscillates between forced and voluntary migrations, and the socio-cultural factors that provoke mass movement of Black Africans to the UK. In addition, the chapter looked into the consequences of migration and the “enterprise” of human trafficking and human smuggling against the background of mass emigration from SSA.
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Black Africans In The Uk: The Migration Process

The number of Black Africans emigrating out of Africa is unknown because precise statistics from official sources are unavailable, even if they do, African statistics are often unreliable (e.g. August, 2013). In particular, the official data on migration from the SSA considerably understates the actual movement of people due to a number of reasons that include inaccurate, intermittent and inconsistent recording by officials of movement of people across borders (Shimeles, 2010).

However, close to 85% of the SSA’s diaspora in the rest of the world is in countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - with the United States (US), the UK, and France hosting around 50% of the SSA migrants (Gonzalez-Garcia & Mlachila, 2016). However, a lot of the migrants prefer to come to the UK (even when they are already in places like France). The attraction of the UK include family connection, a large black economy in which the migrants (legal or illegal) can disappear into, and easier asylum conditions and processing regime (Henley, 2001). Current estimates of the number of Black Africans residing in the UK vary widely, and there is never a time the actual population of Black people are known in the UK (Shyllon, 1992). For a variety of reasons, there is little consistent historical data on the actual size of Africans in Britain despite the ascription of the Black Africa group as the fastest growing minority group during the past decade in the country (Styan, 2007). According to Nwankwo (2013: 35):

“there are obvious lacunae in statistically estimating the actual size of the African population in Britain. The problems are exacerbated by known methodological difficulties which makes it almost impossible to have an accurate head-count, due primarily to inadequate census protocols and illegal migration”.

Black Africans living in the UK are many and the sheer scale, speed, and dynamism of recent settlements would discredit most current valuations (Nwankwo, 2013). This view is also expressed by Barrett and McEvoy (2013: 275): “But official statistics may be running behind demographic reality, perhaps because much recent African migration to Britain is undocumented”.

However, Africans are not new to the shores of Britain, they have been coming either as seafarers who settled unofficially in British ports or as students seeking to further their education with the prospect of improved circumstances on their return home (Adepoju, 1995).

Africans’ presence in Europe increased considerably from the 1960s, particularly since the introduction of neoliberal reforms (e.g. SAP) in the 1980s, and the political crisis some African countries were enmeshed in the 1990s and 2000s (Okome, 2017). Basically, Black Africans’ migration to the UK spans an array of taxonomies, including the documented, undocumented, irregular migrations, in addition to the movement of refugees and asylees. Some are known to have entered the UK through the much hazardous Sahara Desert, Morocco, and the Mediterranean death route. According to Schapendouh (2012), this Africans’ migration route to Europe is one of the most stigmatized forms of migration in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Brain Drain: Is a term commonly used to refer to the emigration of a country’s most highly skilled individuals out of the country of origin. It signifies the loss of intellectual capital of the country of origin.

Cumulative Causation: Describes a situation whereby the number of previous immigration flow generates its own momentum that is self-sustaining.

Brain Gain: Refers to the gain of intellectual capital of the country of residence through the immigration of highly skilled individuals.

Brain Waste: Describes the situation when qualified individuals (e.g., immigrants) end up in unemployment or underemployment, especially in a foreign country.

Brain Circulation: Describes the situation whereby highly skilled individuals engage in transnational beneficial transactions that involve traveling back and forth between the country of residence and country of origin.

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