A refugee child from Afghanistan sleeps on the floor of the main train station in Munich,Germany. With increased attention on Europes migration crisis, there is neglect of the even more dangerous overland migration throughout Africa, says the writer. File picture: Andreas Gebert

We must continue pursuing and supporting the political and economic stabilisation of all our neighbours, says Malusi Gigaba.

Johannesburg - For some months, the world has been watching helplessly as hundreds of African and Syrian migrants make desperate attempts daily to enter Europe.

The response by European governments has been ad hoc, arbitrary and panic-stricken, with British Prime Minister David Cameron referring to the migrants as “swarms”. This response, as expected, drew all-round condemnation, described by the Financial Times (August 1-2) as “the shallowest gesture in politics”.

These situations have called into question the EU migration policy and have exposed the deficiencies of their current policy.

For as long as there has been a Mediterranean crisis, the EU has, at best, been lame-duck in its response and, at worst, blatantly racist and xenophobic. It has failed dismally to develop a long-term, sustainable and durable response, preferring to let African migrants drown than set foot on European land.

Five firm points can be made:

* The Calais crisis is of the EU’s making, whether one considers the Syrian crisis or Libya, with the killing of Muammar Gaddafi and the creation of a state that is failing, where once it had been stable.

* The EU’s migration policy is an unmitigated disaster and there is an urgent need for a sustainable and comprehensive policy seeking to provide assistance to sending countries and regions so they may stabilise, democratise and develop.

* The EU needs to respond to these crises as a region, rather than as individual countries, many inspired by xenophobia or antipathy towards African migrants.

* Migration policy is related to a country or region’s international relations policy. Migration policy must be informed by your foreign policy, both of which, in the EU’s case, are disastrous as they encourage disruption abroad and shut down borders at home.

* It is instructive that in the wake of all these crises the EU has not sought constructive dialogue with Africa, in particular, through the AU, to find durable solutions.

The Financial Times made the scathing remark that the EU lacks vision, saying: “The sharing of migrants across member states, the processing of asylum claims, the creation of legal routes into Europe – there should be a pan-European co-ordination of this. Instead, there is a dog’s breakfast of national policies, some more enlightened than others.

“Europe needs a sense of perspective… The continent should lift its sights and take the long view… As long as chaos reigns close to Europe, people will risk their lives to come here. The solution to the migrant problem lies at the source.

“A giant trade bloc with so much diplomatic expertise to call upon has no excuse to be passive… It has a direct interest in the security of North African ports and the economic prospects of the region, but it is a rare European leader who even talks about these challenges.”

The problem with Europe is that it is often the source of the problems that spawn irregular migration.

With this increased attention on Europe’s migration crisis, there is neglect of the even more dangerous overland migration throughout Africa, with thousands of people perishing as they try to cross the Sahara, or thousands being trafficked from the Horn of Africa, through East Africa into South Africa or elsewhere.

South Africa, for example, has much the same number of irregular migrants as the EU. But we do not call our situation a crisis.

In his article, “South Africa, the Global Immigration Crisis and the Challenge of African Solidarity”, carried by The Thinker, international policy analyst Ademola Araoye writes: “In Africa, South Africa has been singularly hit by this worldwide phenomenon. This was inevitably a near and popular destination for the poor and wearied of Africa and Asia.

“Barely two decades into its majority rule, in the context of its internal challenges and struggle as with most states hit by this global challenge, South Africa has paid the price of sluggish messaging and faced the familiar hypocrisy of a world that has traditionally designed one measure for Africa and another for itself. But it is Africa that has been caught in the beams of the hypocritical international searchlight.”

In terms of our evolving philosophy of migration management, we have acknowledged that to better manage this phenomenon, we need a “whole of government” and a “whole of society” approach.

We can succeed only if we forge strategic partnerships across all of government, between the government and society, as well as across our region, as no government can manage migration on its own. We need a pan-African approach so we can harness the positive forces of migration in our interests.

We need to take a long view and be interested in the security and economic development of all African countries. As long as South Africa is viewed as the only political and economic beacon on the continent, so will migrants continue to seek to come here.

This is compounded by our trying to manage colonial borders that have split families and tribal communities. We must continue pursuing and supporting the political and economic stabilisation of all our Southern African Development Community and African neighbours. We must support the regulated and gradual easing of movement until we achieve full free movement.

As a regional and continental power, South Africa must lead in this regard.

* Malusi Gigaba is Minister of Home Affairs and an ANC national executive committee member.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent