European and African governments have different perspectives on dealing with refugees and migration challenges. It’s high time for Europe and Africa to genuinely work together, says DW’s Harrison Mwilima.

As we observe World Refugee Day on June 20, I would like to remind European and African governments of the need to genuinely work together in dealing with refugee and migration challenges facing the two neighboring continents.

Looking at the European media, a certain image is always reproduced: The many young African people who want to come to Europe — even risking their lives in desperation. This is very one-sided — and creates an image that all African youth want to make such perilous journeys.

In reality, there are few African refugees making such treacherous journeys. In fact, most African refugees go to the neighboring countries instead of heading to Europe.

Different perspectives on dealing with refugees

European and African countries have been working together on solving refugee and migration problems. However, progress has been slow. This is mainly because the two continents have different perspectives and priorities on dealing with the challenge.

On the one hand, the European Union and its member states regard the reduction of refugees and irregular migrants as a means to tackle security threats. Toward realizing this, most European funds have been channeled to reduce refugee and migration flows to Europe. Furthermore, Europe has even worked with African dictators to gain their support in curbing migration.

On the other hand, African governments are interested in remittances — the money that many migrants send home — and legal migration opportunities. The strategic attitude of Europe in reducing refugees and migration has created mistrust among African governments toward their European counterparts in dealing with refugee and migration challenges.

Pandemic, economic crises leads to migration

The world is currently facing the coronavirus pandemic. In Europe and in other Western countries, vaccinations are currently in full swing, and infection numbers and deaths are declining as life slowly returns to normal.

On the other hand, though many African countries have not been highly affected by the pandemic, the economic effects of coronavirus have been immense. This is due to a fall in commodity prices and the increased costs of imports. Additionally, income from tourism, remittances and raw materials has also dropped.