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Opinion

African governments ignore migration crisis

The news is full of death and tragedy in the Mediterranean. We see Africans clinging to boats and rafts hoping to reach Europe. But how do Africans already in Europe feel? DW's Assumpta Lattus tells us what she thinks.

Every time I hear the words Mediterranean or Lampedusa at the moment, I shiver and I feel sad. That's because I know that more of "my people", fellow Africans, are going to be involved in the latest tragedy, or are being buried on the rocky shores of European outposts.

Perhaps you might be expecting me, as an African, to feel angry with Europe. As Europe itself seems to be. But I'm angry at African governments for not doing more.

What I find strange is that hardly anyone, at least in Europe, seems to expect African governments to take part in a solution to this crisis. Europeans often say they need to find solutions, they need to make the places these immigrants come from better. But they don't ever seem to hope, or expect, that African governments will help them find that solution. Maybe EU leaders think it is enough to have the head of the African Union Commission (23.04.15), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, speak at a one-day annual bilateral meeting, during which the migration crisis was just one of the topics on the agenda. No, that is not the way we have to work to solve the problem. Africans don't need European pity, what they need is to be expected to step up to the plate.

DW-Mitarbeiterin Asumpta Lattus

Assumpta Lattus, DW Africa English department

Europe benefits from much of the misery and low wages in many African countries, sure! Fishermen plunder the once vibrant waters around Africa. Cocoa, fruit, vegetables and flowers are all grown on our continent and shipped to Europe and the world. Yet no one wants Africans following the products exported from our continent.

Since Europe began to address the migration crisis in 2013, African governments have held only one meeting about it. And, I for one, wonder whether any of the recommendations that came out of that meeting will ever really be addressed.

I believe Africa needs to regard this crisis as its problem, if anything is really to be solved. I feel ashamed of being African and ashamed of governments from my continent. I want to see this item on the agendas of the African Union's many meetings and regional bloc meetings.

The biggest challenge facing us is to change how Africans think about Europe. It is not the earthly paradise for many of them, it is a living hell.

I've met Africans who in Europe work for 3 dollars a day or less. They sleep rough, sell illegal goods and are exploited or forced to work in dangerous jobs or as prostitutes. Their lives, once they are in Europe, are often worse than those they left behind.

Europe is still a place of prejudice for many Africans. When I lived in Italy, where I studied at university, men would often sidle up to me and ask me "how much I cost" for the night. What I want to tell my fellow Africans is stop thinking that Europe will solve your problems. You will most likely end up living in shanty towns here too.

It is time now to wake up and work out a way for everyone to make it in their own countries, instead of building castles in the sky which don't and can't really exist.

Asumpta Lattus is from Tanzania and works for DW's English for Africa department.

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