Tag Archives: Africa

Europe, Germany Brace for African Migrants as Record Numbers Land in Sicily

In past years, bad weather meant people stop making the dangerous Mediterranean route from Libya, but not this year. There were three landings in just two days in one bad-weather weekend. Photo by Anke Trojan.
As European countries pull back from past commitments to accepting refugees, tens of thousands linger in Italy as they navigate an overwhelmed asylum system.

News started to spread on a Friday evening that a sea landing with nearly 600 people — including more than 100 minors — was expected next morning at Sicily’s port of Catania. It was the middle of January and an unusually cold, rainy week, but none of that mattered. More people kept coming and more continued to die.

That weekend alone, nearly 2,000 were rescued. Half a dozen others arrived in white plastic bags. In Messina, an imam and a priest led prayers for two of them as their relatives mourned their loss, shivering under blankets.

Others, burned from the mixture of fuel and salt water, were taken directly to the hospital, where those who made the trip before them brought them a phone to call their families and reminded them that they should be grateful to be alive. Since January, 602 people have died or gone missing trying to cross the central Mediterranean route, following the deadliest year yet with 4,600 deaths in 2016.

The reasons behind what pushes this group of mostly Sub-Saharan Africans to risk death and endure beatings, rapes and exploitation on their way to Europe are as complex as the individuals themselves. Yet their fate often comes down to a binary decision: they are either refugees where they happen to land, fleeing war or persecution, or they continue their journey and are economic migrants looking for jobs.

And even as the line between both conditions becomes blurrier, it also keeps moving.

Outside immigration centers, migrants and asylum seekers insist they want to keep heading north. “Germany is my country,” one man from Senegal said. “In Germany they like African people,” he insisted.

What they don’t know or talk about is how European countries are erecting fences to stop people from going north and governments are making deals with countries in Africa, including quasi-states such as Libya, to send people back. Now with rising anti-immigrant rhetoric and upcoming elections, politicians and citizens increasingly say countries like Germany can’t take everyone who comes in, especially the Africans.

So far this year, nearly 25,000 people have arrived in Sicily, a trend that if continues could break last year’s record of 181,000. And just as thousands arrive almost weekly, tens of thousands linger in Italy as they navigate an overwhelmed asylum system, appeal their rejected claims or are stranded here — unwilling or unable to go back.

Continue reading at Coda Story.

Childhood fascination with Africa becomes annual trek for Tucson woman

It’s the people that keep Tina Springer going back to Kenya year after year, she says. She has friends in every corner of the country. Photo by Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

When Tucsonan Tina Springer was a skinny 10-year-old in South Bend, Ind., she remembers sitting on her bed, reading an article in the August 1956 National Geographic about Africa.

She was fascinated with a land so far away, so strange, so intriguing. The article filled her with thoughts of safaris, acacia trees in the sunset and tribal living.

Forty-eight years later she booked a flight and a safari tour to the Maasai Mara, a national reserve in southwestern Kenya known for its lions, cheetahs and leopards, as well as the annual migration of more than a million wildebeest and hundreds of thousands of zebras.

“I knew as soon as I was in the plane back to America that I would return to Kenya,” she said.

And she did. Once a year for the past 10 years she has made the 9,500-mile trip. Eventually, three-week outings became three-month stays. In Kenya she would help buy goats for villagers and deliver books bought with money raised in Tucson.

These days Springer is no longer a tourist or a volunteer in Africa. She’s just a 68-year-old muzungu (Swahili for white person), with cropped blond hair and chronic arthritis in her feet, who finds the city of Nairobi exciting, crazy and somewhat frightening, but full of happy people who have won her heart.

Each day there she buys a newspaper, cell phone credit and fresh fruit from locals who sell on corners. She goes down to the bar to watch her favorite team, Manchester United, play soccer. She takes the colorful matatus (buses) to nearby towns. She knows the names of Maasai tour guides and taxi drivers, now her friends, who give her special rates.

Springer’s connection to Africa is palpable when she speaks of her home away from home. It is also visible. Three tattoos adorn her skin: the word Rafiki, which means “friend” in Swahili, wraps around her wrist; Akinyi, her name in Luo, runs down her inner forearm; and a Maasai shield rests on her back.

But after going back every year for the past decade, Springer is not sure she can continue traveling to the East African country she has come to love.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.