Much of the British High Commission’s work on migration is directed towards educating people on the risks and realities of migrating illegally, with the aim of dissuading people from travelling irregularly in the first place.
The British High Commission (BHC) in Accra is actively supporting the Ghanaian Government’s fight against illegal migration, a phenomenon which has a direct impact on the UK. Thanks to a number of effective capacity building projects, the BHC has developed extremely close working ties with Ghana’s Immigration Service (GIS).
Most recently, the BHC’s Migration Section (Neil McKillop and Henry Afrifa) joined the GIS at an outreach event, at a school in Tema on the outskirts of Accra. The event was designed to inform students of 6th form age about the realities of illegal migration as well as explaining how to travel by proper means. The event was quite something - school assemblies in Ghana differ somewhat from those in the UK - some 400 cheering students, loud music, and very high temperatures, all contributing to a uniquely Ghanaian style of audience participation. The GIS presentations explained to the students how to apply for a passport, the dangers of moving irregularly, especially to Libya, and the threat of human trafficking.
Outreach campaign against irregular migration
Neil McKillop, the 2nd Secretary, Migration Policy at British High Commission spoke on the UK’s approach to migration. Perhaps unsurprisingly most of the students present (either through cheering, laughing or standing up - or a combination of all three) expressed some interest in travelling to the UK. Mr. McKillop highlighted the dangers of travelling to the UK and Europe illegally. He gave examples of migrants dying in lorries crossing the Sahara desert or drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. The presentation also tried to change a common misconception in Ghana that illegal migrants live some kind of privileged life in the UK, where in fact the opposite is true. Illegal migrants spend their lives running from the authorities and more often than not are exploited by unscrupulous employers looking for cheap labour in dangerous jobs.
The event passed off well, with a lively question and answer session following. Many of the students commented that this was the first time anyone had given them this information. They were surprised to learn that over 60% of visa applicants from Ghana were successful, so there was actually very little need to pay a ‘facilitator’ huge sums of money to travel illegally. Much of the work the BHC is doing on migration is trying to prevent illegal migration before it happens, and the key to this is getting the information out there, to those that may otherwise fall prey to people looking to exploit potential migrants who simply do not have the knowledge of how to travel.
Speaking after the event, the Acting High Commissioner, Matthew Johnson said, “Our participation in this event reflects the excellent level of cooperation we have established with the Ghana Immigration Service, and our increasingly innovative approaches to getting our messages across. By going out and speaking to potential migrants in their own communities about how to come to the UK (or any EU country) within the law, and the inherent dangers of illegal migration, we stand a much better chance of stopping people risking their lives coming to Europe through misinformation. Young adults, with their lives ahead of them are exactly the people we should be talking to. We are able to tie this work to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s new Security and Prosperity priorities: we are preventing those people who have no valid reason to come to the UK from coming, whilst encouraging those who do to come and play a part in rebuilding the UK economy.”