Migration, criminalisation and language

The articles on immigration detention in Africa this month highlight the extent to which migration is criminalised across the region.  Irregular migrants, as well as refugees and asylum seekers, often find themselves before the courts, serving sentences in prison for unlawful entry or stay.  In some instances, individuals are transferred to immigration detention facilities having served a sentence, in others they remain in prison until deported.   Criminalisation of movement leaves limited room for understanding or response to the mixed cohort of those moving, the reasons for movement, the potential for refugees and asylum seekers to be amongst those moving for other reasons, or those moving for both protection and livelihood.

Media reports referring to ‘illegal’ immigrants further fuel public distrust and anger towards migrants, and lend governments a reason to or mandate to continue to criminalise such behaviour, the argument being that this is the desire of their constituents.

In addition to calling migrants ‘illegals’, frequently journalism on this issue does not protect the identity of migrants, regardless of whether they are sentenced or detained, and often does little justice to the complexities presented by migration in the region.  For this reason in this month and in previous months, we have elected to leave a number of articles out, this month there were so many that I felt the issue should be somehow marked.