4. Cloud of Confusion Over Migrants

Author: RW Johnson
Date: 7 July 2021
Business Day
Image Courtesy of: jdblack via Pixabay.com


Adekeye Adebajo is a potent source of misinformation and disinformation. In his most recent column (“Highs and lows of relations between the AU and EU”, July 4) he tells us that “In 2020 12,929 African migrants attempted to cross the Mediterranean into the EU with 983 of them drowning”.

Yet the International Office for Migration says 33,418 Africans actually arrived on European shores (not just attempted to cross), and of course very large numbers arrived illegally and are not recorded. He also accuses the EU of “criminalising migrants”, but of course the migrants know perfectly well they are breaking the law.

He also says 10.6-million of “Africa’s global migrants” (who total 39.4-million) are in Europe. If they really were arriving at the rate of fewer than 13,000 a year, as he suggests, it would take more than 800 years for 10.6-million to arrive. Those figures are clearly wrong. If only 10.6-million are in Europe, where have the other 28.8-million gone? There are very few in the Middle East or Asia, and not many get to America. And we know that Europe is overwhelmingly the preferred destination.

Incidentally, in 2007 the BBC estimated that 4.6-million African migrants were living in Europe, but the Migration Policy Institute reckoned there were already 7-million to 8-million illegal African migrants living in the EU.

In the rest of his article Adebajo details the many acts of generosity by the EU towards the AU and concludes that “both sides must work hard to build a relationship”. Surely that shouldn’t be difficult for the AU? It just has to accept that generosity. It doesn’t seem to have any problems doing that.

RW Johnson, Constantia.



Title: King Lear Rambles About Black Migrants
Author: Adekeye Adebajo
Date: 20 July 2021
Business Day

RW Johnson confuses the 10.6-million African international migrants living in the EU with those arriving on rickety boats

RW Johnson describes me in his letter as “a potent source of misinformation and disinformation” (“Cloud of confusion over migrants”, July 7). This from a man who is on record stating on Politicsweb that I taught at Rhodes University, an institution I have never set foot in.

Johnson has gained notoriety for his right-wing views. In July 2010 he published a blog post in the London Review of Books that many interpreted as comparing black migrants in SA to baboons. Seventy-three prominent intellectuals signed a letter describing the post — which had to be taken down — as racist.

Johnson questions the point I made in a recent column that several European governments and populations scapegoat and criminalise African migrants (“Highs and lows of relations between the AU and EU”, July 4). Right-wing parties and many citizens across the EU have frequently demonised this group. Anyone who thinks otherwise has been living in cloud cuckoo land. The Dutch supreme court only recently upheld the conviction of Islamophobic populist Geert Wilders for insulting Moroccans at a 2014 rally.

Johnson also seeks to depict migrants as “breaking the law”, but every individual has the legal right to seek asylum, as has been confirmed by the EU itself. Johnson then somehow confuses the 10.6-million African international migrants living in the EU as the same as those arriving on rickety boats.

This figure is cited in a 2020 report by the International Organization for Migration — erroneously dubbed the International Office for Migration by Johnson. His only accurate point is my figure of 12,929 African boat people crossing the Mediterranean into the EU last year, which reflected only the first few months of 2020.

Based on Johnson’s constant reactionary ramblings, our intellectual King Lear should perhaps drift off gently into the sunset.

Professor Adekeye Adebajo is Director at the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation, University of Johannesburg, South Africa.