By Medhat El-Banna
Even if you asked an ordinary man to migrate, and promised him a better life and a better salary, the answer could still be “No”. This is because of one of the worst features of human beings: inertia. As human beings we love to stay where we are, in our safe zone, doing what we are used to doing, living as we used to living, and refusing to change or take chances. But against expectations, almost all the immigrants are from Africa and Asia!
It is totally understood that the Syrian people will seek to leave their country, simply because their houses, work, and lifestyle has been destroyed. But what about the others, what about those from North and West Africa? What About the Egyptians, Tunisians, Malians, and Algerians? Why and how have they overcome their inertia and who helped them overcome it?
If we take a look at the economic situation in Egypt since 2010, we notice that it has shifted greatly towards the negative side of the scale. Egypt made historical records in unemployment and inflation. The unemployment rate reached 13.4 % of the 90 million citizens, and the inflation rate is at 11% annually, which means that you will lose half the value of your savings every nine years. There is a great fight between the Egyptian politicians to issue a law for the minimum wage of 1500EGP (187$) per month, but the government stated that the issuance of such a law is “impossible” because the Treasury cannot withstand such a burden. At the same time the IMF continues to push the government for more monetary haircuts by imposing more taxes and reducing the governmental salaries instead of reformulating the administrative sector of the government so that it uses fewer public employees.
Now, let’s take a look at the education sector in Egypt. Since 1952, education has been free or required only a very nominal fee, that includes university education, and post-graduate-education. The result of that is is that it’s very hard to find an Egyptian without a university education, and you can easily find an Egyptian holding a Masters Degree, or even a Doctorate. I myself had found that most taxi drivers hold a university degree, and few of them hold post-graduate-degrees. And if we take a look at the quality of education in the Egyptian Universities, you will easily find out how bad it is. With over 3000 student in each class, and around 1300 students in each post-graduate-diploma class, it is hard to argue that Egypt has a good free education. If you want to be really educated in an Egyptian university, you will have to join a “special section”, which have better subjects to study and the students in the class are less than 300, but you will have to pay for such education.
The situation seems so bad to the freshly graduated Egyptian youth, but it looks worse in Tunisia, where they tell the women that they are equal to men, but the unemployment rate for females is 22.2%, resulting in nearly a quarter of the Tunisian women being unemployed. It is even worse in Algeria, and much worse in Mali. Youths, who are the “Potential Immigrants”, finish their education and then find themselves unable to get a job. Even if they get one, the salary cannot sustain one person. As a result they have no hope to marry and start a family. If they try to start a small business or a professional office, they face un-fair competition from the big companies and businesses, as most of the competition laws in the third world countries are obsolete. Those youth will be frustrated and such frustration is not only enough to break somebody’s inertia, but will drive them to try and reach Europe by death boats, or go to Turkey and pay a forger to give him a falsified paper stating that he is a Syrian citizen, so he can apply for asylum in some west Europe state.
Lastly, who is to blame? Well, if we look too shallow, we can blame the youth for breaking the law, and if we look too deep we can blame the world economic system and even the Bretton Woods Conference. But I prefer not to be too shallow or too deep, though both have truth. I prefer to blame the governments for not making serious attempts to resolve the economic problems, for failing to propose new laws, and for failing to reform the administrative governmental bodies. I also blame us, the Peacebuilders, for failing to help and assist the governments to do so.
Medhat El-Banna, The President of the Middle East and North Africa Forum at the International Court for Dispute Resolution. Medhat always identifies himself as ADR Expert (Alternative Dispute Resolution Expert), a professional Adjudicator, Arbitrator, Mediator, Negotiator, Peace Mediator and Peacebuilder. Well known for being a very good Negotiator. Since, June 2013 stopped to act as Arbitrator (with little exceptions) to devote more time to peace mediation, negotiation, and Peacebuilding. Though he is from a legal background and listed in the Egyptian Bar, he always say in regard on peace mediation “Let us resolve the dispute first then see what the law says in what we have done”. Hates the Bureaucracy of the third world countries and keep ignoring it most of the times. In addition to presiding the Middle East and North Africa Forum at the International Court for Dispute Resolution INCODIR (an UK registered entity), Medhat is the head of the board of directors of North Egypt Chamber for Dispute Resolution NECDR (Egyptian Registered Entity), he also the head of the Egyptian Branch of the Association for Young Mediators AYM (Main HQ in the UK), and the head of Egypt representative office at the Association for International Arbitration AIA (Main HQ in Belgium).