INVESTIGATION: Europe in Africa: The Price of Partnerships

“On the entry into force of this Agreement, all prohibitions or restrictions on imports or exports affecting trade between the two Parties shall be eliminated, with the exception of the customs duties and taxes and the fees and other charges…implemented through quotas, import or export licensing or other measures. No new measures shall be introduced.”

― Article 34, West Africa-EU EPA, December 3, 2014

With one million Africans estimated to be on their way to Europe via the Sahara-Mediterranean corridor, awareness is growing that curbing migration will only be possible if Africans can see a future for themselves where they were born. For too many, that is not the case. Both African and European leaders share the responsibility and might be on the brink of repeating the mistakes of the past, once more.

Paul Immanuel, 24, shivers while staring into the meagre bonfire that is being fed stolen pallets. The West African is one of the remaining men in Ghetto Ghana, a hidden community of Ghanaian tomato pickers on the outskirts of Cerignola town in South-east Italy. At the peak of the season, almost 800 Ghanaians shack up in three empty farms without windows, heating or electricity. At this moment, there are a few hundred left. Those who have been here for a while get a mattress inside, newcomers have to find an empty spot to pitch a tent between the chickens and puppies beside the mansion. In the mansion on the other side of the dirt road, a handful of Nigerian women run a bar and brothel.

The residents of Ghetto Ghana get up at 4:30 a.m. to be driven to the tomato fields. They are paid around three euros and fifty cents for a basket of 300 kilograms. Thirty tonne trucks leave for Eboli, a town near the city of Naples where hundreds of factories process the tomatoes to paste for export. One day of work in the scorching sun pays between 20 and 40 euros. Since winding up here after his arrival on Lampedusa, nine years ago, Paul Immanuel hasn’t left Ghana Ghetto. “Where can I go?” he asks sombrely. “Yes, it’s cold here in winter but I survive. At least, here, I have a roof over my head.”


The number of Ghanaians crossing the Mediterranean is rising. William Hanna, the European Union Ambassador to Ghana, was quoted widely earlier this year when saying that last year, 5,636 Ghanaians reached Italy by boat, almost a third more when compared to figures from the preceding year. Eurostat data show that from January…

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