Africa is generally portrayed as a continent of enormous displacement and migration fueled by poverty and deadly war. Influenced by media pictures of large refugee flows and ‘boat migration’, and alarmist language of politicians implying an oncoming immigrant invasion, the portrayal of Africa as a ‘continent on the move’ is linked to traditional views of Africa as a continent of poverty and conflict. In recent years, irregular migration from Africa to Europe has gained widespread attention. Sensationalist media reportage and popular discourses give rise to an image of a ‘exodus’ of distressed Africans escaping poverty at home in search of the European ‘El Dorado’. Millions of Africans are reported to be waiting to come to Europe at the first opportunity. The three assumptions behind such argumentations are that African migration is: high and increasing; predominantly aimed towards Europe; and driven by poverty and violence. Representations of great poverty, famine, warfare and environmental devastation amalgamate into a vision of African sorrow. Irregular migration occurring from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Horn of Africa to America and Europe has also increasingly been regarded as a security risk related with international crime, trafficking and terrorism.
If nations get wealthier, more people will be able to envision a future in their own country, and emigration will likely decline. However, wealthy societies continue to be highly mobile and migratory. This is partly due to modern societies’ high levels of educational and occupational specialization, as well as their overall organizational complexity, which necessitates people moving within and across borders in order to match their qualifications and personal preferences to labor market and social opportunities. As a result, the more skilled migrate more frequently and over greater distances. This demonstrates how delusory it is to believe that large-scale migration is a transitory phenomena that will vanish once a – equally illusory – equilibrium is reached, as conventional push-pull models predict. Thus, we must dispute popular ‘push-pull’ theories, as they lead to erroneous conclusions about the nature, causes, and future of migration.