Illegal Migration


The 2019 UN migration report shows that about 90 percent of Africans who illegally migrated to European countries said that they would do it again despite facing life-threatening risks. Data analytics often illustrate the methodology and routes adopted by the illegal migrants, but there is not much discussion about the psychological impact of going through the dangerous and difficult experiences of illegal migration. It is crucial to consider whether illegal migrants themselves choose to migrate illegally, violating the immigration laws of the host country or whether their desperate circumstances force them. How do their experiences during the journey impact their emotions?


Migrating to a foreign land is a luxury for some, a choice for few, but a requirement for others. According to a UN report which interviewed about 1,970 migrants from 39 African countries in 13 European nations, people claimed that they had arrived in Europe, not for asylum or protection-related reasons. The reasons were instead to find work, steady jobs, and better life options. The urge to find security in life and to provide for one’s family motivates the mindset of illegal migrants to go through desperate measures during their journey. The hope for a better future has driven the human race for centuries, however, the hostile experiences faced by illegal migrants when they reach the host country can severely affect their confidence. For instance, due to their immigration status, illegal migrants often have to work illegally for lower wages. There are also language barriers and the difficulty of finding proper housing due to pressure from authorities. Illegal migrants believe their problems will be solved once they reach their destination country. However, when they encounter the harsh realities of their host country, it can be tough for them to process and accept it mentally.


With nearly 1 million undocumented immigrants from African countries nationwide, there are different types of mental health problems experienced by illegal migrants. These range from sleep disturbances and anxiety to depression and psychosomatic or post-traumatic stress disorders. For example, a 22-year-old from Nigeria shared her experience of illegal migration. In her story, she explained her irregular route and her difficult experience of going through the Libyan desert. “I had to live in the desert under scorching conditions for 15 days, with no food, shelter, or water.” She revealed how the smuggler who drove them in the desert tried to sell them into the sex trade without their consent. Certain situations act as triggers in the minds of victims. They initiate cycles of emotions like violent flashbacks of traumatizing experiences, sudden sadness, or rush of adrenaline. The result of this can be difficult in regaining emotional balance. This is worsened by the lack of medical support in host countries due to their illegal status. Moreover, even if certain NGOs do try to provide medical support anonymously, it is difficult for them to reach out to illegal migrants because of their fear of getting reported to the authorities by the professionals.


It is important to consider whether the risks taken by illegal migrants justify their sacrifice of the present in the hope of a better future. The brutal experiences of migrating illegally leave behind difficult memories. As humans, despite their legal status, they should have a right to medical care. However, the question here arises, who is to be held accountable for the situation of illegal migrants? Should the worn-torn countries be held responsible for the influx of illegal migration into the host countries or should the host countries be condemned for not recognizing the need for psychiatric attention towards the illegal migrants?

Harsirat Kaur


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