By Damola Awoyokun

My little daughter,

Hear this: as I write, Osman Rasul Mohammed, an Iraqi Kurd and a protracted victim of stinging penury has just jumped to his death having, once and for all, lost the hope of staying in this country of freedom and opportunities. He was officially asked by the immigration to leave voluntarily or be forcibly removed. Perching on the railings of a terrace on the seventh floor of an apartment building in Nottingham, Osman calmly placed his hand on his heart, looked up to the brutal brilliance of the British skies and freely let go. Six months before, over 70 inmates of Yarl Wood’s deportation camp (a place reserved for only women and children) were on a six weeks hunger strike protesting their unjust detention, the violent and vicious ways they and their children were constantly treated, and the racial abuse they routinely suffer. During that hunger strike, up north in Glasgow, a Ukrainian family of three: Serge Serykh, his wife, Tatiana and their stepson jumped to their death from the thirty-storey apartment buildings which local residents insightfully brand the United Nations of Hell. Two weeks before, the family received a notification from the proper authorities that since they are not fit to live in our midst, they must voluntarily leave the country or be forcefully removed. Like the Iraqi Kurd, the family too got composed, went vertical and let go. Dear little one, in a month’s time, you will be born into this beautiful country and as its citizen, you will not have to suffer the nonstop existential dread or experience the climate of official menace we your family members unceasingly suffer as perpetually unwanted aliens or illegal immigrants.

It is indeed very inaccurate for Nigerians in the homeland to even begin to think that diasporan Nigerians do not care anymore about their homeland. They haven’t really abandoned ship, because not only do the diasporas still dream of an eventual ‘home coming’, they also have members of their immediate families and friends living in Nigeria with whom they maintain regular contacts, such that complete dissociation becomes impossible.

The Socialist leader François Hollande has questioned the cost of the scheme, and said there were better ways to prove family links than generalised testing. Immigrant welfare groups described the plan as unacceptable. One warned it could lead to dire consequences for France's diplomatic relations with other countries. Daniele Lochak, a former president of GISTI, a group providing information and support for immigrants, suggested that procedures would be abused. "It's obvious that applicants who refuse [DNA tests] will have every chance of having their visas refused," she told Le Monde.

The discussions will take as their starting point the belief that Africa radically concentrates some of the major problems facing humanity as a whole but also that the continent offers us some of the most innovative clues for reading and interpreting today’s world. As the title suggests, the aim is not so much to analyse yet again what Africa is or how it is different from the rest of the world, but rather to underscore the ambivalence of the African experience and to highlight the questions raised by the continent at a universal level.

Despite their European presence Africans are frequently denied belonging in the European space and their movement into Europe is increasingly problematised and associated with politics of securitization. In all our regions (particularly in Sicily) African migrants have become part of the local social and economic fabric, which shows that even remote regions and outposts of the EU can no longer be imagined as monocultural.

The 2000 Census recorded 881,300 U.S. residents who were born in Africa. By 2005, the number had reached 1.25 million, according Brookings Institution researcher Jill Wilson. Since 1990, the African population has more than tripled in places as far-flung as Atlanta, Seattle and Minneapolis, where Africans now constitute more than 15 percent of the black population. The biggest magnets are New York City and greater Washington, including its Maryland and Virginia suburbs; Wilson estimates that the African-born population in each area has soared past 130,000.

The 1990 population census (the most recent available offering a racial breakdown) puts the city’s white population at 3.1 million, it’s Asian population at 500 000, it’s “Black” population at 2.1 million and it’s “Hispanic” population at 1.8 million. Of course these figures are dated, and the proportion of black and Latino residents is substantially higher, by all accounts. The terms “Black” and “Hispanic” however, are a little confusing: The overwhelming majority of those New Yorkers termed “Hispanic” are from the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba. And here, of course, is one of the best-kept secrets of the African diaspora–Caribbean Latino cultures have maintained their deep roots in Africa. Demographically and culturally then, New York reveals itself as a substantially African metropolis.

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