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Subsaharian Africans risk refusal of assumption

Sub-Saharan African migrants who risk perilous sea crossings to Europe are often assumed to be illiterate, jobless chancers in desperate bids to flee stagnation and rampant corruption in their home countries. But a survey of some 2,000 irregular African migrants in Europe found them to be more educated than expected, while many of them were leaving behind jobs back home that paid better-than-average wages.

While economic factors do indeed drive many Africans to irregularly migrate across the Mediterranean Sea, a new United Nations report provides some startling data that could change the way migrants are perceived in Europe.[related_articles]

“The report finds that getting a job was not the only motivation to move and that not all irregular migrants were poor in Africa or had lower education levels,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Monday.

“Over half of those interviewed were employed or in school at the time of their departure, with the majority of those working earning competitive wages.”

The report, called Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe, also found that more than 90 percent of those surveyed were undeterred by risky sea crossings and other dangers and would brave such a journey again.

Researchers interviewed 1,970 migrants from 39 African countries who had traveled without official papers and lived in 13 European nations. They had migrated primarily for job prospects and were not seeking asylum.