When anti-Black racism, xenophobia and its relevant expressions raise their hideous heads against Black migrants and immigrants, they must be resisted without equivocation. An online seminar conducted by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) did just that.

The United States based alliance fights for the rights of Black migrants and African Americans through organizing legal advocacy, research, policy, and narrative building towards racial, social and economic justice, said organizers.

BAJI was formed in the early 2000s as a response to a flood of anti-immigrant sentiment and support for repressive immigration legislation being  considered at the time by the U.S. Congress. Panelists came together on April 11 to discuss the group’s most recent report, “Anti-Blackness in Global Migration: Findings and Recommendations for the Permanent Forum of People of African Descent and Beyond.”

“This webinar came as we approach the third session of the Permanent Forum for people of African descent being held at the UN headquarters in Geneva,” said Ronald Claude, BAJI Director of Policy and Advocacy.


The session takes place April 16 – 19 at the Palace of Nations, the base of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. A second session was held in May of last year in New York City.

There, BAJI, along with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the UK-based African Foundation for Development (AFFORD) co-hosted a side event that addressed current transnational anti-Black immigration policies and the mistreatment of Black migrants seeking humanitarian protections. The report is the recommendations and findings stemming from the side event.

 “We want to ensure that we focus on continuing the conversation we’ve had in the previous sessions,” said Mr. Claude. “At the same time bringing to the forefront issues that are still of consequence to the global Black migrant experience,” he added.

Urgent issues and a spotlight was placed in the report and webinar on how host countries are violating migrant rights by imposing draconian, punitive, violent, and sometimes deadly policies in response. They also analyzed challenges like the imposition of restrictive asylum and refugee policies on Black migrants.

In addition to those issues, the group addressed the “criminalization of migrants; the good vs. bad immigrant trope,” where some immigrants are ascribed positive stereotypes like being over-achievers and productive while others are ascribed negative stereotypes, such as being job-stealers, benefit scroungers, or potential threats.

The Permanent Forum on People of African Descent is a consultative mechanism for people of African descent and other relevant stakeholders that provides a platform for improving the safety, quality of life, and livelihoods of people of African descent. It also serves as an advisory body to the Human Rights Council.

During the webinar, Stella Opoku-Owusu, executive director of African Foundation for Development (AFFORD), a panelist and co-author of the report discussed economic mobility and labor migration. Both are critical issues for Black migrants. She spoke about the strength of migrant support to their families and communities from abroad.

Ms. Opoku-Owusu’s organization works to enhance the African Diaspora’s contribution to Africa’s development. “That’s very much a huge focus for us,” she said, while explaining AFFORD’S  contribution to the report.

Reading the space, she added, it is important to bear in mind that data shows that the African diaspora are the largest contributors to African development. So, AFFORD’S discussions concerning anti-Blackness has been focused on the “economic and equity, economic quality side of things,” which is really about highlighting those contributions.

“But also ensuring that through that process, we’re also addressing whatever global inequities … global inequalities there are in this space as well,” said Ms. Opoku-Owusu.  “Because, of course, we know that this forms a part of the negative perceptions, which then also spirals into some of the anti-Blackness immigration policies that we see also around the world,” she added.

Her contribution to the report looked at issues of labor migration and how it can benefit countries of residents, and also the countries of origin. “We know that the majority of people do migrate for economic reasons,” explained Ms. Opoku-Owusu. “But we also know that in that process, often, a lot of it is also about supporting their families back home. And we know that the contributions are significant,” she pointed out.

An example is seen with remittances alone, which in the last year to Africa exceeded $100 billion.  However, this potential power and strength is not being tapped into in the way it needs to be.

Of several concerns the report raised was the necessity to understand and address root causes of migration. There is a need for greater acknowledgement and accountability for the “push factors” that force migrants to flee their home countries.

Migration rising from extractive practices that result in political conflict, war, climate crisis and economic inequalities. Additionally, foreign pilfering of natural resources, and land and water resource grabbing, leaving governments that place political power, opportunity, and wealth in the hands of a few.

BAJI’s report advocates that migration policy must address inequitable access to development and violation of basic economic, social and cultural rights. Furthermore droughts, floods and extreme heat coupled with the exploitation of land and water resources renders the African continent more challenging for Indigenous communities.

Other panelists raised the issue of racial double standards in how Black migrant asylum seekers are mishandled compared to White European asylum seekers. 

Nisrin Elamin of the Sudan Solidarity Network explained that incessant war in Sudan has produced a throng of migration where over 10.7 million people are displaced, including 1.7 million who fled the country. Currently, it has become harder to cross any of the seven borders  surrounding Sudan.

“People are paying upwards of $1,600 a person to be smuggled into Egypt, risking imprisonment and deportation in the process. Not a single country in the world has issued a special visa for Sudanese refugees,” said Ms. Elamin.

On the ground, 25 million Sudanese are on the verge of famine partly because of obstructed aid by warring parties. Officially, there are 70,000 Sudanese in the U.S.  and 20,000 in Canada, with actual figures likely higher. The only programs available to Sudanese fleeing war are family reunification programs, which are financially and logistically prohibitive, and in the U.S., extending Temporary Protected Status for those already in the country, said Ms. Elamin.

“It’s high time that all TPS holders, including Sudanese, are given path to citizenship in these times of war,” she added.

Ms. Elamin recommends countries create special free expedited visas for Sudanese seeking refuge worldwide—regardless of whether they have familial connections—modeled after the program available for Ukrainians.  For Africa, she says, Sudanese refugees should be allowed into the country of their choice and seek asylum without arrest and imprisonment.

The U.S. prides itself on being immigrant friendly, but repeatedly imposed restrictive border policies, including Title 42, the “Remain in Mexico” policy, and “metering,” and prioritizes border security at the expense of human rights. “The United States created an asylum system that intentionally makes it more difficult for Black migrants to access protections,” read the report.

The report said the U.S. has a “prison to deportation pipeline” system. From its inception, the U.S. criminal enforcement system demonstrably targeted Black people disproportionately. With the passing of the 1994 crime bill, the U.S. criminal system rapidly became a funnel into the immigration detention and deportation system.

Black immigrants make up only 5.4 percent of undocumented people in the U.S. but make up 20.3 percent of immigrants facing removal on the basis of criminal conviction.

“There seems to always be a difference in the availability of resources and the capacity or creativity (in) the West when it comes to countries or people from predominantly Black countries seeking the same refuge or needs as some other countries,” said Mr. Claude.