Wednesday 13 April 2011

Europe’s tiny refugee burden: Putting the Libyan migration crisis into perspective

Anybody believing that the Libyan crisis would create a “biblical exodus” towards Europe or the fear-mongering by Frontex and European politicians that up to 1.5 million migrants may soon arrive on European shores, should take a look at the chart below. 

And please have a look at this website – It is a beautiful collection of pictures showing the human face of the Libyan crisis and the faces of the many poor people who kept the wheels of the Libyan economy turning over the past years - Most want to go home. How dare European politicians insinuate that these people will massively "invade" Europe? 

Just some basic facts:

  • So far, only about 2,800 out of a total of 500,000 people fleeing the violence in Libya have arrived in Europe. This is less than 0.6 percent of all cross-border movements.
  • Egypt and Tunisia bear the real refugee burden – if that term is appropriate in the first place: about 88 percent of all people fleeing Libya arrive on their land borders.
  • The overwhelming majority are migrant workers from Egypt, Tunisia, sub-Saharan Africa, Bangladesh and elsewhere who want to go home – shattering the myth that the millions of foreigners in Libya would all be “transit migrants” on their way to Euro
  • The movement out of Libya is unrelated to the arrivals of some 20,000 mainly Tunisians on Lampedusa, which is part of the “normal” boat migration by mainly North African young men in search of work. 
  • A combination of favourable weather, decreased police controls and high unemployment among young Tunisian men as a consequence of the decrease in tourist arrivals parly explain the new departures from the Tunisian coast.  See also this article in the Tunisian newspaper Le Temps. 
  • This illegal boat migration has existed since the EU countries introduced visas for North Africans in the early 1990s, which interrupted seasonal and circular migration flows of Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian workers. This forced them to migrate illegally and pushed them into permanent settlement. A clear example of how immigration restrictions can have counter-productive effects.
  •  This cross-Mediterranean migration happens every year, particularly in springtime. Total numbers amount to several tens of thousands per year, or about 2 percent of the annual of 1.5 - 1.8 million non-Europeans migrating to EU countries.
  • Only routes continuously change in response to shifts in border controls in a kind of cat and mouse game. A drop in one place generally leads to an increase at other crossing points, and the other way around.
In sum: there is no indication that there is a major increase in migration from Africa to Europe in response to the popular uprisings in North Africa and the Libyan crisis, let alone that Europe would be invaded by hordes of desperate African migrants.  

·         This was a myth from the start, and the evidence only proves this. It is only sad to see the media and politicians perpetuate this “myth of invasion”.

Friday 1 April 2011

Lampedusa and the construction of a "human tsunami"

In my previous blogpost, I argued how Gaddafi, European politicians and agencies like Frontex have "invented" the illusionary threat of an imminent immigrant invasion from Africa to serve their own cynical, xenophobic political agendas.
For more insights into how Berlusconi's government creates an immigration emergency to deflect the attention away from his various scandals and domestic failures, I warmly recommend Nando Sigona's excellent blog, and his particularly his latest posts on "Lampedusa and the spectacle of the invasion".

He argues how the Berlusconi government needs a tiny island like Lampedusa, “small enough to appear overcrowded even with a few thousand people” –  this is the only way the “grand narrative of the emergency and invasion” constructed by the Italian government and happily swallowed by sensationalist mass media can be kept alive.  

Nando Sigona also rightly critizised the total lack of sensitivity for the victims of real tsunamis shown by Berlusconi when he compared the arrival of migrants and refugees from North Africa as a ‘human tsunami’.