Friday, April 17, 2015

Exploitation and violence under the Mediterranean Sea enroute to Italy?

Policy makers face a dilemma when making decisions about smuggling. Policies that reduce the number and the ability of smugglers to cross illegal migrants over the border have been shown to increase the possibility that exploitative smugglers, who wreck violence and sexually assault their prey, illegal migrants, will thrive better. Migrants, whether financially well-to-do or not, seek greener pastures, no matter the risks involved to lives and freedom. To discourage human trafficking and exploitation, policy makers have to choose between improving the welfare of smuggled migrants or diminish the availability of smuggling services.

To date, it has been confirmed that 900 illegal migrants who attempted crossing the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy drowned in the high seas. One report has it that the boat capsized when the passengers were excited at the approach of a rescue boat. This is not the only incident of passengers attempting to cross the Mediterranean losing their lives. Every year, thousands die trying to reach Europe by sea although some do succeed.

It has also been confirmed that on that boat, there was a religious confrontation. 15 Muslims have been arrested by the police for throwing about 12 Christians into the water.

10,000 lives lost to the Mediterranean this year from illegal migration.
Why do many migrants chose to end their lives this way? Granted, the pull of wealth in developed countries can be irresistible, especially when you are a Somalian running away from a dictatorial regime or persecution; or a Nigerian fleeing from an impoverished system with no economic salvation in the horizon. Yet, many illegal migrants fail to realize that even if they make it to Italy or Greece without losing their lives, they might fall prey to unscrupulous exploitative smugglers who’d be ready to cross them for less than non-exploitative ones, and give up their freedom in order to fulfill a debt contract.

According to Italian law, illegal migrants found on the shores of Italian waters will be sent home. If they have already entered the country, they face detention and expulsion. Laws like these are no deterrent to determined migrants. Italy has had to ask for help from the European Union (EU) to stem the onslaught of these hordes. Last year a record 170,000 people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East have made the perilous crossing to Italy. Since January this year, about 10,000 persons have been rescued from the Mediterranean Sea trying to cross illegally into Italy.

Italy is not the only country affected. USA, China, Greece, France, Germany and a host of other developed economies, including Canada, have devised various policies to curtail illegal migrants at their borders. When illegal migrants send remittances home, smuggling and exploitation thrives. Stories of quickly gotten wealth in African countries serves as a push. These businesses thrive on that success. But, behind the few success stories are those of sex slavery, exploitation, violence and criminality. How successful any policy against illegal migration will be depends on reducing the demand for smuggling services, whether exploitative or not.

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