The illegal migration problem off Libya’s coast

The European response to the illegal migrant influx may be as short-sighted as it is of limited value.
December 17, 2017

Amnesty International’s report on illegal migration from Libya shows just how complex the issue is and the extent of European complicity.

The report, titled “Libya’s Dark Web of Collusion,” charges EU countries — Italy in particular — with trying to prevent “migrants from crossing the Mediterranean… with little thought, or seeming care, for the consequences for those trapped in Libya as a result.”

As the report makes clear, it is Europe that is expressly implementing migration-control policies that empower traffickers, people-smug­glers and others who exploit human misery to the point of dehumanising their captive cargo.

The European response to the illegal migrant influx may be as short-sighted as it is of limited value.

Meaningful change cannot occur so long as the deep roots of the problem are ignored. Insecurity in Libya allows traders of a dubious sort to flourish. Sub-Saharan Africa’s socio-economic failings are another driver of migrant flows. Add to this Europe’s desperation to keep out migrants — especially from Africa.

As the recent EU debate on migration quotas showed, the issue is highly charged and enor­mously divisive.

The far right is likely to exploit the fear of illegal migrants, a fear often connected to apprehension about terrorism and unfair competition for jobs.

With electoral considerations bound to define terms of the debate in Europe, this type of vision seems set to continue. 

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