“Libyan Tumult Alters Europe’s Migration Equation”
The New York Times, May 1, 2015, p.A8
“By now, the unceasing tides of migrants arriving at the ports of Sicily fall into loose national categories. The Syrians usually arrive with money, bearing broken lives in canvas bags, and are able to slip out of Italy, bound for affluent northern Europe. The Eritreans may be far less wealthy but they too are well organized, with networks that move them north as well. Then there are men like Agyemin Boateng and Prince Adawiah, who were scooped out of the Mediterranean this month by an Italian rescue ship. Both are from Ghana, and neither has a plan for a new life in Europe — nor, they say, did either of them ever plan to come to Italy. They were working as laborers in Libya, until life there became untenable and returning to Ghana became unfeasible. … Conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia have shaped and reshaped Europe’s migrant flows in recent years, with none more transformative to the Mediterranean smuggling trade than the civil war in Syria. And the tumult in Libya is changing the migration equation once again. Libyan lawlessness has allowed a haven for smugglers to operate along the country’s coastline, but it has also unmoored many African laborers who were working there as migrants. Many of these men now languish in Italian detention centers without contacts or plans for the future, and their growing numbers are frustrating some Italian mayors and other officials. … Migration statistics offer a hint of the shift. More than 170,000 migrants and refugees arrived in Italy by sea last year; Syrians and Eritreans were the two largest groups among them, accounting for more than 76,000 people, according to Italy’s Interior Ministry. Gambians ranked a distant fifth. Yet during the first quarter of 2015, a relatively slow period with just 10,165 arrivals — Gambia was the leading country of origin, accounting for 1,413 of the migrants. … Before the fall of the Qaddafi government, Mr. [Bruce] Leimsidor [an expert on Europe’s asylum system] said, hundreds of thousands of West Africans, as well as many Bangladeshis, worked in Libya to save money for an eventual return home, and never planned to move on to Europe, but the situation is very different now.”
Quickie analysis: An interesting look at the effects of war not just on citizens of the countries affected but also on migrant workers in those countries.