Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Libyan migrant crisis

The European Union statements today (example) on the Mediterranean migrant tragedy are filled with references to finding the "root causes of migration." That's a tall order, at least if those root causes are supposed to correspond to immediate solutions.

In fact, the problems begin with the definition of the crisis itself: it's seen as too many people risking their lives trying to get to Europe. That's serious, but it's a smaller order of magnitude than the migrant crisis within the Middle East and North Africa -- millions of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq, at least a million more within Iraq itself (above), and then the extended movement from across the Sahel to go north, the majority of whom won't get as far as a dangerous boat ride to Italy, but will run into plenty of other perils.

The Syrian case also shows the fallacy of linking the migration crisis to the military intervention against Gaddafi: that intervention brought many problems, but so did not intervening against Bashar al-Assad.

There's a high risk that once the EU decides the problem is mainly the sea crossing, the solution will be a de facto blockade of Libya. But that will be nowhere near a solution to a crisis that spans three continents.

Photo: Internally displaced Sunni Iraqis stuck at a checkpoint outside Baghdad; photo Reuters via New York Times.

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