On November 3rd 2016 migration officials reported over 200 drowned in two shipwrecks off the coast of Libya. Unfortunately, these shipwrecks are not a new phenomenon. The death rate is 1 in every 47 migrants, and migration across the Mediterranean Sea has increased substantially from 2015.
The 2011 Libyan revolution left the country in shambles. While the movement successfully killed longtime dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, the country has been unable to establish a central government in his wake. This instability provided ISIS the platform to expand and wreak havoc on the nation. In short, the conditions of life in Libya are far less than ideal. However, statistics show that most of these emigrants are not Libyan. In fact, it is not this ongoing war in the Northern African country that generates the mass amounts of African emigration across the Mediterranean.
According to the UNHCR, most of the African migrants traveling across the Mediterranean come from Nigeria, Eritrea, Guinea, and Gambia. The majority of shipwreck victims off of Libya’s coast have been West African. Like all migrants, these West Africans are attempting to flee the injustices of their home country. In order to bypass the difficulties and expenses of legal international travel, they meet “people smugglers” who usher them through the Sahara into migrant centers in Libya before attempting the treacherous trip. However, Libya is largely xenophobic, and the Human Rights Watch reports whippings, strip-searches, and electric shocking. These awful conditions beg the question: How bad must the conditions in their home countries be for them to risk their lives in this way?
The media often blames this mass migration on political unrest in the various countries. However, the problem is far bigger than that. While a portion of these migrants are trying to escape the terrors and political problems of their own country, as in Nigeria, where Boko Haram finds its home, most migrants leave because of the lack of job opportunities. These opportunities are further thwarted by the economic control and power that more developed countries impose on developing countries. Western nations enact tariffs that restrict the market for African exports. West Africans risk their lives to journey away from home because it has become impossible to make a living.
Thousands of Africans paddle on rafts across the perilous Mediterranean to reach European countries that are burgeoned with refugees. The media has attributed the refugee crisis to “local” causes, but in reality, just as the crisis has multilateral impact, it has multilateral origins.