IT has been another busy week in the Mediterranean, particularly off Libya’s coast.
Despite frantic efforts by Italy to broker deals with Libya and its neighbours to police their borders and coastlines, the boats keep coming.
From January until the end of May, Italy received nearly 60,000 sea arrivals, compared to 41,000 over the same period last year. European Union efforts to train and equip the Libyan coastguard to intercept smugglers’ boats before they reach international waters have only resulted in about 6,500 migrants being returned to Libya.
The prevailing narrative is that the predominantly African migrants using this route are intent on reaching prosperous Europe, whatever the risks. But the evidence suggests Europe is often the default destination rather than the intended one.
Based on research conducted between 2015 and 2016, Vicki Squires of the University of Warwick describes “destination Europe” as a myth. Many of the 257 migrants interviewed recounted fragmented journeys in search of safety or work, and then being forced to flee violence and indiscriminate detention in Libya.
Our own recent investigation found that a significant proportion of Bangladeshis, arriving in Italy in unprecedented numbers, spent several years working in Libya before conditions there became untenable.
Others may have opted for the dangerous sea route as legal routes to Italy and other European countries were closed off. Squires concludes that the EU’s deterrence policies, based as they are on misplaced assumptions about the drivers of migration, are bound to fail.