In 1988, themedia reported the first casualty of illegal immigration by drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. The international news has been filled with the tragedies occurring on the southern banks of Europe, including major developed countries.As a result, there are widespread discussions of buildinga strong fortress against illegal entry especiallythrough imposing visas on migrants from Maghreb, African and Arab countries. At an EUmeeting in Brusselson 8 May 2015, EU countries discussed how to deal with the rising rate of clandestine immigration, which had increased 250% in one year. One proposal was a resettlement scheme for 50,000 refugees who had entered Europe.
The continent has become a transit point for clandestine immigration, and the southern countries have not come together to stop the flow of migration into their territory. At the second summit of the Union for the Mediterranean,whichwas held in the Maghreb on the topic "Migration, asylum and human rights in the Euro-Mediterranean region", 44 countries stated that there are three sea-passages in the Mediterranean Sea. According to a study conducted in 2005 by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency “Frontex”, theWestern corridor is the only oneprotected from clandestine migration.
With every political and economic unrestin the Arab region, a number of African migrants take to the sea. In the period between 2000 and 2011, on the eve of the Arab Spring, statistics indicated that 20,000 people had drowned in the Mediterranean,most of them from Africanand Arabcountries.Indeed,Southern European countries are experiencing major problems due to the influx of illegal migrants and refugees.For example, Italy receives an average of 500 migrants daily across the sea. In 2014, the EU facedan influx of 170,000 migrants and illegal refugees. Thousands more died duringtheir attempts to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.This year, more than 1500 migrants have died. Libya is considered the starting point for most immigrants when trying toreach Europe.
The wave of migration has increasedafter the Arab Spring due to thefragility of the Libyan state, the continualflow of weapons,the military coup in Egyptand theunstable democratic transition in parts of the Maghreb region.
Syrians:an emerging nationality in the Mediterranean
As described by the European Commission, the Mediterranean has become the most dangerous sea in the world.More than 3,400 migrants drowned in 2014. According to the Euro-Mediterranean Observatory for Human Rights and Migration, one person drowns in the Mediterranean every 4 hours. While migration across the Mediterraneanwas previously limited to citizens of the Maghreb and Africa, a tremendous number of Syrians began to migrate across the Mediterranean in recent years.Statistics show that 2157 Syrian immigrants drowned in the first four years after the outbreak of the Syrian revolution. 8,500 migrants arrived in Italy, an average of 116 migrants per day, a quarter of them Syrians and Palestinians.
In Egypt, Syrian refugees have been demonized and redirected to the Egyptiancoast or Libya. Smuggling routes have become more active as a result, with huge consequences. Forexample, the sinking of the "Zuara 24" boat on August 20, 2014,inwhich 200 people drowned.According to KhaledHalak, anofficialrepresentative of the Syrian community in the Italian island,estimates that there are around 4272 Syrian refugeesmissing in theMediterranean. Added to that,one must not neglect the incident that tok place onSeptember 3, 2014, when 500 Syrians and Palestiniansdeparted fromEgypt's Damietta Portaboard a boat headed towards Europe. Survivors describedthe accident as the work of a criminal mastermind. Shukri al-Assouli, a resident of Gaza, was one of the survivors.He lost his wife and two sons in the hazardous journey to Italy.He testified that their boat wasdeliberately hit from theback by an Egyptianship in the middle of the Mediterranean.Tragically, 450 passengers died while 11 survivors were rescued by a Japanese ship.
According to international organizations, the largest tragedy occurred off theSouthern Italian coast when 800 people drowned, including 40 children and 200 women.A Bengali passenger testified that there were 950 peopleon board. After thedrowning incidentin which500 Syrians died,Egyptianauthorities closed all portsto passers-by withoutopening an investigation intothe incident.
The issuehas gone beyondthe eagerness ofyoung people to flee their countries andhasnow extended to include the elderly, women and children. Today, political discourse refers to entirenations migrating andnotsolely marginalized social groups or young people dreaming of attaining wealth through a stroke of luck.Nevertheless, growing numbers aremigrating towards the Italian coastwhile othersflee to the shores of Greece, Malta or Spain, thousands of them dying before reaching Europe.
Clandestine migrationis an enigmatic universal subject.Some of its prominent causesare repression, political instability, the miserable reality of daily life in Arab countries and in West Africa, and the unfulfilleddesire for democracy in the region. Furthermore, visasare not easily obtained, which meanspeoplesearch for illegal solutions in order to flee their countries. They throw themselves into the wilderness and their journey could end either in drowningor, in the best case, being rescuedand sent back to their countries.
The Center for Strategic and Diplomatic Studies is a research institution covering a large regional territory, including the Maghreb, Africa and Mediterranean countries, with a focus on Tunisian affairs. The Center has two main headquarters in London and Tunisia.