Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chain migration to Libya?

The Global Detention Project's description of Libya's system of apprehending, detaining, and deporting illegal immigrants is pretty much common knowledge. Immigrants in Libya generally have it hard, with the million-odd sub-Saharan Africans attracted to this middle-income country during Qadhafi's strongly pan-African phase being confined to the margins of Libyan life, trapped amidst poverty and a negative stigma that has been known to extend to violence. Immigrants attempting to use Libya as a transit country en route to Libya and other points in Europe can find it much worse still, with the people who can't bribe their way past corrupt authorities finding themselves thrown into decidedly sub-standard detention facilities where they're mistreated badly--beatings are apparently common, for instance--before being deported, with luck actually being flown back to their homeland instead of being dumped in the desert and told to go "that way." Italy, Libya's former colonial ruler, is a prominent collaborator with this regime, turning ships with migrants back to Libya without considering the migrants' appeals for asylum and providing certain amounts of aid.

Various news sources have suggested that Eritreans and Somalis are disproportionately well-represented among the migrants using Libya as a transit country to Italy. Eritrea, Somalia, and Libya, it should be noted, are the three territories that formed the core of the Italian colonial empire. It makes sense that Eritreans fleeing their country's totalitarianism and Somalis fleeing their country's anarchy would look to Italy. Geography certain plays a role, but I wonderif the choice of Libya as a transit country has anything to do with their countries' shared history with Libya. Are there human connections surviving from the Italian era? I wonder.



Michael Carr - Veritas Literary said...

I don't know how to do this humanely, but Libya has to find some way to turn back the millions of migrants or it's relatively modest population will be overwhelmed within a few years.

Anonymous said...

On a geopolitical and linguistic scale, it would make sense for Italy to prioritise immigrants from its former African colonies (and Albania?) as, as you say, there is an element of understanding of Italian culture and language and also Italy, within them. It would also be a way of keeping and giving the Italian language an element of international prestige as many people from these countries would wish to learn Italian rather than English or Arabic, for reasons of personal economy and culture.

In a way, Italy also owes some kind of debt to these countrie.

As Italy's birth rate is so low, it seems it will need some element of immigration in the forseeable future so why not prioritise its former colonies in the way France, UK, Portugal and the Netherlands did and still do?

Anonymous said...

Immigrants follow the jobs - or perception of jobs. Wipe out the low paying/low skill jobs and your immigration (legal and otherwise) drys up. One way to do this is to destroy your nation's economy. Use minimum wage laws to ban low skill work; tax and regulate businesses to reverse economic growth; create credit bubbles by mandating credit to high risk individuals and jack up the public debt to reduce the nation's credit worthiness.

Or you could reduce the low skill jobs which attract immigrants by letting businesses invest in productivity, out-source manufacturing jobs to the sending nations (boosting their economies) and allow temporary legal entry for agriculture jobs with a bonus for leaving when one's work term is up. Exempt these jobs from full minimum wage laws. So the incentive for farms to hire illegals is reduced and the risk/reward equation of illegal entry is tilted towards the risk side by removing some of the reward.

Brett said...

with a bonus for leaving when one's work term is up.

One idea I've heard would be to withhold 10% of their annual pay, to be released to them or their families upon their exit at the end of their work stint.

Anonymous said...

The contacts between a colony and its colonizer are very long time. Ghana hasn't been a Dutch colony for more than a century but Ghanese are still a major immigration source for the Netherlands

Anonymous said...

"allow temporary legal entry for agriculture jobs with a bonus for leaving when one's work term is up "

SnakeOilbaron, Weird use of the word bonus as being kicked out isn't exactly a positive. It is also the number one way immigrant populations are created as often both side expect the immigrant to go home.

Randy McDonald said...


The sheer scale of the gap between interior West Africa--probably one of the poorest regions of the world--and Libya alone, never mind between Africa as a whole and the Mediterranean basin as a whole, might make a managed migration policy difficult. What are the odds, you might wonder, that the Libyan polity as it currently exists could manage it?

Anonymous (1):

I blogged about the composition of Italy's non-EU foreign-born population back in 2006. Roughly 900 thousand were non-EU Europeans, substantially Albanians and Romanians; Africans numbered more than 600 thousand, of which less than half were Moroccans; 400 thousand were Asians, of various nationalities; the remaining quarter-million were Latin Americans, with Andean migrants predominating.

The inflow of immigrants to Italy arguably already substantially reflects Italy's historical patterns of influence, with migrants from southeastern Europe being most numerous, with Albanians and the Romance-speaking Romanians and Moldovans forming the largest contingents.

Frankly, the Italian language lacks anything like the international presence that French or Spanish or German enjoys. This is the only "Italosphere"-referencing page I've found on Google. My thesis isn't that these migrants flows will help boost the prominence of the Italian language internationally, but rather, that the directions of these migrant flows might be conditioned by the links of these three former Italian colonies with their former metropole and with each other.


I'm not sure how you'd go about implementing that sort of economic program. Regardless, a lurchingly eccentric totalitarian Libya with a corrupt oil-drivene economy isn't the place to do it.

Anonymous 2:

The ending of the Dutch presence in West Africa in 1872 occurred long before the brith of anyone now living. The dissolution of the Italian empire in these territories occurred within a decade of the births of my parents. It's not unreasonable to assume that some connections might have survived, somebodies knowing other sombodies who know somethings, that kind of thing.

Anonymous 3:

I agree that border cotnrol policies which very strictly regulate immigration tend to be problematic, because they encourage migrants to make migration not into a personal life stage for an individual but an end destination for said individual and associated (if you're upset about that sort of thing, of course) and because of the civil rights issues.

Nobody said...

Eritreans are overrepresented among African migrants in Israel and Somalis are storming into the Persian Gulf in huge numbers through Yemen. I think they are just generally overrepresented. This has nothing to do with love for the former colonial master.

Anonymous said...

Randy, I know it has been more than a century but Ghanese are a major immigrant group in the Netherlands. I think they are the biggest outside the big 3 and the most logical explanation is that Ghana's coast was a Dutch colony of some sort.

About Snakeoilbarons plan. I didn't make a morality of his pla, just that defacto that this is the system which lead us to most of the immigrant population in Europe.