Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The boats aren’t going away…

Migrants aren’t taking treacherous journeys in precarious dinghies because they were duped by crafty people smugglers.

Sep 17, 2023

Written by Noah Carl.

The Italian island of Lampedusa saw its population unexpectedly double this week, when what can only be described as a flotilla of small boats descended upon its shores. Situated in the Mediterranean roughly halfway between Tunisia and Sicily, Lampedusa finds itself on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis.

For the past decade or so, large numbers of people from Africa and the Middle East have been arriving on the southern coast of Europe, primarily in Greece, Spain and Italy. The chart below, taken from the UNHCR, plots the number of monthly arrivals since 2015.

Monthly sea arrivals on the southern coast of Europe.

As you can see, there was a huge spike in 2015, after which monthly arrivals stabilised at around 20,000. There has been a slight uptick this year, with monthly arrivals reaching 37,000 in August.

Since the number of arrivals fell dramatically in the autumn of 2015 and never reached the same high level again, does this mean Europe effectively “solved” the problem? Yes and no. Yes in that the numbers clearly were brought down dramatically. No in that hundreds of thousands have continued to arrive, and none of the main factors driving them has really gone away.

The massive inflow in 2015 was different in two major ways from the ongoing inflow since 2015. First, it was overwhelmingly concentrated in Greece rather than Spain and Italy. Second, it involved migrants from the Middle East rather than Sub-Saharan Africa.


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