Migrant Boats in the MediterraneanThere has been an increase in the number of migrant boats fording the Mediterranean Sea. Since January 2023 to February 2023, over 13,000 migrants have arrived in Italy via boat. Many of the migrants are coming from countries in North Africa due to the continuous economic and political instability. However, the journey is quite treacherous and one of the deadliest routes. Over 20,000 migrants have either perished or never been recovered since 2014. Over 200 have died or disappeared just this year.

Who Migrates

The majority of migrants are coming from the north and subregions of Africa but migrants from the Middle East and Western Asia have also increased since 2022. Young adult men make up a majority of migrants but in 2019, 40 percent of those coming in on migrant boats are women and children.

In 2020, an estimated 12.3 million migrants, about 4.4% of the international migrant population, were from Northern Africa. They often flee political instability caused by conflict and economic and environmental conditions, such as desertification in the Saharan region. Europe is the nation 48 percent of migrants from North Africa choose as the ideal emigration destination. Migrants from other regions also choose Europe for a multitude of reasons.

The Dangers

The Missing Migrants Project (MMP) has estimated that over 26,000 migrants have either died or gone missing since 2014 on their journey across the Mediterranean. Around 600 migrants are either dead or missing in just April of 2023.

There are different routes that migrant boats take across the Mediterranean, but all of them face dangerous sea and weather conditions over a long journey. The central route, which crosses from North Africa to Italy and Malta, is the deadliest path in the world, with more than 12,000 remains being found in this channel. The western and eastern routes are less deadly but still face hazardous conditions.

The route is dangerous outside of the crossing, with many migrants from North Africa having to cross the dry and dangerous Sahara desert before they even start to ford the Mediterranean Sea. Migrants have to be wary of criminals and authorities from both their home countries and their destination countries.

Migrants continue to face struggles and danger even after reaching their destination. Border fences in Spain have caused many deaths as migrants attempt to scale them. Even when migrants get to Europe there are no promises of relief and many succumb to ailments due to lack of health care.

The Experience with Danger

Europe is the closest and most accessible region via migrant boats despite the treacherous journey across the Mediterranean. It is also a wealthy region with relative political stability, and these qualities enable migrants to find jobs more easily.

Additionally, European countries provide benefits to asylum seekers and refugees because the Geneva Convention recognizes asylum as a right. They seek the EU because of the “open borders and freedom of movement” abilities.

Those on migrant boats are also subject to rescue privileges with a better chance of gaining asylum because of the dangerous conditions at sea. However, this has caused an increase in dangerous sea missions, as migrants would purposefully sink their boats in an attempt to get attract rescue efforts.

The Reaction

Migrants must pass through southern European countries such as Greece, Italy and Turkey where they live on the streets. These countries are often more hesitant about the number of migrants because of the massive amounts of numbers they receive.

Italian governments have tried to slow down their intake of migrant boats by signing a deal with the Libyan government to “combat… irregular migration [and] human trafficking and strengthen… border security.” However, this caused an increase in refugees stuck in detention camps, where they face dangerous conditions and even torture.

Malta has also been dealing with an influx of asylum seekers and refugees. They have refused to help a migrant boat with 400 immigrants on board despite the fact that the boat was “adrift and taking on water.”

Northern European countries and other entities have criticized both Malta’s and Italy’s responses to the increase in migrant boats. However, the southern European countries are at the forefront. They deal with hundreds of migrants showing up at their beaches, where they live on the streets until they “head to more prosperous” countries.

What Is Being Done

The droves of migrant boats landing on the coasts of southern Europe have caused the European Commission and other organizations to update their protocols on immigration.

The European Commission proposed a “package of seven pieces of legislation” in 2016 to accommodate for the increased number of immigrants entering the EU. The legislation would create a “fair and humane asylum policy.” So far, five of the seven pieces have been passed and more policies have been proposed.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has set up the Missing Migrants Project to track the number of missing and dead migrants from the Mediterranean crossings. The IOM and MMP work in policy guidance and strategy for countries that deal with an influx of migrants. The IOM has worked to safely return 1.7 million immigrants to their respective home nations since 1979 and has helped 67 countries with the development fund.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is working in over 20 locations to protect and aid refugees and provide “shelter, food, water and medical care” to those who arrive in Europe.

– Kathryn Kendrick
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health in Detention CentersAcross the United States, and the world, women have continually faced challenges regarding access to fair and proper healthcare. However, the detention centers of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the border of the United States are the source of alarming stories of women who have been denied fundamental rights to healthcare. In a system with the purpose of solely providing emergency care to secure deportations, women’s health loses its priority. Denying and delaying the needs of women in these facilities has potentially dangerous consequences for their health. Prioritizing women’s health in detention centers is of the utmost importance.

Women’s Health in Detention Centers

Women in ICE detention facilities in the United States frequently confront many challenges in their attempt to secure proper healthcare. Prominent among these limitations include the language barrier that prevents many immigrant women, who are unfamiliar with English, from being able to communicate their health concerns. This problem persists especially through medical consent and the issue of immigrant women signing contracts that they cannot understand. Additionally, many women do not know their rights or the standard protocols of the facilities. As a result, many women assume that certain treatments or provisions are unavailable. Giselle M, a woman who was detained during her pregnancy, endured discomfort while sleeping because she was unaware that according to the center’s rules, an extra mattress had to be provided.

According to a Human Rights Watch interview, however, a major reason why women decline medical attention is because of a lack of confidentiality. Although ICE’s protocol stipulates that doctors are expected to maintain patient privacy, breaches of confidentiality are quite common in detention facilities. Many women reported that guards were privy to some of the medical details that doctors had access to. Women were less willing to share their personal struggles if others could find out. For example, pregnancy tests were not always done individually and the news could be quickly spread across detention centers.

The Consequences of Inadequate Healthcare

Access to healthcare for marginalized women is extremely significant as without the necessary medical care, the health of women in these detention centers could be jeopardized. Minimal access to regular screenings, contraception and treatment have fostered prejudice and damaged the health of undocumented women.

In 2017, a woman named Teresa, who was four months pregnant at the time, was detained for 24 hours on the United States border. Overnight, Teresa experienced heavy bleeding and extreme pain, yet she was still not transported to a hospital for emergency care. Only days later did detention staff confirm that Teresa had miscarried. She faced several complications after the miscarriage but her medical health was still neglected.

In addition, important tests such as pap smears and breast exams, which are instrumental in the prevention of certain diseases, were completely denied to many women in these facilities. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took note of these inadequacies and issued multiple reports. But, the conditions in border camps and detention centers pertaining to healthcare have improved minimally.

The Suppressed Voices of Women

Significantly, many women fear the consequences of vocalizing their complaints because of the power ICE holds over their future in the United States. For immigrants leaving their countries in search of a better life for themselves and their families, receiving an identity in the United States means sacrificing their basic needs. From an ICE county jail in Arizona, a group of women detailed their experience in a letter about ICE’s medical facilities. In particular, the letter noted, “when we’ve complained to the nurses, we get ridiculed with replies like: ‘You should have made better choices … ICE is not here to make you feel comfortable.’” Various detention centers throughout the United States have isolated women and caused them to suppress their concerns.


Regardless of their circumstances, women in detention centers in the United States deserve the basic rights that should be provided to them in the form of a secure healthcare system. Although altering the system is a difficult task, joint efforts can raise the quality of medical attention for migrant women’s health. Already, several bills attempt to address this issue such as the Women’s Health Protection Act and the Stop Shackling and Detaining Pregnant Women Act. Oftentimes, prisons and detention centers create policies with men in mind and exclude women from their due rights. Both of the aforementioned bills advocate for the rights of women in detention centers. Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) helped to pass the First Step Act in 2018, which would help to protect pregnant women in jail. With the passing of these laws, women’s health in detention centers can improve.

Esha Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

migrant childrenAs President Biden attempts to undo many of the anti-immigration policies of his predecessor, a surge in unaccompanied migrant children seeking refuge at the southern border is creating logistical challenges. In January 2021 alone, border patrol agents reported nearly 6,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border. This is almost double compared to the number of crossings in January of 2020. Concerns have arisen regarding the well-being of these migrant children and the steps that will be taken to safeguard them.

Causes and Temporary Solutions

The increase in migrant children can be linked to a combination of several factors. Firstly, natural causes. The coronavirus pandemic, coupled with devastating hurricanes in Central America, has compounded pre-existing conditions such as violence and poverty. Secondly, the reversal of Trump-era policies has restored hope to migrants who were previously denied entrance into the U.S.

To respond to the increase in asylum seekers, President Biden has restored border facilities to full capacity. Biden has also restarted programs allowing migrants to apply for asylum from their home countries rather than having to make the perilous journey to the border.

Perhaps most debated is Biden’s decision to reopen the Carrizo Springs influx facility in Texas for children aged 13 to 17. The facility has drawn comparisons to a McAllen, Texas, processing center used by both the Obama and Trump administrations where children were enclosed in chainlink fences and forced to sleep on the ground. Child welfare advocates are concerned about Biden’s decision because the Carrizo Springs facility is not licensed to house children. However, they generally agree that the facility is an improvement over the McAllen housing used during the Trump presidency.

Political Tightrope

While Biden’s reversal of the restrictive immigration policies created by Trump will increase the number of refugees granted legal entrance into the United States, a bigger question remains on how to improve conditions in migrant countries of origin in the face of COVID-19, extreme weather, climate change and violence. Addressing these conditions will eliminate the need for migration entirely, resolving many of the issues associated with migration to the U.S.

The process of softening the restrictions put in place by the previous two administrations is a lengthy and complicated one. Biden faces pressure to open the border from the left and pressure to close it from the right. Through the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021, Biden has put forth a $4 billion four-year plan to improve living conditions in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, the home countries of many of the migrants who have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. These improvements will alleviate migration to the U.S.

The Road Ahead

Biden is walking a political tightrope by working to address root causes while simultaneously continuing Obama and Trump-era border practices. He also faces the tangible challenge of lacking the capacity to process the sheer numbers of migrant children arriving daily. Whether or not Biden can deliver on the promises he made in his campaign remains to be seen but it is certain that the U.S. is understandably trying to adopt an approach that safeguards both the well-being of migrants as well as that of the United States.

Kieran Hadley
Photo: Flickr