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

Causes of Poverty in Malta

For the island nation of Malta, poverty is an issue that must be addressed, especially with recent data that suggests that not only is poverty a persistent issue within this country, but also an issue that is on the rise. The causes of poverty in Malta are important to understand in order to address this issue.

Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Italy, and is comprised of a population of over 400,000 people. Of the 400,000 people who live on this island, 16.3 percent live below the poverty line, according to a 2015 estimate. Furthermore, according to European Union (EU) statistics, Malta is one of 14 European countries that experienced an increase in poverty between 2008 and 2014. After Greece, Spain and Cyprus, Malta experienced the fourth greatest increase in poverty during this period.

One cause of poverty in Malta is unemployment; an estimated 4.8 percent of Maltese people are unemployed. Nevertheless, there are many positive signs which indicate positive growth for Malta’s economy that could alleviate unemployment for many. The Maltese economy is strongly dependent on foreign trade, manufacturing and tourism, which have contributed to an economy that has grown 4.5 percent per year – the largest growth of any European country between 2014 and 2016.

There are also certain groups of Maltese people who are more vulnerable to being affected by poverty. Those that have been victims of violence and neglect, the mentally ill, immigrants, the disabled and those from single-parent households are more likely to live in poverty and therefore rely on social services. In particular, poverty affects the elderly – those over 65 – on this island at a significantly higher rate – 22 percent – than other age groups in the population. Many of those who are particularly vulnerable to poverty have also been pushed in that direction by falling into a pattern of being heavily indebted.

Despite the recent trend toward poverty, Malta is largely heading in a positive direction. Economically, the country is thriving and this economic growth could increase the unemployment rate and be used to further guarantee social services that could alleviate poverty for at-risk groups of people. Nonetheless, there is still a lot of work to be done and the causes of poverty in Malta need to be addressed fully in order to see progress.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr

10 facts about Italy refugees
Italy has become one of the top destinations for refugees, or asylum seekers, over the past few years. Many of its current refugees transport via boat, crossing the Mediterranean Sea on their way to find peace. Here are 10 facts about Italy refugees:

  1. In 2016, Italy broke its record of asylum seekers admitted from the Mediterranean, at close to 200,000 for the year.
  2. Eighty-five percent of these migrants were from African countries, including Nigeria, Eritrea, and Sudan.
  3. More than 176,000 refugees are in reception centers.
  4. October and November were record-breaking months for Italy, with more refugees making the sea voyage than in previous years. This was partially due to better sea conditions.
  5. Better sea conditions resulted in more people traveling on a single boat, which also resulted in more deaths. Almost 5,000 people died at sea in 2016, compared to fewer than 4,000 the previous year.
  6. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that more than 85 percent of migrants arriving in Italy through the Mediterranean started their journey in Libya.
  7. In September 2016, European countries agreed to relocate 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece, to help ease the heavy loads that these two countries carry — only 4,000 were displaced.
  8. Some Italy refugees perform volunteer community service — sweeping the streets, cleaning up parks and maintaining gardens.
  9. According to the U.N. refugee agency, 26,000 unaccompanied minors made the trek to Italy last year.
  10. The Italian government is constructing a plan to integrate asylum seekers into the workforce while they are waiting in the reception centers.

Attempts to get help from other European countries to lessen the load on Italy have fizzled out over the past few years. As a result, the Italian government strains to make providing aid to those who flee from turmoil possible. These 10 facts about Italy refugees illustrate the difficulties, and the opportunities, that this mass displacement presents for all countries.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

 Refugees in Malta Facts
Situated by the Mediterranean Sea, the island country of Malta has long been a safe haven for refugees. Although Malta is geographically and economically small, its location between Europe and North Africa makes it a logical first step for refugees seeking a new life in Europe. Discussed below are 10 facts about refugees in Malta.

Top 10 Facts about Refugees in Malta

  1. Malta created its Office of the Refugee Commissioner (ORC) in 2001 and it began functioning in 2002. Since then, the country has received more than 15,000 asylum seekers, primarily from the Middle East and Africa.
  2. Approximately 93% of migrants arriving in Malta by boat are asylum seekers, according to a report by the Human Rights Watch.
  3. Malta often acts as a temporary home for refugees. Less than 30% of the 19,000 Libyan refugees in Malta housed since 2002 remain there, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates. Refugees in Malta have a document that permits them to travel, and many choose to leave the country voluntarily.
  4. In order to keep families together, refugees’ dependent family members receive the same rights and benefits as the refugee.
  5. In 2011, Malta concluded the first European Refugee Fund project, which aimed to improve the information applicants receive about refugee rights and obligations. The project was such a success that the ORC hosted a conference in order to help the Maltese community get to know and connect with local refugees.

  1. Malta operates five mobile offices for refugee services in order to hold information sessions about the asylum procedure for third-country nationals or individuals who belong in neither the country of refuge nor the country they fled.
  2. Due to Malta’s location, many refugees end up in the country unintentionally. Malta is responsible for search and rescue in a large area of the Mediterranean Sea stretching from Tunisia to Crete, Greece and Sicily and Italy to Libya, and is, therefore, a popular transport hub for asylum seekers.
  3. Malta ranked 10th out of the countries with the most refugees per capita, with 14 refugees per 1,000 inhabitants, according to a UNHCR report.
  4. Malta’s fertility rate is below the EU average. However, the population has continued to grow in the last few years because of a large number of refugees and other immigrants.
  5. Only 9.2% of asylum seekers in Malta receive refugee status. The majority, 62.1%, receive subsidiary protection status. This allows them some, though not all, of the rights given to refugees.

Despite crowding and tight resources, refugees in Malta are working together to create a sense of community and home despite being so far away from their own.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

Quality in LebanonLocated along the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea and sandwiched between Syria and Jordan, the country of Lebanon seems to thrive in an otherwise dry and arid region of the world. In the Middle East where neighboring countries are strapped for sufficient and renewable water resources, Lebanon is fortunate to have the benefit of a coastal border as well as above adequate rainfall. The greatest strength for the country’s water supply stems not from the water itself, but from the efforts that are being made to improve the water quality in Lebanon.

According to the CIA World Factbook, Lebanon has a population of 6.2 million. The majority of this number lives along the Mediterranean coast, with approximately one-third of the population concentrated in the capital city of Beirut and its immediate surrounding areas. Although the area may be rich in the plenitude of beaches, the water quality in Lebanon is impacted by pollution that greatly restricts use and supply.

Most of the country’s water is used for agriculture, which necessitates the use of pesticides and other harsh elements. These toxins seep back into the underground supply through irrigation, causing more pollution to the measure of water quality in Lebanon. Open dumps where sewage and industry waste are deposited into the Mediterranean exist along the entirety of the country’s western sea border. The water that is collected from the sea and river basins is often contaminated with the sewage deposits, while poor filtration can lead to high amounts of sodium and chloride intrusions.

The population concentration in Beirut further erodes the water quality in Lebanon. Water is rationed throughout the country, while inadequate water transportation systems corrode existing pipelines. Many have access to water for only a few hours a day. Those who can afford to buy bottled water do. Those not financially capable of this luxury resort to digging their own wells for water, causing them to consume water from the underground water supply that has been poisoned by agricultural irrigation.

Water-related infections and diseases are common across the country. Diarrhea, dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis have all been reported. Public outrage over the inferior water quality in Lebanon has led to public debate and advocacy work, causing encouraging responses from both the local and international communities.

The World Bank created the Greater Beirut Water Supply Project in 2010 to address the sparse water supply for the high population concentration. The project is planned for completion in 2019 with the goal to provide poor households in south Beirut with water pipeline connectivity. The country’s parliament also passed the National Water Sector Strategy in 2012, a plan to invest in the infrastructure to ensure better water quality in Lebanon and more reliable delivery.

The United States is also involved in the efforts to improve the water quality in Lebanon. In 2013, the Lebanon Water Project was started with the help of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This five-year project’s goal is to address infection and diseases caused by poor water quality in 1,200 schools across the country. So far, the project has installed new water tanks and updated filtration systems in more than 400 schools. These organizations and projects are helping to ensure that the Lebanese population, regardless of location, will have better access to clean and affordable water.

Jeffery Silvey

Photo: Flickr

Drones for Refugees: Saving Lives in the Mediterranean
Since 2014, 10 people have died every day attempting to travel to Mediterranean countries by sea. The Drones for Refugees project wants to make the voyage safer.

The drones livestream areas heavily trafficked by refugees in the Mediterranean Sea and use infrared sensors to allow easy viewing at night. The drones run on solar batteries and use wireless internet connection, requiring little human involvement. Workers in ground stations monitor the footage on a computer or mobile device and collect information such as the number of people on a boat, the coordinates, whether the route is correct and whether there are enough life vests. In the case of an emergency, monitors quickly alert rescue crews. Newer drone prototypes carry an emergency aid package that can be released when needed. This quick response can save many lives.

The prototype was tested in Lesbos between July and August 2016. A more advanced version will debut in Sicily in the spring of 2017. Drones for Refugees is currently self-funded, but with help from investors and donors, the organization hopes to produce larger drones capable of traveling longer distances.

Project director Mehdi Salehi originally co-founded Good Drones, an innovation and design lab focused on using drones to solve social problems. Drones for Refugees is only one of the projects of the Good Drones initiative. Salehi was inspired by news footage of Syrian refugees traveling on worn-down boats in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as his own personal experiences.

In 2001, Salehi was an Afghani refugee. He and a friend traveled to Greece on a small boat. Once he arrived in Greece, Salehi was imprisoned for five months. Eventually, with the help of a Greek lawyer, he was able to receive political asylum. He went on to graduate from the University of Volos and moved to New York to attend Parson School of Design. He says about his experience, “I was very lucky. I got a lot of support from people that met me along the way, especially in Greece. They encouraged me and believed in me. Refugees and migrants, that’s what we need: an opportunity to thrive.”

For refugees, crossing the Mediterranean can be an exhausting and terrifying experience. Drones for Refugees wants to ensure that refugees are given a fighting chance to escape the violence and oppression in their home countries.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr