‘Non-listening, non-seeing, non-feeling…’ – the migration crisis in the Mediterranean: information, discussion and debate

Photo: Cayuco approached by a spanish Salvamar vessel (June 25, 2008) by Noborder Network. CC-BY-2.0 (via Wikimedia).

The Guardian newspaper captured the essence of the issue in its editorial of April 21st:

‘A proud father who is fleeing persecution, a mother who wants to give her family a chance – every migrant who risks their lives in the Mediterranean has a story that any European would recognise. In the blank faces of the stricken survivors being helped from the sea off Rhodes, or shuffling dazed down the gangway into a strange Sicilian port, they can only be imagined. They are easily dwarfed by the scale of the unfolding drama in the Mediterranean, but in any discussion of what should be done, that particularity is the most important single thing to remember.’

The horrific scenes in recent weeks in the Mediterranean as thousands of migrants risk their lives in search of something better for themselves and their families; according to the UN Refugee Agency over 20,000 have lost their lives attempting to reach Europe over the past two decades.

In 2014 alone, an estimated 207,000 people made the deadly journey with the loss of an estimated 3,419 lives. The totally inadequate response of European governments has placed primacy on securing borders rather than saving lives leading to Pope Francis describing the situation as the ‘globalisation of indifference’.

The crisis in the Mediterranean is but the latest horrific example of an ongoing but increasingly contentious worldwide phenomenon of migration now sadly a political football in some many states.  Below are some of the headline figures around the issue along with a very brief listing of some useful links.

Headline figures

Of today’s 232 million international migrants, 59% currently live in regions of the Developed World; between 2000 and 2013, the estimated number of such migrants increased by 32 million and by 2013 made up nearly 11% of total population (up from 9% in 2000).  This contrasts with some 2% in developing regions where between 2000 and 2013, the migrant population living and originating in Developing World regions increased by almost 23 million.  In the same period the migrant population from developing countries now living in the Developed World increased by more than 24 million.

  • Of the estimated 232 million migrants worldwide, some 10-15% are ‘unauthorised’ or illegal with the concept itself becoming increasingly contested
  • Overall, 22% of movement represents ‘North to North’ migration; 5% is North to South; 33% is South to South migration and 40% is South to North
  • South-South migration is now as common as South-North migration – in 2013, about 82.3 million international migrants who were born in the South were residing in the South, which is slightly higher than the 81.9 million international migrants originating in the South and living in the North
  • Asians living outside of their home regions form the largest global migrant group with those from Latin America and the Caribbean representing the second largest
  • Europe and Asia combined host nearly two-thirds of all international migrants worldwide with Europe remaining the most popular destination with 72 million migrants in 2013, compared to 71 million in Asia.
  • International migration remains highly concentrated – in 2013, half of all international migrants lived in 10 countries with the US hosting the largest number (45.8 million), followed by the Russian Federation (11 million); Germany (9.8 million); Saudi Arabia (9.1 million); United Arab Emirates (7.8 million); United Kingdom (7.8 million); France (7.4 million); Canada (7.3 million); Australia (6.5 million); and Spain (6.5 million)
  • The North, or developed countries, is home to 136 million international migrants, compared to 96 million in the South, or developing countries. Most international migrants are of working age (20 to 64 years) and account for 74% of the total. Globally, women account for 48% of all international migrants.

Some sources:

https://www.iom.int | website of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM); an intergovernmental organisation set up originally in 1951 to help resettle people displaced by World War 2 – it is the primary organisation internationally dealing with migration and now has some 157 state members.

The site offers a wide range of useful and useable materials – facts and figures on current patterns in world migration; a glossary of terms and definitions; key UN documents on the issue; over 100 ‘migrant stories and a library of related publications.

https://www.unhcr.org | the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was established in 1950 to lead and co-ordinate international action to safeguard and protect the rights and well-being of refugees worldwide (it was originally supposed to cease operations after 3 years but ‘refugee realities’ made that impossible).  The site is especially useful for its photo galleries (it has a useable one on the current situation in the Mediterranean); it’s video gallery. See, for example

Lebanon: Surviving the Snow

Malta: Dying at Europe’s Doorstep (with Angelina Jolie)

Cameroon: A Story of Survival

and the Human Story section providing details on specific people and stories (these sections provide rich pickings for individual research and presentation projects).

The UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs Population Division also offers accessible statistics, maps, data tables and wall charts and has an excellent world migration figures summary which can be download free (a one stop shop for the basics!).

https://en.jrs.net | The Jesuit Refugee Service has a rich site on which provides an international overview; a series of voices from migrants themselves; briefings on local situations as well as a range of video resources (see, for example the excellent presentation by Katrine Camilleri of JRS Malta – Drops of Hope in the Mediterranean Sea

See also the site campaigns section for practical support ideas.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/people-on-the-move | Amnesty international has a useful overview with definitions, key facts and a range of news stories on situations worldwide.

Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network has published an open letter on the issue addressed to EU heads of state.

For a powerful but disturbing review of some key issues at stake, see this article by Liz Fekete, Director of the Institute of Race Relations (London): What we face today is the challenge of non-listening, non-seeing, non-feeling.