World Journal

Analysing migration policies in the Mediterranean: it is time to act!

Analysing migration policies in the Mediterranean: it is time to act!

The year 2023 concluded with a somber record: it marked the highest number of migrant deaths, as reported by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles. Moreover, the Mediterranean route has been labeled as the “deadliest route for migrants.” In total, approximately 8500 lives were lost, with more than 3100 deaths recorded in the Mediterranean Sea as reported in the IOM data portal.

What are the underlying reasons for these staggering figures? 

Firstly, the European Union has been pursuing a policy of tightening border control. Over the past years, European states have entered into multiple agreements with non-European countries with the aim of dealing with irregular migration. However, the cooperation between the European Union and these external partners has often resulted in controversial outcomes, including human rights violations. For example, Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Libya in 2017, a European-sponsored agreement aimed at combating illegal migration and human trafficking. Since then, Libyan authorities have continuously interfered in Search and Rescue Operations. Various NGOs such as SOS Mediterranee to denounce dangerous interceptions by the Libyan Coast Guard of boats in distress. Additionally, the adoption of a security decree in 2023, known as the Piantedosi Decree, has impacted the operations of NGOs in the sea, making rescue efforts less flexible and responsive. This decree mandates that boats must immediately advance toward the designated ports of disembarkation, with no provision for rescuing individuals in immediate distress. Violations of this decree result in administrative detention, as seen in the case of the Ocean Viking, an SOS Mediterranee rescue ship.

These are just some of the aspects contributing to the endangerment of migrants’ rights and the inability to provide them with a safe path of migration.

However, the sea route represents only one aspect of the broader picture…

It is important to acknowledge that migrants who arrive in Europe, having endured many dangerous situations during their journey through the Mediterranean, still do not receive adequate treatment upon arrival on the mainland. In reception centers, located, for instance, on the Italian and Greek coasts, they do not receive the required level of assistance. They are temporarily accommodated in overcrowded, unsanitary facilities, where they experience violence perpetrated by the police while awaiting completion of their registration. Once they are able to move and settle in a host country, they must contend with adverse integration factors, such as occupational segregation in low-skilled, low-paid jobs.

What can we—students and ordinary citizens—concretely do to prevent the repetition of this unfortunate record?

Faced with such a complex humanitarian crisis, we may believe that the contribution of each of us is not particularly impactful. However, I personally believe that in our daily lives, we can actually be agents of change. Firstly, we must not underestimate the power of educating ourselves. This can be achieved by attending numerous events on the topic or organizing information campaigns through student associations. Secondly, we can support NGOs operating in the Mediterranean by volunteering or simply contributing through donations. Lastly, empathy is crucial: we must try to view these phenomena from the perspective of migrants and truly understand their needs. For future policymakers, it is essential to ensure the design of safer policies that uphold respect for human rights.

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