The Vulnerability of the Migrant


Human trafficking of migrants will increase in the EU, due in part by the far right extremism and lack of EU solidarity on immigration. How can this be? There has been a record amount of migrants coming to Europe. May it be Syrian migrants fleeing civil war, Iraqi migrants leaving a weak economy, or Eritreans in sub Saharan Africa fleeing an oppressive government (UNODC) (Guardian). These are few profiles of many. This has caused great unrest within Europe and the European Union, so much so that there has yet to be unity and a comprehensive plan to deal with the flow of migrants, relegating each country to decide for themselves how to protect their borders. There has also been a rise of far right extremism in Europe. One could also argue the race complex that is hovering around the incoming migrants as well as their faith. Unless the EU council on immigration has a comprehensive plan to deal with migrants, other than sending them back to turkey, or defunding rescue missions for boats coming from Libya, as well as address the rise of anti immigrant, islamophobic far right movements, the EU will be inundated by migrants they can’t support, and far right movements too strong to squash.

Who is fleeing? There are many routes that are being taken by migrants. A very popular heavily covered route is that from turkey to Greece. The Mediterranean, coined by some, as the “sea of death” (Vice) has taken the lives of many within the past couple of years. Nevertheless, many migrants from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan pay smugglers for overcrowded passage on an expired boat. According to the “2010 UNODC report on smuggling of migrants in the Mediterranean region, irregular migration in Turkey is increasing sharply, and changes in the ethnic composition of the migrants.” (IOM) Europe is seeing an unprecedented number of peoples. “More than 800,000 asylum seekers and migrants have arrived in Europe by sea in 2015, with most traveling onward to northern and western EU countries.” (Human Rights Watch) Might I interject and say these people who can afford to traverse the many miles to port cities like Izmir are the wealthier ones, who have the means to take such a risky passage.

There is also the central African route, many have used the ports of Libya to leave to get to deceivingly far islands such as lampedusa of Italy. One of the issues that these sub Saharan migrants face, is the fact that Libya, post Gaddafi, is unstable. They are at risk to be trafficked by the factions that vie for power. Detention camps are common. If one is so lucky to get to the “sea of death” then it is a waiting game of who and when you will be rescued. If you are so fortunate enough to be rescued by Frontex, an NGO, a fishing boat, or the Italian coastguard, then you will be taken to Italy. (VICE) If found by a Libyan faction, then you will be brought back to a detention camps, in a land void of strong government, regulations, international legitimacy, and rife with domestic upheaval. (VICE) These are the perfect conditions for trafficking people. Turkey like many other countries knows, you can hide many things under the guise of the chaos of war, the Armenian genocide. The problem that is addressed is how will the EU with its far right extremism and lack of solidarity handle the migrants who have risked everything to get to Europe, and will keep on risking everything to get to Europe.

The problem also arises on how these migrants are received, not only the destination countries are a hostile environment but the transit countries as well, such as Turkey and Libya. How will they cope with these flows of people? How do these migrants sustain themselves, what informal economy do they tap into, or fall victim to? People pay smugglers to help them get to their destination, but the line between voluntary smuggling, to being trafficked is grey and ever present. Smuggling can be voluntary, altruistic, or coercive and manipulating. (UNODC) Many migrants who are fleeing war may voluntarily pay a smuggler to help them cross the border or the Mediterranean. However, with depleting funds, lack of legal protection, and vulnerability that migration brings, it easy to be trafficked, may it be on the Libyan coast, or one’s way to Germany. There already has been a count of 10,000 children missing and trafficked from this year alone. (Guardian) “There was evidence of a "criminal infrastructure" established since mid-2014 to exploit the refugee flow. The Observer reported that Europol found evidence of links between smuggling rings bringing people into the European Union and human trafficking gangs exploiting migrants for sex and slavery.” (Guardian) Many will seize the opportunity to profit off of the migrants desperation.

Instead of dealing with the destination countries, the problem of this mass migration should be solved at the source, of the countries supplying the migrants. In Europe, especially the EU, there has been no solid immigration reform to deal with the migrant crisis. France has expressed hesitation, letting migrants in Calais suffer. Germany has opened up its arms and then receded when realizing the enormity of the issue. There has been a sense of share the burden coming from Greece, with itself taking the brunt of the migration flows from the east and its shores. Ironically, it might be the most ill equipped country, as it is suffering from a depression and severe austerity measures given by the EU. This brings into question, what happens to the human rights of these migrants when austerity and poverty is felt by the country in which you seek refuge. What happens when your country who cannot afford your social welfare, or the fact that you cannot tap into that social welfare because of means or opportunity? If one adds a threatened identity, may it be ethnic, religious, or national as well as fear of the unknown and a deep sense of hatred for the other, one gets the Front National, Pegida, and Golden Dawn. Each far right extremist group is particular to the country, but in truth, this is textbook fascism, at least the seeds of it.

With this said, I find it imperative that the EU stops flip flopping with its policies in order to look good yet protect their nationalist interests. There needs to be a sense of shared opportunity, not burden, amongst the international community. It cannot be the EU alone to incorporate all these migrants. Not only is Greece dealing with financial woes, and the entirety of Europe dealing with identity issues, we must still take into account the plight of the migrant. We should not only take a cue from Canada, offering stay and programs to welcome the migrants into Canadian communities, but we must take a cue from Jordan as well. A country with no natural resources to speak of, and main funder of its coiffeurs is international aid. Yet they are able to absorb a history of peoples. May it be the Armenians who fled the genocide in the first World War (when Jordan was yet defined), Palestinian refugees since the advent of Israel, Iraqi refugees during its civil wars, and now Syrian refugees. We must take a cue from every country who has successfully incorporated groups of people into their greater society, that is the only way to protect the peoples and the national security that all are invested in.

Human trafficking will increase in Europe and certain African countries if the international community does not share an interest and a duty towards these migrants. They will be more vulnerable, more desperate, if they are not given jobs to support themselves in the long run, and asylum to save them in the short run.