Migration through the Mediterranean: A Perilous Passage

The history of migration in Africa is deep-rooted and multifaceted, with significant dark chapters including the Atlantic slave trade and colonial labor movements which have left a lasting impact on the continent, shaping its social, economic, and political landscape.  Today, mass migration and displacement in Africa are fueled by contemporary challenges, notably poverty, violent conflict, and environmental stress. It is a complex issue that many developing countries are grappling with. Many people from various developing countries including Pakistan make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea and face challenges and risks along the migration route, including dangerous sea crossing and human rights concerns. This migration route has gained extensive attention due to the substantial number of people undertaking the hazardous journey in pursuit of improved opportunities, safety, and the aspiration of securing employment. Regrettably, this journey is marked by the daunting reality of the Mediterranean Sea, which is why it is considered the deadliest journey globally. Thus, the article aims to shed light on the challenges faced by migrants during their perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea, while also exploring the causes and impacts of this migration.  

The irregular mixed movement of refugees and migrants across the Sahara Desert via sea routes to Italy, Malta, and Spain continues to cause catastrophic loss of human life. Despite the danger, many still decide to migrate to Europe. Europe is the continent  48 percent of migrants from North Africa choose as the ideal emigration destination. Migrants and asylum seekers use the dangerous Central Mediterranean route to enter Europe on an irregular basis. However, the Italian island of Lampedusa, less than 150 kilometers off the coast of Tunisia, has been experiencing an influx of migrants in recent days. This crossing is nothing but fatal. Hundreds of desperate African men, women, and children crowded shoulder to shoulder on rickety boats in the Mediterranean Sea, sailing toward an unknown future in Europe. 

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there has been a significant increase in arrivals to Italy, with 130,000 so far this year compared with some 70,000 in 2022, and about thousands of people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. However, it is worth noting that a significant number of deaths are likely to remain undocumented and unrecorded in the ongoing migration crisis. 

The ongoing migration crisis is driven by various reasons that push individuals to abandon their homes in Africa. Repression, extreme poverty, economic and political instability, insecurity, and environmental conditions made certain regions in Africa uninhabitable. As a consequence, refugees and migrants frequently experience sexual assault, incarceration, violence, and exploitation at the hands of adults throughout the perilous journey multiple times and in multiple locations. Tragically, thousands of them die. In addition to being a dangerous path chosen by desperate people, it is also a billion-dollar business route under the hands of criminal networks. Conflicting militias not only control certain areas but also establish their own laws, oversee border crossings, and detain migrants for exploitative purposes. 

Moreover, the migration through the Mediterranean Sea poses far-reaching effects on both continents. It may cause a brain drain in Africa by displacing highly qualified people. When highly skilled and educated individuals leave their home countries, it can impede progress and the accessibility of vital services. The entire development of African countries may be impacted by creating gaps in areas like infrastructure, healthcare, and education. On the other hand, when African immigrants go to Europe, European countries also have to face many effects. These may include increasing pressure on resources and public services. For example, an influx of immigrants may lead to increased demand for public services, potentially overwhelming existing infrastructure and resources. This stress can result in challenges such as long waiting times for healthcare services. Additionally, there may be concerns about job competition, as immigrants may compete with natives for employment opportunities, especially in sectors with high unemployment rates. 

This migration transcends beyond continents and many Pakistani migrants chose this path to migrate to Europe, mostly illegally. The majority of Pakistani migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers pass through Iran and Turkey and then enter Europe via the Eastern Mediterranean route and the Western Balkans before reaching Italy. Alternatively, some take the less conventional sea route from Turkey to Italy. The less common sea route from Turkey to Italy involves perilous boat journeys, with migrants risking their lives in overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels. Such journeys lead to serious humanitarian difficulties as well as catastrophic incidents. The recent shipwreck in Greece is one of the worst migrant boat disasters in the Mediterranean, and questions remain about the Greek response after it became clear that the boat was in trouble. Tragically, more than 300 Pakistanis were among those who lost their lives in this devastating incident. 

To sum up, the journey, marked by danger and hardship is a shared struggle experienced by individuals not only in Africa but also from regions as diverse as South Asia, particularly Pakistan. If root causes are considered, it is crucial to recognize that this migration crisis transcends geographical boundaries. Both Africa and Pakistan grapple with economic hardships, political instability, and the pursuit of a better life. Consequently, people are forced to relocate in search of better opportunities elsewhere. The loss of lives and talents affects not only the immediate regions of departure rather they also have far-reaching effects on the interconnected global community. Ultimately, the international community needs to support both countries in their efforts to achieve sustainable development. With improved economic growth, job opportunities, and better living conditions, people would prefer to live in their own countries without being compelled to quit their kith and kin. That said, it will be a collaborative effort that can positively impact the migration patterns in both Africa and Pakistan.

[Photo by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet, via Wikimedia Commons]

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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