Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Migration to and from Europe
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European leaders have recently been preoccupied with the crisis of boat migrants as more asylum seekers continue to cross into Europe from Africa via the Mediterranean. By choosing to take the perilous journey, those illegal migrants risk everything, including their lives, in the hope of reaching the other side of the Mediterranean.

Thousands of migrants have drowned in the Mediterranean so far this year as many find themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous smugglers without any sense of humanity who cram dozens of migrants into boats designed to carry only a few passengers.

Most of those migrants either have fled conflict zones, such as Syria and Iraq, or come from impoverished African countries in pursuit of a better life in Europe.

The current crisis has been embodied in the daily attempts by migrants near the French port of Calais to cross the Channel tunnel between France and England which is known for offering generous benefits to asylum seekers compared to other EU countries.

TV footage of Calais migrants trying at night to remove the barbwire separating them from the tunnel, or attempting to sneak into cargo trucks heading to England, is shocking.

Theresa May, Britain’s home secretary, have rightly responded to the crisis by saying “our streets are not paved with gold.” It is true that there are plenty of opportunities in Britain, but they are not offered freely for everyone.

Those illegal migrants are in a desperate situation; no one doubts that. But watching them on TV brings to mind another category of migrants: those who leave Europe in order to fight in conflict zones, particularly Syria.

Influenced by terrorist propaganda, many individuals, or even whole families, including women and children, have chosen to head to Syria, either to fight there or to join one of several extremist organizations that promise them to take care of them. More migrants continue to take the perilous journey despite the likelihood of being killed or sold into marriage.

This type of migrants often receives greater attention from the EU security agencies who fear battle-hardened fighters will pose serious threats when they return home.

While the former group seeks a better life in Europe, the latter represents brainwashed terrorists who enjoy slaughter and bloodshed. One thing the two groups have in common is the fact that they would not have existed had areas of turmoil, such as Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, not been left to export their crises without attempting to resolve them.

Those crises will not vanish on their own and focusing on policing borders only is not a sustainable solution given the high expenses it incurs. The perfect and long term solution would be to assist development in impoverished African countries and improve their economies to spare their populations from having to board those death boats.

As for the Middle East, the international community should provide people there with security and find solutions to their political crises that have accumulated and taken a nasty sectarian dimension.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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