This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Monday, May 30, 2016

Refugees at Risk

The usual idea of a refugee is someone who is seeking safety because of violence or threats of violence against them and their family members in the place where they were living. But getting to a place of safety is not a sure thing, as we are repeatedly reminded. In the past three days there have been at least 700 deaths of refugees, largely from Africa, trying to reach Europe from Libya via the Mediterranean.
Three days and three sunken ships are again confronting Europe with the horrors of its refugee crisis, as desperate people trying to reach the Continent keep dying at sea. At least 700 people from the three boats are believed to have drowned, the United Nations refugee agency announced on Sunday, in one of the deadliest weeks in the Mediterranean in recent memory.
The latest drownings — which would push the death toll for the year to more than 2,000 people — are a reminder of the cruel paradox of the Mediterranean calendar: As summer approaches with blue skies, warm weather and tranquil waters prized by tourists, human trafficking along the North African coastline traditionally kicks into a higher gear.
It just incomprehensible to me that human traffickers can be so callous and essentially murderous, based on stories of towing a loaded boat into the sea and then cutting the rope and letting the boat drift. 

The Mediterranean is not the most dangerous refugee route, however, as Tracy Moran reminds us, writing for OZY. The waters in Southeast Asia are even worse, at least on a per person basis.
According to a recent UNHCR report, roughly 33,600 refugees and migrants — primarily Rohingya and Bangladeshis en route from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Malaysia — traveled through the region by sea last year, mostly through the Bay of Bengal. Of these, 370 died before reaching land, falling victim to “starvation, dehydration, disease and abuse,” the report says. This means roughly 1.1 percent of those setting off perished, while in the Med, 3,771 of an estimated 1.4 million died, for a rate of .375 percent, according to U.N. figures.
Again, the problem is not rough seas, but the people smugglers who abuse and take advantage of people who are trying to flee abuse and discrimination.

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