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.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mediterranean is a Dangerous Place for Migrants

The border between the U.S. and Mexico can be dangerous for people who get caught up in the heat of the desert or the cold in the mountains, but the passage from Africa to Europe is almost certainly a more dangerous trip for migrants. The Economist highlights this with a story from the sending end about "Missing in the Mediterranean," focused on people (usually men) who quite literally drop out of sight after leaving home in Africa to find work or asylum somewhere in Europe. The New York Times has the story from the receiving end, where villages in Italy, in particular, help to rescue smuggled people and bury the dead (at least those who die in sight, rather than sinking to the bottom).
No one could accuse Pozzallo of indifference. This small Sicilian town, like Italy itself, has staggered its way through a skyrocketing migration crisis in the Mediterranean that has seen roughly 120,000 migrants rescued by Italian ships this year, almost triple last year’s figure, while nearly 2,800 have died in shipwrecks or in transit, a fourfold increase. And more bodies may be coming. Rescuers are searching in the waters near Malta after reports this week that more than 750 people may have died in two shipwrecks in recent days.
Over the past three years, Italian authorities have swung from a hard-line policy to “push back” migrant vessels to Libya, to a search-and-rescue program to deliver them safely to Italian ports like this one. Migrants still keep coming.
Today, Europe finds itself caught between a backlash at home against the rising numbers of migrants flooding the continent and international pressure to provide a humane response to a crisis that includes refugees from wars in the Middle East.
The conflict throughout the Middle East, including in Syria and Iraq and also Libya, Tunisia, and Egypt (not to mention the Palestinian-Israeli war) contributes to this directly by creating refugees, but also indirectly by no longer providing job opportunities for young men from sub-Saharan Africa who are fleeing, for lack of a better word, the high population growth and slow economic growth in their countries. North Africa, in particular, used to provide some jobs, but those are now less certain, so they undertake the risky business of crossing the Mediterranean, and may wind up disappearing in the process.

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