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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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Europe is Paying to Keep People in Africa--Is it Working?

The number of migrants heading to Europe from Africa has apparently been considerably less this summer than last summer, according to a story in this week's Economist. While the reason for this is not known with certainty, one of the explanations is that European countries are, in essence, paying to keep people in Africa. 
Italy has provided equipment and training to Libya’s coastguard, which has stepped up patrols. The seas have also been rough. But two militias in the western city of Sabratha, thought to be behind much of the people-smuggling, have a different explanation. They claim that Italy offered them money and equipment to stop migrant boats from setting sail.
Italy denies that it is talking with the traffickers. But it does work closely with Fayez al-Serraj, the head of the UN-backed government based in Tripoli, the capital. The EU has given him tens of millions of dollars to improve the coastguard and provide new jobs for those involved in trafficking. Mr Serraj, in turn, reportedly struck deals with the militias and brought them onto the government payroll. “I don’t think anyone came from Europe with a suitcase full of money and gave it to Libyan warlords,” says Mattia Toaldo of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a think-tank. “It’s more complicated than that.”
This current issue of Foreign Policy has a story by Ty McCormick that helps us to understand the complexity. When the government of Libya collapsed in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring, the political vacuum allowed human traffickers to flourish, aided by payments to a variety of army, police, and militia units. 
In 2015, as the European Union was struggling to cope with what would amount to a record 1.3 million asylum-seekers that year--a 122 percent increase from 2014--EU officials held a series of emergency talks with African leaders. In November of that year, they announced a $1.9 billion EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa designed to combat the root causes of migration, including poverty and conflict. The EU also struck bilateral agreements with several African countries that migrants depart from and travel through on their way to Europe, aiming to strengthen border controls and disrupt smuggling networks.
As McCormick points out, the migrants themselves have a strong incentive to get to Europe not just for themselves, but in order to send remittances home. And, of course, this gets us back to the issue of rapid population growth throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where women are having more children than the economy can cope with. The world could be doing more to help provide family planning services, but the U.S. under the Trump administration has been slashing funding, rather than trying to help countries out. So, women have children whose fate it is to head north hoping to reach Europe, and in the process of trying to get there it is especially the younger migrants who are abused like slaves, as reported yesterday by Reuters.

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