Silent struggle

Migration flow has also become a significant source of revenue for various criminal entities

Arhama Siddiqa June 29, 2023


“In shattered lands, where hope lies torn,

I wandered lost, my spirit worn.

From distant shores, I fled in fear,

Leaving behind all I held dear”

The recent migrant tragedy is still unfolding. The ensuing blame game is just a transient phenomenon, which will subside as time goes by. The official story of what happened at sea appears to change daily. To date, it is being called “the worst tragedy ever” in the Mediterranean sea. In all honesty, the Mediterranean has tragically transformed into the largest graveyard in Europe, if not the entire world.

Barely a decade has passed since the heart-wrenching discovery of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, lifeless and lying face-down on a beach close to the Turkish resort of Bodrum. Just in April 2023, the shores of various towns in western Libya witnessed yet another devastating incident, with at least 57 bodies washing ashore following the sinking of two boats in the Mediterranean Sea. Though such incidents should compel the world to look at this as a serious humanitarian crisis, global attention, even for heartbreaking tragedies, is fleeting at best.

The phenomenon of bodies washing ashore is regrettably not a novel occurrence and represents the harsh realities endured by many migrants in pursuit of a better life. The migration flow has also become a significant source of revenue for various criminal entities. The increasing number of migrants from Bangladesh and Pakistan highlights this trend. Exploiting dire economic circumstances, human traffickers seize the vulnerabilities of thousands of aspiring migrants who aspire to find improved prospects in Europe. These unscrupulous individuals profit immensely from the exploitation of human suffering. Notably, those aboard the recent ill-fated vessel had paid exorbitant amounts, up to $4,500 each, emphasising the extent of the exploitation.

The subject of international political economy offers valuable insights into the issue of illegal migration. Scholars in this field have provided important analyses and recommendations. For instance, Susan F. Martin has emphasised the need to address the root causes of forced displacement and create legal pathways for migration to reduce the occurrence of illegal migration. Stephen Castles and Mark J. Miller argue that restrictive immigration policies can exacerbate irregular migration flows and advocate for comprehensive immigration reforms that prioritise safe and regular migration channels. Additionally, Kevin Bales, a renowned political economist specialising in modern slavery and human trafficking, has extensively researched and written about the economic and political dimensions of this issue. His works, such as Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy highlight the connection between poverty, globalisation, and human trafficking, emphasising the need to address socio-economic factors to combat modern-day slavery effectively. Bales calls for stronger anti-trafficking laws, improved law enforcement, international cooperation, and support for survivors.

The need to recognise fundamental causes and tackle migration challenges at source is urgent. This demands an unyielding commitment to forge expanded and systemic cooperation, and casting aside the veil of ignorance while acknowledging the harsh realities of food insecurity, seething inequality, unrelenting conflict, and the tempest of the climate crisis — undoubtedly the formidable forces propelling the waves of irregular migration. Only through such bold recognition and steadfast action can we navigate the treacherous currents and strive towards a future where the struggle for a better life is met with compassion and resolute solutions.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2023.

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