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06 February 2017

The humane management of mixed migration flows from Libya to Italy poses a complex challenge. File photo: AP

The European Union Tries to Prevent a Wave of Migrants from Libya

Malta – The Economist: Although he was not there, it was hard to escape Donald Trump at the European Union’s latest summit. Held in Malta on February 3rd, the day-long event focused on new plans for handling migration, particularly for stemming the flow of people making their way towards Europe from sub-Saharan Africa through Libya and across the Mediterranean. It also touched upon broader (and slightly wonky) questions of what the EU means 60 years on from the Rome treaty.

But it was Mr Trump who dominated proceedings. François Hollande, the French president, called his American counterpart’s comments earlier this month denigrating the EU “unacceptable”. Describing the new migration plans, Federica Mogherini, the union’s foreign policy chief, said “we do not believe in bans and walls”, a slap at Mr Trump’s executive order on refugees and his plans for a wall on America’s Mexican border. Yet the EU’s new plans could be just as chaotic and ineffective as Mr Trump’s.

After the EU struck a deal with Turkey in March 2016 to crack down on people-smuggling in the Aegean sea, the flow of migrants from Turkey to Greece dropped dramatically, from 57,000 in February 2016 to about 3,400 in August. But the numbers making their way from Libya have not decreased. Some 180,000 arrived in Italy last year, with more than 4,000 dead or missing on the crossing. Many of them are economic migrants, not refugees. The largest proportion came from Nigeria, which has very low asylum acceptance rates. Most experienced extreme hardship on the route: reports of beatings, rapes and torture in Libya are common.

The EU is now attempting to implement a version of the EU-Turkey deal in Libya in order to stem the tide.

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Refugees in America

United States – The New Yorker: The Pulitzer Prize-winning Viet Thanh Nguyen tells stories about people poised between their devastated homeland and their affluent adopted country, writes Joyce Carol Oates.


Nguyen evokes a world of death-haunted precarity. Illustration: Jun Cen.

Consider the distinctions between the words "expat," "immigrant," "refugee." "Expat" suggests a cosmopolitan spirit and resources that allow mobility; to be an "immigrant" suggests some measure of need. A "refugee" is, by definition, desperate: he has been displaced from his home, has been rendered stateless, has few or no resources. The expat retains an identity as he retains his citizenship, his privileges; the refugee loses his identity amid the anonymity of many others like him. In the way that enslaved persons are truncated by the term "slaves," defined by their condition, there’s a loss of identity in the category term "refugees." It might seem to be more humane, and accurate, to give someone who is forced to seek refuge a more expansive designation: "displaced person."

Viet Thanh Nguyen, one of our great chroniclers of displacement, appears to value the term "refugee" precisely for the punitive violence it betrays. Born in 1971, he is, by self-description, the son of Vietnamese refugees, and he has been a refugee himself; he has married a refugee, a fellow-writer named Lan Duong. In the acknowledgments of "The Refugees" (Grove), his beautiful and heartrending new story collection, he speaks of his son, Ellison: "By the time this book is published, he will be nearly the age I was when I became a refugee."

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Migration in the News


  • NPR interviewed IOM DG William Lacy Swing on US President Donald Trump’s refugee travel ban, the subsequent court challenges and how IOM is dealing with the situation.

  • New York Times and Reuters reported that refugees and travelers previously excluded from the US under President Trump’s now blocked travel ban are rushing to enter the country while they can.

  • Reuters reported that US President Trump on Sunday ramped up his criticism of the federal judge who blocked the ban on travelers from seven mainly Muslim nations.

  • Reuters and USA Today reported on Syrian and Iraqi refugees who made it into the US after the travel ban was blocked by the courts.

  • Daily Sabah with Anadolu Agency reported that the Turkish Coast Guard rescued 45 migrants whose boat sank in the Aegean early Sunday morning. An unidentified Ethiopian woman was among the drowned.

  • Ghana Web reported that the Director of USAID Ghana visited the Volta Region, where he met with stakeholders impacted by human trafficking.


Trending on the Internet


  • Bloomberg reported that a new report shows that problems facing the British labour market, including skills shortages and an aging population, are likely to be exacerbated by Brexit.


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