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07 June 2017

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A man watches an MSF boat during the disembarkment of migrants to the Italian Guardia Costiera close to Lampedusa, Italy on May 8. Photo: Iker Pastor/Anadolu Agency

Debunking Myths About Why People Migrate Across the Mediterranean

Amid fears that Europe is being “flooded” with refugees and migrants, researcher Vicki Squire explains her study showing many refugees were not trying to reach Europe when they left home. Europe was not a pull factor, so deterrence strategies will not work, she writes.

As people on the move continue to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean and as relations between the European Union and Turkey face imminent meltdown, fears that Europe is being “flooded” with desperate refugees and migrants seeking a better life continue to abound.

A key assumption driving this fear is that large swaths of displaced populations – from Syrians to Nigerians and Afghans to Eritreans – are picking Europe as their “destination” of choice. However, research that Squire and her colleagues have published in a new report indicate that this assumption is a myth. While some people do of course leave their homes to reach Europe, many do not.

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When Home Isn't Where the Heart Is

In Polva, a rural village deep in the Estonian countryside, Iyman Ateek and her sister-in-law Taimaa Abazli squeeze onto a packed public bus, writes Aryn Baker. The pair are Syrian refugees, and they have been in the Northern European country for little more than 36 hours. Today they will attend an orientation session for recently arrived refugees in the city of Tartu, 45 minutes away.

Iyman and Taimaa are the only women on the bus wearing headscarves, and Taimaa, whom TIME has been following since the September birth of her daughter in a Greek refugee camp, is convinced that everyone is staring at them. Gazing at the patches of snow and sleet outside, Iyman groans. "Living in Europe is very different from the picture we drew in our minds when we left Syria," she says. "We were idiots."

Neither Iyman nor Taimaa chose Estonia. Their families were assigned to the country as part of an EU plan to disperse the hundreds of thousands of refugees washing up on Mediterranean shores as a result of Syria's ongoing conflict.

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“i am a migrant” is part of the UN TOGETHER initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for those who have left home in search of a better life. More here

Cécile: "'Don’t come back until you have found what you’re looking for,' said my mother when I left."
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Listen to "Torn Between Nigeria and America" from The Leonard Lopate Show in Podcasts


A global database tracking data on deceased and missing migrants along migratory routes. Please visit: MissingMigrants.iom.int


"So the strategy in terms of decreasing the numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, is to create opportunities for them in their own countries and of course to get the message out that it's not worth the risk of crossing the desert, crossing Libya and crossing the Mediterranean." –  IOM Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Richard Danziger. Read more


Migration in the News

  • Development Policy Centre interviewed IOM Director General William Lacy Swing about migration and development in the Asia-Pacific.

  • Xinhua reported that 110 migrants, all African, including 40 women and three children, were rescued in the waters off Zliten, Libya by the Libyan Coast Guard on Monday.

  • Deutsche Welle spoke with IOM’s Richard Danziger who noted that creating better prospects at home would help stem the flow of migrants from Gambia to Europe.

  • Hurriyet Daily News reported that a 3 billion-euro fund for the 2016-17 term, which Brussels proposed to help Syrian refugees in Turkey, will be contracted by the end of year, EU Ambassador to Ankara Christian Berger said.

  • TRT reported that a community of Hazara Afghan refugees and asylum seekers are spending Ramadan in a town on the Indonesian island of Java. 

Trending on the Internet

  • ABC reported on Vietnamese refugees who started Fuzion On, a restaurant with a fusion of Asian and American food items such as burgers and Vietnamese sandwiches with a twist, and wings in different sauces.  

  • World Economic Forum reported on why cities are crucial to the global refugee and migrant crisis. It referred to a new data visualization – EarthTime Lapse – which captures the scale and distribution of these crises between 2001-2016.

Media Contacts
For interviews and other media requests, please contact the IOM Media and Communications team here.