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23 November 2016
Over 100 migrants are rescued by MSF’s Bourbon Argos earlier this month. Photo: Lizzie Dearden

How Economic Migrants Become Refugees as They Seek a New Life

United Kingdom – The Independent: As right-wing politicians across Europe call for “economic migrants” to be deported or even left to drown in the Mediterranean Sea, analysts say the term is divorced from the harrowing reality faced by many of the men, women and children risking their lives to reach safety, writes Lizzie Dearden.

The passage from Libya to Italy, the deadliest crossing in the world, is now the dominant route after the controversial European Union-Turkey deal aimed to close the comparatively safer and shorter path over the Aegean Sea.

Libya has been a draw for people seeking work across Africa for decades and the prospect of high wages and abundant construction work is still luring migrants unaware of the chaos and violence that awaits.

Over five years after Britain and allies mounted a military intervention against Muammar Gaddafi, the country remains divided between a fragile government, ISIS and more than 1,700 separate armed groups battling for control.

Migrants and refugees are frequently kidnapped by gangs in exchange for ransoms, being beaten, raped and tortured in squalid makeshift prisons, while others are detained in labour camps or forced into prostitution until they pay their way out.

With routes out of Libya controlled by militias and many borders closed, the only escape is flimsy rubber boats sent into the Mediterranean Sea by smugglers, who threaten to shoot anyone attempting to resist being packed into the overcrowded dinghies.

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Migrants sleep on the floor inside a derelict customs warehouse in Belgrade. Photo: Marko Djurica / Reuters.

Migrants Stranded in Derelict Belgrade Warehouse as Hungary Reinforces Serbia Border Fence

Serbia – International Business Times: Hundreds of migrants and refugees stranded in Serbia are occupying a derelict warehouse in Belgrade, writes David Sim. They sleep on the warehouse floor, wrapped up in blankets to keep out the bitter cold. The Serbian government and humanitarian agencies have offered them accommodation in refugee centres with heating and food – but despite the misery of their situation, they do not want to go.

Doing so would formalize their situation and with neighbouring European Union state Hungary letting in only between 10 and 30 migrants a day, they might have to wait up to nine months to exit Serbia legally. Or they might face deportation if they fail to meet asylum criteria.

More than 100,000 migrants passed through Serbia this year, mainly from countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, to seek sanctuary in the wealthy countries of Europe. But Balkans border closures have left many stranded. Though the so-called Balkan migration route has officially been closed since March, migrants continue trickling in. Instead of thousands arriving each day hundreds come on a route which now runs through Bulgaria after borders with Greece and Macedonia have been sealed.

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Migration in the News
  • The Independent reported findings from an IOM survey which revealed that a growing number of migrants reaching Europe did not set out with the intention of coming to the continent.

  • 9 News Australia reported that 365 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean last week trying to reach Italy and Europe from Libya in increasingly flimsy rubber boats.

  • Reuters reported that some 1,400 boat migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe were rescued on Tuesday.

  • Al Jazeera reported on a fire bomb attack at the Souda camp on the Greek island of Chios, as asylum seekers despair of relocation to other EU countries.

  • AFP reported that the US-led coalition bombed a key bridge in Mosul, Iraq, Tuesday, to isolate ISIL extremists in the east of the city, where stiff resistance is threatening to bog down Iraqi forces.

Trending on the Internet

  • BBC returned to the German city of Oberhausen, near Essen, for the third time in a year, to find out how over 2,500 Syrian refugees are integrating into German society. 

Media Contacts
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The materials in the Migration Newsdesk are for information only and do not necessarily reflect IOM’s viewpoint unless specifically stated.