Italy Hit By Tunisian Migrants

Tunisian immigrants waiting in line on the Italian island of Lampedusa, Photo credit to Roberto Salomone/AFP/Getty Images
Tunisian immigrants waiting in line on the Italian island of Lampedusa, Photo credit to Roberto Salomone/AFP/Getty Images

With unrest progressing among countries in the Middle East, Arabs are hoping for drastic change in their lives fast.  Dilip Ratha’s blog, People Move, provided a migration news roundup highlighting the massive influx of North Africans primarily from Tunisia to Italy looking for jobs.

As of Monday, 5,000 Tunisians have arrived to Lampedusa, a small Italian island with a population of about 6,000.  Lampedusa is closer to the Tunisian border than mainland Italy, which makes migrating an option by boat.  Tunisian migration is expected to reach 70,000, but could exceed that number with the unrest in Libya and already migration into Sicily from Egypt.  This presents a challenge not only to Italy, but the rest of Europe, as expectation of migration is to rise as the political turmoils spillover and continue.

To provide a historical perspective, in 2008, an average of 600 illegal migrants were arriving in Italy from Libya and Tunisia.  As a result, Italy pushed for Libya and Tunisia to watch over their coastlines in exchange for financial assistance.  This successfully prevented the mass migrants coming to the immigration center in Lampedusa.  Just earlier this week, the immigration center was re-opened ready to accommodate 800 migrants, but was overwhelmed with the 5,000 on Monday alone, thus was forced to accommodate 2,000.  What worries the EU, Italy, and the UN is that this “influx is unlikely to end anytime soon.”

Center for Foreign Relations’ senior staff writer, Jayshree Bajoria, writes:

“There needs to be international agreements to regulate migrant flows. We need to strengthen international organizations for migration. Like there are trade treaties that govern trade between countries, there need to be migration treaties as well. The economic forces for greater migration are extremely powerful–as the European population ages and there is the graying phenomenon that occurs in Europe–but still the cultural and social factors of fear of migrants in Europe are going to create problems.”

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) discusses 4 reasons supporting  migration from the Middle East and North Africa to Europe.  First, as supported by Bajoria’s statement, the young, working-age population would replace the graying population of Europe.  Second, with poor employment standards in the Middle East, many educated, literate individuals move to Europe in hopes for career opportunities.  Third, with the rise in population and scarcity in natural resources, people are moving abroad to emancipate themselves from this problem.  Finally, the “unresolved conflicts may continue to cause migration within and from the region.”  According to NPR, Tunisian migrants are expecting better treatment, jobs, and freedom abroad.

At CGP, whenever migration is discussed, remittances are brought into the conversation as well. Legal or illegal, the migrants moving into Europe from North Africa are going to send money back to their home countries. During a time of political unrest, remittances may provide much needed financial assistance while countries like Tunisia reach political and economic stability.

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