Migrant crisis in the Mediterranean worsens
31st May 2015
Since the start of 2015, at least 50,000 migrants have come to Europe by sea, travelling across the Mediterranean in often perilous conditions. An estimated 1,800 migrants have lost their lives this year alone in an attempt to reach European shores. The number of migrants has increased over the last two years as people seek refuge from wars, persecution and poverty with a particular increase in those fleeing the conflict in Syria and increasing repression and poverty in Eritrea. With the tightening of land borders in Greece and the Balkans, people are using the dangerous Mediterranean Sea routes instead, and smugglers have begun to take advantage of the unrest in Libya to establish human trafficking operations from Libyan ports. European countries, whilst rescuing those in immediate danger, are reluctant to resettle permanently these migrants and they are investigating ways to stem this flow of people, including the possibility of military action against smuggling boats at port in Libya. Similar scenes were seen in Southeast Asia this month when thousands of refugees, who were fleeing persecution in Burma, were left stranded at sea as governments from neighbouring countries disagreed on who would rescue and look after them.
Such crises are examples of desperate situations for people all over the world who are fleeing their homes, seeking escape from war, persecution, natural disaster and poverty. In 2014 the UN announced that the number of displaced persons had reached over 50 million that year, the highest number since the end of World War Two. Whilst many of these people are displaced within their own countries and intend to return home shortly, these numbers indicate that migration is a major force shaping the lives of millions of individuals and of the economics, politics and cultures of nations across the world. Indeed, the desire to escape danger and seek a better life has been a driving force behind human travel for millennia, likely playing a part in the migration of our ancestors around the world starting 80,000 years ago.
The motivations and issues that drive migration are amongst the many important issues explored by the Independent Transport Commission’s Why Travel? project. The project examines human travel from a broad range of perspectives – from biology and anthropology to literature and philosophy – to understand in greater depth the various motivation that shape human travel and its complex interactions with society, and to promote better decision-making. For more information on the project, including expert views and current research from across the sciences and humanities, see www.whytravel.org.