Facts, statistics, and data are quite boring. For it is so much easier for us to perform perfunctory scans on our smartphones of pictures of desperate women and children eager to reach Europe. These are of course the types of images splashed across the front pages of much of the Western media these days. Yet these images are highly misleading and inaccurate.
Why it is so important to get one’s facts right is the following: if one’s facts are wrong, one’s resulting conclusions will always be wrong as well. Which is perhaps why so many discussions about mass migration into Europe devolve into the ill-informed assertion that “Europe must take the refugees.” Period, end of discussion.
Take Italy, for example. Italy is a country that has recently very much been in the news due to the massive wave of migration that has befallen the nation. And as it turns out, despite the passionate proclamations of our comfortable, smug, and very "woke" friends, the vast majority of people entering Italy this year are not refugees, at least not by any standard definition of the term.
And speaking of definitions, let us refer to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) own definition of the term:
“A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so.”
But more on that later.
Eurostat, the “statistical office of the European Union,” has released quite an extensive set of data about recent mass migration into Europe. Its findings are quite striking, especially relating to Italy, the country on which I would like to focus today.
The data released by Eurostat very much contradict the widely-held perception that most of the migration into Italy at the moment is comprised of refugees fleeing war and other strife. This is simply not true, as the data below indicate.
Asylum Applicants into Italy, Q1 2017 (source: Eurostat)
Only 1.3%, or 505 persons out of a total of 37,435 migrants who entered Italy in the first quarter of 2017 were from Syria. Fact.
In terms of Afghans, they constituted 0.8% of arrivals into Italy in the first quarter of 2017. Iraqis comprised a slightly-higher 1.6% of migrants into Italy during this same time period.
So who is currently coming to Italy? According to Eurostat’s Quarterly Asylum Report, the main countries of origin for migrants are Nigeria (22%), Gambia (8%), Bangladesh (8%), Senegal (8%), and Pakistan (7%).
None of these countries are collapsed states. For the most part, they are politically-stable democracies. And despite some parts of say, Nigeria and Pakistan currently under the control of Islamic extremists, the majority of the geographical territories of these countries are safe and habitable. Hence, even those living with fear of death or persecution in these countries can internally migrate to other safe areas before striving to head off to Sweden.
Yet it is true, for example, that 47% of Senegalese live in poverty, according to the World Bank. But it is probably not the case that the people entering Europe at the moment are those who were living in poverty.
It is reported that smugglers who ferry people across the Mediterranean charge an average of €3000-€6000 per person, hardly a price that most people living on less than $1.90 a day are able to afford. In any case, if poverty alone were grounds to claim asylum into Europe, then over 600 million people worldwide could ultimately claim asylum in Europe today. This would more than double the European Union’s current population of 510 million.
What is more telling, however, and what would probably give us more of a truthful insight into what is ultimately going on with mass migration into Italy at the moment, are the age and sex statistics of the migrants themselves.
A whopping 85% of migrants into Italy during the first quarter of this year were male. Moreover, 81% of these males were aged between 18 and 35 years old, meaning that 69% of all arrivals into Italy in the first quarter of this year were males aged between 18 and 35.
“And what about the children?” you ask. Well, those aged under 14 constituted a mere 4% of arrivals in the first quarter of this year.
Hence what is clearly going on at the moment, at least in the case of Italy, is a vast and immense economic migration of young males seeking a better life in Europe.
Further evidence that most of the arrivals into Italy are economic migrants can be deduced by looking at the migrant routes in the illustration below.
In this illustration, it is clear that most sub-Saharan migrants who take the so-called “central Mediterranean route” into Europe must first pass through other safe, stable countries before embarking on the dangerous journey off the coast of Libya. Those migrating from Nigeria, Senegal, and Gambia must often travel through Niger, for example in order to ultimately get to Libya.
Which begs the question: if these people are legitimate refugees, why aren’t they claiming asylum in Niger? Niger would be a perfect place to do this, and in fact the UNHCR has this year opened an office in Agadez for precisely this purpose.
Yet the vast majority of sub-Saharan migrants nonetheless willingly continue on to the ultra-dangerous nation of Libya, a sort of satellite Caliphate for ISIS. Hence we are supposed to believe that these individuals who are supposedly fleeing imminent death or persecution are willingly putting themselves in a position in which they might yet again face death or persecution. But this time at the hands of those charming chaps called ISIS.
They then proceed to embark on the perilous journey across the Mediterranean on dingy vessels. Some (a deep minority) even bring their toddlers and babies along for the ride, putting their children at grave risk.
Anyone with any connection to reality should hence know what is going on here: huge masses of people from sub-Saharan Africa are choosing to put their lives at risk in the hope of finding a better life in Europe. This is totally understandable, and an aspiration that requires our sympathy. What it does not require, however, is for us to continue, at least in the Italian case, to refer to these people as genuine “refugees.”
More bizarre still is the European response to all of this. Upon intercepting the migrant vessels in the Mediterranean, instead of returning the vessels to Libya, the European authorities either use their own ships to safely escort migrants to Italy, or allow various NGOs to do the job for them.
I would think that anyone with a modicum of intellectual horsepower would be able to realize that this type of behavior provides immense incentives for further migration to continue ad infinitum. Yet the European political class doesn’t seem to have this modicum of intellectual horsepower.
Even Frontex, the European border patrol agency, has admitted that search and rescue (SAR) operations of the sort conducted by NGOs have been a “pull factor” for further migration. In its Risk Analysis 2017 paper, Frontex states that, “In this context, it transpired that both border surveillance and SAR missions close to, or within, the 12 mile territorial waters of Libya have unintended consequences. Namely, they influence smugglers’ planning and act as a pull factor.”
So the question becomes: when, if at all, will Europeans say, “enough is enough”?
Not soon, it appears. According to Eurostat’s Asylum Quarterly Report, “citizens of 143 countries sought asylum for the first time in the EU in the first quarter of 2017.” Let us repeat that number: 143. Let me remind you that 143 countries constitutes 73% of all the 196 countries in the world.
Thus if people from 73% of the world’s countries believe that they can claim asylum in Europe, Europe has truly opened its doors to the rest of the world with very little or no discretion.
Perhaps this was the ultimate plan of Mr. Jean Claude-Juncker, who once famously said that, “borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians.” His bestie Angie Merkel seems to agree- she recently said that there would be “no upper limit” to the number of asylum applicants Germany will take.
Any human can be moved and touched upon seeing people drift across the Mediterranean in small boats hoping for a better life in Europe.
But to paraphrase Douglas Murray, author of The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, could Europe not be a boat itself which will someday capsize due to the immense burdens currently being placed on it?