Published on People Move

Lampedusa – the Shadow under the Lamp

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“In Lampedusa ten days ago, the air was not only full of the stench of the decaying bodies of drowned Africans -- men, women, and children -- it reeked of hypocrisy,” writes Uri Dadush in Huffingtonpost.

In case you missed the news about this sad and shameful event, it began with migrants from Africa trying to come to Europe in a boat; it involved drowning and death of some 365 people within eyesight of the beautiful beach island of Lampedusa; and it is by no means the end of poor people trying to swim the sea for safety and survival from hunger and exploitation.

I was at the second UN High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development when this news broke among the leaders of the world’s migration experts and policy makers. We even observed a minute of silence during the plenary session to mourn the tragedy and meditate about the way forward. But we all knew, in our hearts, that precious little would be done to address the root causes of such tragedies. Only the border patrols will get a further budget increase.

True that the people of Eritrea, like the people of many other poor African countries, are trying to escape poverty and plan a better life for their children. But what are the reasons for the poor state of such nations? Italy after all was the colonial master for Eritrea for long: what role did/does that legacy play in the current state of the economy and governance of Eritrea?

Is further border control the only answer to such a tragedy? While border control would reduce the ability of people to migrate, it can also create larger developmental gaps between countries, which could then increase migration pressures. Could it be better to increase the budget for development aid than that for border control?


Dilip Ratha

Lead Economist and Economic Adviser to the Vice President of Operations, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, World Bank

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