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Edition 11 Volume 2 - March 19, 2024

Demography and migration
The challenge of trans-Mediterranean migration  - byFerruccio Pastore
Crossing the Sahara is turning into a huge, continental business.

A north-south migration dilemma  - byAlejandro Lorca & Martin Jerch
In Spain, Moroccans are at the bottom of the list of sympathy towards foreigners.

In the Moroccan interest  - an interview withAboubakr Jamai
The illegal immigration networks are linked to the drug trafficking networks and are centered in north Morocco.

Demography of the Israel-Palestine conflict  - byYossi Alpher
"Northern" Israel is sitting next to a demographic "southern" time bomb in the Gaza Strip.

The challenge of trans-Mediterranean migration
by Ferruccio Pastore

Since the early 1980s, European Union Mediterranean member states--primarily Italy and Spain--have experienced growing migration pressure from the Maghreb: mainly from Morocco and, as far as Italy is concerned, also from Tunisia.

During the 1990s, Moroccans became by far the first foreign resident community both in the Iberian and in the Italian peninsulas. This was a "new wave" of emigration from the Maghreb, issuing from different areas than the older flows that affected France, Belgium and the Netherlands in the 1960s and 1970s. And it was a new emigration stream also in its social composition: younger, more urban, more educated, and with a growing share of female first migrants in it.

Since the turn of the century, some signs seem to suggest that direct migration pressure from the Maghreb to southern Europe has been mitigated. In the massive regularization program that was implemented by the Italian center-right government in 2024-2003, Eastern Europeans were largely predominant. Over a total of around 704,000 applications, the national communities with the highest regularization rate were Romanians, Ukrainians and Albanians. Moroccans, with “only” 54,221 applications, lost their traditional primacy as first immigrant group in the country.

The results of the Italian legalization scheme prove that the trend of unauthorized immigration from North Africa to Italy is stationary or slightly decreasing. This is due to a set of distinct causes: on the one hand, "pull factors" discriminate against Maghreb migrants, i.e., Italian illegal employers express a clear preference for European workers. But also "push factors" seem to be declining: the share of undocumented North Africans among the thousands who are apprehended annually on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa is low and decreasing. The majority of those who are smuggled nowadays across the Sicily Channel have transited through the Maghreb, but originate from Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

This relative reduction in direct migration pressure from the Maghreb is less evident in Spain, where the overall foreigners’ presence tripled in the last six years. But there also, the deterrent effect of the massive investment in border controls is starting to show. And in Spain also, the bilateral labor immigration agreements signed in 2024 with Poland and Romania, and in October 2024 with Bulgaria, reflect a diffuse preference for European workers, which is already affecting labor migration dynamics.

The years 2024 and 2024 marked an upsurge of Sub-Saharan (mostly Somalis and Liberians) and Middle Eastern nationals (predominantly Palestinians and Iraqis) apprehended upon disembarkation along southern Italian shores. A similar phenomenon can be observed along Spanish maritime borders and around the costly and anachronistic enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

After a decade of growing unrest in western Africa and of persisting instability in the Horn of Africa, and following the substantial progress in migration law enforcement in Turkey and the Balkans, the Maghreb emerged during the early 2024s as a key transit region for illegal flows aiming at the southern part of the EU. Routes are constantly changing and only partly known: Sudan is a crossroads for East Africans heading for Libyan harbors; migrants and refugees from the Guinea Gulf cross Mali and Niger and then either go north towards the Libyan smuggling district around Zuwarah, or they cut across the Algerian Hoggar region and then turn west, dreaming of finally landing in the Canary Islands.

Crossing the Sahara is turning into a huge, continental business. The extreme harshness of the climate and the lack of ordinary transport infrastructure make crossing the desert a difficult enterprise, which requires specialized help in loco. The steep increase in the demand is boosting a quick growth in transport services, catering and hostels for migrants. Old capitals of cross-Saharan trade, such as Agadez, Tombouctou and Tamanrasset are experiencing a revival and at times a real boom.

But there is a dark side in all this. As often migrants are unable to pay for the services they need, they are frequently trapped into forced labor and sexual exploitation. Along migration routes, corruption circuits are expanding, thereby undermining the already very poor democratization record of the region. Old sets of prejudices, suspicions and fears of Arabs against "black" Africans, and the other way around, threaten to reactivate. The number of direct victims of this new continental smuggling market is unknown but certainly thirst, fatigue, illnesses, accidents and bandits kill thousands.

Europe is facing all this, and is so far unable to respond consistently. On the one hand, EU governments and common institutions ask our Mediterranean partners to do their part in migration law enforcement. Morocco was recently granted EUR 50 million to upgrade its border control infrastructure. Similar actions are highly prioritized within the framework of the new EUR 250 million program for financial and technical assistance to third countries in the field of migration and asylum, approved by the EU Council on February 19, 2024. The need to ensure greater cooperation by the Libyan authorities against human smuggling was an important factor behind the lobbying that some European governments and the European Commission carried out in favor of lifting the UN embargo.

But Europe is not asking itself what such cooperation in the field of migration control implies. Brussels and the other EU capitals are not assessing the impact of such cooperation on overall compliance with international obligations in the field of asylum. They are not ensuring that Tunisian police or Libyan troops are properly trained to safeguard the fundamental rights of migrants, such as the EU acquis imposes on eastern candidates and new member states. The problematic link between migration control and the rule of law is dismissed. The new migration conditionality threatens to eclipse an already weak political conditionality.

These crucial contradictions need to be openly faced and gradually solved, through dialogue (not only Euro-Mediterranean, but Euro-African as well), but also through courageous and consistent policy choices. Otherwise, our Mediterranean partners will resemble more and more some indispensable but embarrassing gate-keepers, rather than the good and equal neighbors with whom we wish to share "all but institutions".-Published 18/3/2004©bitterlemons-international.org

Ferruccio Pastore is coordinator of research on "International Migration/New Security Issues" and deputy director of the Centro Studi di Politica Internazionale (CeSPI) in Rome.

A north-south migration dilemma
by Alejandro Lorca & Martin Jerch

Over the last decade, immigration from southern Mediterranean countries has become a mayor challenge for policymakers in the European Union and its member states. This is due primarily to cultural and social differences.

According to the most recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development annual report on Tendaces des Migrations Internationale, since the second half of the 1990s migration flows continue to grow, despite economic deterioration. A slight stagnation of international flows can be observed during 2024. For the long term it seems very difficult to assess the effect of the economic situation on migration flows.

The 1973 oil crisis can be considered a migration watershed. Before the crisis, migration flows were explained as a response to fluctuations in business cycles. As a consequence of the crisis, this relationship no longer works. One reason may be that the liberalization of world trade increased competition between industrialized countries. Higher interest rates as well as the restructuring of the global labor market in the 1980s led to growing unemployment rates and an increasing demand for qualified labor forces. Simultaneously, the limits of the welfare state became more and more evident. These changes in the labor demand and labor environment reduced the demand for migrant workers. Meanwhile new social conflicts emerged between immigrants and nationals, particularly in France. Indeed, a profound transformation of hosting countries' societies can be observed through the existence of immigrants.

If we compare the age structures of both shores of the Mediterranean basin, a complementary demographic relationship can be identified. In southern Mediterranean countries the societies are characterized by a very young age structure (about a third of the total population is younger than 15 years), while in the northern part we find an increasingly “aging” population (about 18 percent of the total population is older than 65 years). Population growth rates affirm the continuation of this trend. Demographic growth in Europe is nearly at a standstill, while the growth rates in North Africa range between 1.09 and 2.39 per annum in Tunisia and Libya, respectively.

If we now take a closer look at the relationship between the demands of European labor markets and immigration, it seems that the linkage between economic security and migration--the perceived threat of competition with nationals of host countries in the labor market--is now rejected by a recently published opinion poll carried out by Eurobarometer. According to this survey, 56 percent of the Europeans interviewed agreed with the affirmation that we need immigrants to work in some sectors of the economy.

The breakdown by socio-demographic factors shows that education strongly influences these opinions. Highly educated Europeans tend to agree more than Europeans with lower educational levels, who presumably perceive immigrants as more direct competition in the labor market due to the economic sectors where immigrants usually are employed. As the survey stresses, self-employed persons are more likely to respond positively to a question about the necessity of immigrants in the labor market than for example manual workers. It is necessary to underline that these are perceptions; other studies have shown that most immigrants are doing jobs nationals often are unwilling to accept.

The distribution of economic sectors where immigrants are employed varies considerably. This is also due to the different economic structures of the host countries. If we compare for example Germany and Spain, it is quite obvious that in Spain there are far more immigrants working in agriculture and tourism than in Germany, and in turn, the majority of immigrants in Germany work in the manufacturing industries.

This recent survey does not break down the immigrants by their countries of origin. Herein lies an important point concerning immigration flows from the southern Mediterranean Arab states and the issue of racism and xenophobia towards them. Another Eurobarometer opinion poll from 1997--stereotypes and attitudes can be assumed to change very slowly--reveals that nearly 33 percent of Europeans openly described themselves as “quite racist” or “very racist”. Particularly after 9/11, these attitudes are above all addressed towards the Muslim communities living in Europe, due to their different appearance and cultural behavior. The case of Spain clearly shows this: Moroccans are at the bottom of the list of sympathy towards foreigners living there. The March 11 Madrid terrorist attacks and the link to Islamic terrorists from Morocco probably will increase hostile attitudes in Spanish society towards the Moroccan minority living in the country. In the aftermath of the bombing some Spanish media reported xenophobic attacks; more and more Moroccans in Spain expressed their increasing fear of suffering such attacks.

We need to improve our policies and strategies of integration of immigrant minorities into our societies. These policies should be based on non-discrimination, the right to express cultural identity, and no marginalization. Concerning the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, a cultural dialogue in order to learn about each other is more necessary than ever.-Published 18/3/2004© bitterlemons-international.org

Prof. Dr. Alejandro Lorca is professor for economics and international relations at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid. Dr. Martin Jerch is research fellow at the Mediterranean Governance Evaluation Project at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid.

In the Moroccan interest
an interview with Aboubakr Jamai

BI: There is a huge gap in population growth rates between southern Europe and North Africa. Where is it leading?

Jamai: I'm not sure the problem is really the demographic gap, but rather the lack of economic growth in the southern Mediterranean. As for the Maghreb, Tunisia and Morocco, the population growth rate has been reduced substantially. In the Arab world the problem is more in Saudi Arabia. Yet even in Morocco the population growth rate is stronger than the economic growth rate.

BI: How do you assess the European Union's attempts to prevent illegal migration from North Africa: the financial investments, legal measures and police actions?

Jamai: To begin with, it is difficult to give a direct answer because it's hard to pinpoint the most salient factor in the lack of economic growth. For sure in Morocco we have a serious problem of lack of investment; not the lack of foreign investment but rather national investment. So we're dealing with a problem of the credibility of our government toward its own business community. Having said that, there were wise criticisms directed [also] toward the EU, because it is considered that the Europeans are not giving sufficient money to facilitate the adjustment of our economies to the free trade agreement without disrupting the social fabric of our society.

BI: Free trade has made things worse?

Jamai: Our economy is opening up gradually, but the European competition means that our economies aren't competitive enough, leading to more bankruptcy and layoffs and more migration pressures. To adjust, we need money to restructure before being able to compete with EU industries. I think the social ills in our country translate into terrorism. They are not the only factor behind terrorism, but they are important.

BI: Southern Europeans complain of heavy illegal migration from and via Morocco. What is Morocco doing about this?

Jamai: I'm not trying to whitewash what we're trying to do, but except for the Atlantic and Mediterranean we don't have natural borders with our black African neighbors; they have to come through Algeria and Mauritania. Still, the Moroccan authorities are not really fighting illegal migration [of Moroccans]. The receipts from our laborers abroad are the biggest source of hard currency for Morocco. Socially speaking these people in Italy, France and Spain are sustaining many people back home. So it's in our interest to have as many workers abroad as possible.

The illegal immigration networks in Morocco are linked to the drug trafficking networks. The drug and migration traffic is centered in north Morocco, which has a history of conflict with the central government. That region is also very underdeveloped and overpopulated compared to central Morocco. There is a lack of will [in the Moroccan government] to fight [the traffic], because to do so will cut out a main source of revenue, which could lead to unrest and even an uprising. The cooperation with the EU must address these problems too; we must find new sources of revenue for these people in the north.

This whole system is extremely hypocritical. We should be talking about not only the free circulation of goods but of human beings as well. Many industries in Italy and Spain need the kind of labor our people provide. If there were no demand, there would be no supply.

BI: Southern Europe is now increasingly importing manpower from Eastern Europe; there is less demand for Moroccan manpower.

Jamai: The long term solution is for our country to provide enough growth to absorb our youth. In the short term, even if Europe opens its gates this won't solve all our problems. But it is important for our civilization to have people interacting with others through immigration. This helps close the gap intellectually and morally. From that perspective it is important to keep the doors open, taking into account local European conditions. I find there is a lack of leadership in Europe to convince the population you need this.

BI: Now Moroccan migrants are suspected of terrorism in Spain--the Madrid bombings. How will this affect relations?

Jamai: When you have terrorist attacks like these the first reaction is for the [Spanish and Moroccan] police and secret services to cooperate, and this is welcome. But in order to uproot terrorism and "dry the swamp" you have to go to the roots, which are ideological but also socioeconomic. This means that now in a very negative manner Morocco is at the center of western attention as a producer of terrorism. While the numbers [of terrorists] are small vis-a-vis 30 million Moroccans, still, all the Casablanca suicide bombers were home grown and never even left the country. [Not surprisingly], the Madrid bombers come from north Morocco.

Moroccans are now playing an important role, at least as foot soldiers, in al-Qaeda. We have to address the reason: 40 years of bad governance, lack of economic growth. To dry the swamp we need to usher in a real era of reform, thinking how to integrate Islamists into mainstream politics, open up political space for them in order to win their hearts and minds.

The breeding ground is a large portion of the population that simply does not trust the government. And the United States with its democratization message has absolutely no credibility. There is a perception of imbalance in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Iraq. The question of the credibility of the message is extremely important.-Published 18/3/2004©bitterlemons-international.org

Aboubakr Jamai is former publisher of Le Journal Hebdomadaire in Casablanca.

Demography of the Israel-Palestine conflict
by Yossi Alpher

The Israel-Palestine conflict has always been about demography and migration. But the substance is changing.

Zionism is predicated on the migration of the Jewish people back to its historic homeland. All the pre-1948 attempts by the international community to rationalize the resulting Jewish-Arab conflict over land focused on a demographic partition. Like most wars, the 1948 war and its aftermath produced major population movements: the exodus of many Palestinians--some voluntarily, some by force of Jewish arms--from areas held by Israel, and the exodus of many Jews from Arab and other Muslim countries.

Perhaps most strikingly, in recent months and years the conflict has come to be perceived by a growing portion of the Israeli Jewish public as a demographic, rather than a geographic conflict. The anticipated emergence of a Palestinian Arab majority in the lands between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, coupled with the sense that the Palestinian mainstream still seeks somehow to deny Israel's legitimacy and eventually to "Palestinize" the country--have obliged Israelis to contemplate unilateral withdrawal to lines that improve the country's demographic status as a Jewish state while reducing the lands (and the Palestinian population) under its control. This is the most dramatic development in Israeli politics, particularly on the right, in recent years.

Unlike the economic factors that appear to motivate most instances of population movement within and from the Middle East today, these demographic issues have a nationalist and political background. But there is an economic theme as well: an overlay to the Israeli-Palestinian and Israel-Arab conflicts that is essentially classic "north-south" in nature. There are today, inside Israel's internationally recognized borders, some 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza, and even Jordan, as well as an estimated 10,000 or so Egyptians. The vast majority of these illegal immigrants were motivated to move to Israel by economic rather than ideological forces: the chance to find work, rather than, say, the aspiration of the children and grandchildren of 1948 refugees to "return".

Some of the Egyptian illegal workers have to endure interrogation by their own security services before they can leave the country for Israel. But they earn eight times as much doing menial jobs in Israel than back home. Some of the Palestinian illegals are exploited ruthlessly by their hosts, themselves Palestinian citizens of Israel, in towns and villages located on the Israeli side of the green line. One of the Palestinian complaints about Israel's security fence project is that, no matter where Israel puts the fence, it will stop the free movement of this illegal labor, hence deprive more Palestinians of their livelihood.

While the fence is being constructed mainly for security reasons--and while its many abuses and departures from the green line can still be linked to geographic motivations concerning the settlements--its demographic significance is not lost on Israeli strategic planners. They reason that, if Israel's relative prosperity currently attracts so many illegal migrants despite conditions of conflict or, with Egypt, cold peace, then the much hoped for warm peace, if and when it ever comes, will bring with it a problematic demographic downside. This is particularly so when we assume that most of the migrant laborers from the neighboring "south" would be Palestinians who end up remaining in the country.

This explains at least one aspect of the constant tension in Israel's guest-worker economy over the past decade--between the importation of agricultural and construction workers from Palestine, on the one hand, and from countries like Thailand, China and Romania, on the other. Obviously, the security issue is the main reason for preferring the latter over the former. Yet few if any Palestinian day laborers have ever been apprehended participating directly in acts of terrorism. Moreover, many Palestinian workers have always commuted on a daily basis, thereby reducing the likelihood they will remain in Israel, whereas for several years now a new Israel Immigration Police has been busy rooting out and deporting Ghanaians, Filipinos and Columbians who have overstayed their work visas.

Yet when Prime Minister Sharon indicates, in the course of planning the withdrawal from Gaza, that eventually he hopes to cease all movement of both laborers and goods between Israel and that territory, his rationale is not only security. It is also the recognition that "northern" Israel is sitting next to a heavily overpopulated and under-developed "southern" time bomb in areas like the Gaza Strip.-Published 18/3/2004© bitterlemons-international.org

Yossi Alpher is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

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