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Let’s talk about forced migration

Who? Where? How? When? Why?

Let’s talk about forced migration

Man has always been a migrant: according to fossil documentation and genetic analysis, it is assumed that he has evolved from Africa and then he moved to various places running away from something or looking for something else, basically the promise land. There are many common grounds and chains of causes that keep on repeating throughout history, but every case is independent for destination, journey and expectations. Mass communication, for example, supported the migratory causes, emphasizing the destination, sometimes giving power to false hopes and vain illusions. Like in the movie “Nuovomondo” di E. Crialese, in which the protagonist, Salvatore, found his motivation to start his journey thanks to a propaganda postcard portraying little peasants standing close to giant chickens or disproportionate carrots. It is never easy to talk about migratory causes; these could come from wars, environment (environmental disasters, harsh climate), religion (minorities, extremism), politics (instability, dictatorial power), economics (inequality, poverty, caste system), demographic pressure.

Il numero dei migranti forzati nel 2016 eguaglia la popolazione della Francia.

In 2015, as reported by the annual Global Trends of UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), the number of people forced to leave their own countries was 65.3 million. Globally it means that 1 in 113 people is an asylum seeker, or an internally displace person or a refugee. We can deduce that forced migration produces these 3 sub-groups of people: refugees are those which received a protection status under the Geneva Convention; asylum seekers are those who asked for international protection and are waiting for the approval; the internally displace people are obliged to leave their own houses because of rights violation, but haven’t crossed un international border.

All over the world, Turkey is the main hosting country, which hosts 2.5 million of refugees. Lebanon hosts the highest number of refugees compared to the population: 200 refugees per 1000 inhabitants. Let’s try to compare the number of the asylum seekers hosted in Lebanon to the ones hosted in Italy and let’s try to compare the nationalities they belong to considering the migratory routes they undertook.

Confronto visivo tra i richiedenti in Libano e quelli presenti in Italia.

To link migratory routes with the nationalities that reach the two countries we have to consider the whole flow of immigrants. We can see that Lebanon, which shares a border with Syria and Israel and it’s close to Iraq, hosts more than a million of Syrian refugees (*from UNHCR data, we know that the number of asylum seekers coincides with the number of refugees), and there are 450 thousand stateless people from Palestine and 80 thousand refugees from Iraq. All of them live in refugee camps, now became ghettos: the stateless people from Palestine are defined as citizens of no state, they were born, grown and made their children grow in Lebanon, but they’re not recognized as Lebanese citizens. The 70% of refugees from Iraq live below the poverty threshold, juggling through extortions, blackmailing and exploitation in order to be sponsored by a Lebanese person to have some fundamental rights respected, as reported at the beginning of 2017 by the international press.

Principali rotte migratorie verso l'italia

Italy is mainly involved in migratory Mediterranean routes, even though a limited incoming flow has also been registered through the Balkan passage by land: in fact, most of the asylum applications come from Pakistan. By simplifying there are three main routes: western, central and eastern route. The people who use the last one are mainly led by conflicts, violence and instability. The young Africans who come through the central and western route mainly run away for socio-economic reasons, high rates of poverty, political instability and terrorism. Until the end of 2015, the most covered route was the eastern one, shorter and safer compared to the central one; in 2016 it has been registered the 75% of deaths, according to Oim’s data (World Organization for Migration) and Uhncr. Politics of deterrence resulted from the agreement UE-Turkey have led to a major use of the central route, as reported by Oim in a research conducted at the end of 2016 on the socio-economical profile of immigrants who come to Italy, that shows 1000 people coming from different reception facilities.

Considering the sample meaningful for the whole migrant population who came to Italy in 2016 we can say that:

  • 2/3 of the interviewed immigrants came from Western Africa;
  • 80% of them were young men;
  • on average, their journey to Italy lasted 1.7 years;
  • most of them had to work in the countries of transit to be able to pay for the rest of the journey;
  • many of them didn’t want to come to Italy when they left their country of origin;
  • 91% of them reached Italy by sea, 10% by land and 8% by plane.

Among the ones who came by sea, a high percentage come from Western Africa and arrived to Libya through Niger1. Libya represents the first starting point towards Europe for the immigrants coming from the Horn of Africa as well, who arrive there through crossing Sudan2. Only a small minority starts from Egypt to avoid Libya, that’s very dangerous; many stories of physical and psychological cruelty have been told about Libya.

Le rotte migratorie africane

Immigrants coming from Middle East and Asia must face a harder trip; some of them reach Libya by land or by plane, like the majority of Pakistani and cross the Mediterranean Sea towards Italy. A second route is by land through crossing Austria, after crossing the Balkan route through Turkey.

The number of arrivals registered by the hotspots in Italy are not the same as the asylum applications presented: this means that after the arrival and after a first declaration of identity, some immigrants choose to take other routes, usually escape or illegal routes, to continue the migratory journey. It should be noted that the asylum applications presented in Italy increased enormously during the years, mainly because of the criminal organizations that manage the traffic and teach the immigrants about the bureaucratic procedures to adopt once arrived at the destination country. It is very important to remember that most of these people escape their countries because of safety reasons, religious, social or sexual discriminations. Some of them have purely economic reasons, considering the extreme poverty of their countries of origin or other familiar reasons, such as forced marriages or domestic violence.

To conclude, most migrants who tries to organize the migratory project don’t know the destination and the length of the journey. They leave their countries with some money, but they don’t exactly know how much they will pay. In order to continue the project, they will need to stop, work and save up some more money. Unluckily it’s the individual who chooses to leave, usually it’s a family or village choice: the family goes into debt to pay for the trip selling lands, animals, or borrowing money. So, when we find ourselves in front of a migrant, often the firstborn, we are not only talking to him, but to his whole family who expects something from him: results, money and news about him.

Then, why do people move from one country to another? Easy! Because they want a different option!


  • Dossier Statistico Immigrazione 2014/2015/2015. Rapporto UNAR – Sintesi a cura del Centro Studi e Ricerche IDOS
  • Study on migrants’ profiles drivers of migration and migratory trends a cura dell’Organizzazione Internazionale per le Migrazioni
  • Global Trends 2015 a cura dell’Alto Commissariato delle Nazioni Unite per i Rifugiati
  • Immigrati: da emergenza a opportunità. Dimensione, effetti economici, politiche a cura di Confindustria Centro Studi



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