Criminal syndicates are increasingly turning from smuggling drugs to human cargo, and governments and law-enforcement agencies are, despite huge efforts, not able to do much about it. Watch Angelina Jolie talk about the desperation of refugees that make them turn to people smugglers:
Unfortunately it's not just between Africa and the Arabian peninsula people are being smuggled. And lamentably there is only so much humanitarian organisations can do to alleviate suffering.
Who benefits apart from the smugglers?
Frequently Africans are then smuggled from the Middle East to Europe at the cost of approximately $10,000 per person. The most popular destinations are Scandinavia and Britain. But once there some immigrants fail to integrate into society because they they really do not want to be in Europe, but because they can't make a living back home they felt they had no choice. Can't help thinking that all this is so unnecessary and the only ones benefiting are some vested interests and the gangsters making money smuggling them. The latter charge hefty fees of $10,000 per person but many migrants still die en route. Or remain in debt to the people smugglers with all that entails.
So how can we enable poor people to support themselves in their home countries hence depriving people smugglers of their lucrative income? Aid doesn't seem to do the trick, at least not so far. So why should more foreign aid suddenly be able to remedy the current situation?
Trade instead of aid
Am a firm believer of replacing aid with trade by helping developing countries trade themselves out of poverty. And the swiftest and easiest way of doing so would be to enable them to sell their agricultural produce on the international market.
The EU spends almost two fifths of its entire budget (EU budget for 2010 around 139bn Euros) on the Common Agricultural Program, CAP, and even pay European farmers to overproduce. Those products are then dumped at ultra low prises in developing countries, whose farmers are not able to produce at such low costs. Result – poor farmers become even poorer and developing countries even more dependent on imports to feed their population.
Scrap CAP and US farm subsidies
Scrapping CAP as well as US farm subsidies would thus go a long way towards improving the lives of poor people in developing countries and hence reduce people smugglers income. But chances of that happening are slim, unfortunately, since farmers are a strong lobby group in the US and out of 27 EU member countries only four are interested in gradually getting rid of CAP.
All consumers in the world would benefit from abolition of EU & US agricultural subsidies since agricultural products would suddenly become much cheaper. Less immigrants would would be forced to use the services of people smugglers since more of them would be able to support themselves back home. Less Westerners become farmers anyway, so why don't we press fast forward and make this world a better place for all, apart from people smugglers?
What's the point in depriving developing countries of their ability to trade themselves out of poverty? The only thing Western Agricultural subsidies achieve is preserving a profession that is in decline in the West anyway? Wouldn't it be better to take a more holistic view and find solutions that are beneficial to all, instead of just a few? We also have to improve the global trade regime that has been crafted over the years by the WTO to benefit not only multinationals in the North but also the poor in the South. But abolishing Western agricultural subsidies would make an excellent start.
(Video – AngelinaJolieUNHCR)