Let’s deprive people smugglers of their income!

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) 

38 thoughts on “Let’s deprive people smugglers of their income!

  1. Catarina, Thanks for bringing this topic to light.This is such a huge problem that I honestly can't begin to fathom how to deal with it. I do not understand why our countries continue to offer farm subsidies but that's how the system works and I don't see any signs of it changing.
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  2. Sylvia, can't help wondering if you have lived, worked or studied and integrated in countries in the developing world. When you watch a documentary the people who made it have editorialized it.

  3. Catarina, this subject is clearly in your wheelhouse. I learned so much from reading this. I'm glad that you decided to repost it. I think that here in the United States we recognize that there are problems with our trade policies, immigration laws and farm subsidies. Yet, we feel helpless to affect any change, particularly in an election year.

    Thank you for sharing this. I hope you will consider doing a follow-up piece

    Kay in Hawaii

    1. Thanks Kay. Glad you like it. Honestly believe most people, above all in the West, prefer to close their eyes to these problems. Why? Because it makes their little world seem less perfect and may even, heaven forbid, make them feel bad when they buy the latest gadget.

  4. Hey Catarina,

    Give a poor man some money and he will eat for a day or two.

    Teach him how to make money and he will eat for the rest of his lifetime.

    This is what that came to my mind while I was reading your article.

    Aid doesn't work, because we don't know whether the Aid gets there (And even if it gets there, how is it used?).

    You suggested a great solution. But, I doubt that any country would ever want to do stop their own subsidized programs – it does put a lot of lives on stake).

    Economics is a hard concept, some one has to suffer all round. I think the best way to do is distribute "the pain" among others – thus making it easier for everyone, individually. Funds should be redistributed (the money that is invested in many banks like Swiss bank should be given back to the countries – the black money then can be used for the good of the country (and of the world).

    I also think we should work on the quality of the food products, rather than the quantity (using less hormones and chemicals, processing meat and other items in sanitary situations etc are different actions we can take to improve the quality). Quantity is indeed important, especially with growing world population. But, I think we should try to harvest food in large measure in methods other than things that involve genetic modification, hormone injection or something along those lines.

    I would like to add more to the discussion, but I unfortunately don't have the time (I have final exams tomorrow). Anyways, thanks once again for sharing the info, Catarina,

    Jeevan Jacob John
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  5. The challenges of changing an age old practice are very great indeed. It is reprehensible that we can't find a way out of the terrible cycle of this. When we don't see it on an every day, upfront and personal way, it is easy to turn a blind eye. Couple that with many global economies in such disarray, I fear that this will not be something many will address in a meaningful way.
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  6. Our economical tragedies are getting worst as we all know and notice that. Smugglers are getting so hot and involve on different ways as we enter on different places.
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  7. I am not sure, migrating to another country is good or bad. My family migrated to Canada because of many reasons. Poverty was not one of them.
    For centuries, people migrated from place to place in search of better opportunities.People smuggling should be stopped. there should be legal ways, which should be easy for people to migrate. I know there are many people coming to Canada as refugees and exploiting the system. Just like people exploiting the Canadian Welfare system.
    Remember, Mitt Romney said, he don't want illegal aliens in his company because he is running for the election. So, it is the powerful and rich who has to decide on the people smuggling. They just have to think a little different in making profit.
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    1. Thank you for coveying your points of view Bindhurani. Do you agree with me that it would be a good idea to make the world trade system more fair in order to enable people who want to stay in Africa or India to do so? The alternative is hiring people smugglers and ending up what Mitt Romney calls illegal aliens.

  8. Human trafficking goes back centuries and, in the U.S., it was only in 1865 that slavery was abolished. Now we have poor Mexicans being sneaked in this country, after paying thousands of dollars. It's ghastly, but many are locked in trucks and left to die in remote locations. It's hard to believe there is so much cruelty in this world. I agree that farm subsidies are a relic when many farms are owned by major multi-national syndicates. They don't need subsidies.
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    1. Glad we agree Jeannette. World trade is rigged in favour of the US and Europe. And the worst are the farm subsidies. It will have to come to an end fairly soon. So what's the point in delaying it? Chinese farmers are not subsidized.

      Agricultural products produced in the West are even dumped in the developing world at prices so low farmers in say, Africa, cannot compete. The result is that that they cannot support themselves and are smuggled to the West. And for what? To subsidize multinational syndicates. Small farms get next to nothing when it comes to agricultural subsidies.

  9. Catarina, i am very much in agreement with your statements about what needs to be done (abolishing CAP and US farming subsidies), but also with the different statements made whether this will ever be done given the vested interests. If one looks specifically at Africa a continent where I've been working with for almost twenty years now i have been noticing a change not through any policy decisions or foreign development aid but purely through private sector investments. Private financial capital flows to where returns are high and we've witnessed a large influx of FDI investing in particular in private firms active in agricultural production as well as SME's in Africa, therefore (in the long run) the long awaited development of this continent will go through private sector development with foreign capital and will slowly but surely eliminate the need to emigrate to Europe since sufficient opportunities for employment will be created. I strongly believe we'll see this happening before the agricultural subsidies will finally been scrapped.

  10. This is an issue that definitely needs to be addressed in a new way. People come to the US with hopes of having a better life but they end up in poverty because they lack skills and the language barriers make it difficult for them to find jobs that pay more than minimum wage. The US government then must pay for their medical care, assist with housing and food. It would be more economical if the aid was given to help improve their life in their country.

    I agree that increasing trade with them would make sense but american farmers are struggling to make a living and many of the small farmers have been forced to find a new way of life.

    I am not sure what the answer is but what we are doing is not working.

    1. Glad we agree Julia.

      Are you aware that most subsidies go to huge industrial farms? According to Wikipedia that by slashing agricultural subsidies taxes could be much lower as the tax payer would not have to caugh up these enormous sums. (EU 48 billion, over 40% of the entire EU budget, US $20 billion).

      Even without farm subsidies, people would eat as much as they eat today and thus demand would be equal and equal amounts would have to be gown and sold. So it is no true that millions of people would lose their jobs (there are not even so many farmers any more; in the USA, the whole agricultural labour forces – including farmers of course as its main component – is about 1% and in Germany it is more like 1,5%).

  11. I must have read dozens of articles over the years in support of you thesis and much research has been done to back up what you say in your article. The CAP is a political scandal and the subsidized over production of food in Europe and the USA is an environmental scandal too. I totally agree with you that trade and access to micro finance will do more for Africa, poverty and trans migration than politically targeted aid and dumping.

  12. Catarina – I agree in principle that paying farmers to over-produce and then dumping this excess in developing markets which messes up their agriculture (while those at home pay more anyway) and stops the developing countries from doing so, leading to the migration attempts is foolish.

    However, as you right point out, the chance of this changing is nil as politicians will not do anything that might cost them votes.

    I don't see a way around this conundrum.

    1. No it simply isn't going to happen Guy, which we agree on. Such a pity because it is costing the EU and US much more to handle and support illegal immigrants than what's paid in agricultural subsidies.

  13. You have a good suggestion, but the sad truth is that Europe and US will never agree on this. They need poor countries to outsource as well as insource their labor. So they send their NGOs to developing countries and get the local farmers out of business. These farmers then migrate to cities and also are sent to US and Europe as illegal laborers. Its a vicious circle.

  14. Yes it is.
    However, there are also millions of educated people who are also suffering with this economic crisis around the world.
    In my humble opinion with need to work with both, creating bridges and improving communities.
    I will keep you posted about the development of my project.

    1. Correct that thereare millions of educated people suffering from thisrecession. But sincerely Ed,we are all affected one way or another, but people like you and me can manage. We don't need to resortto using criminals to smuggle us to the West. Thepeople thatdo are uneducated, desparate people who believe thatriches, happinessand glory will come to them once they reach their destination. And reallyto help these people should be the main priority.

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      1. I agree, Catarina!

        Just hope my project will grow fast enough to help people around the world. I am having some talks with an African organization. They want a pilot there as well.
        We need to start somewhere, test the idea, improve it and spread.

  15. Illiteracy would be a big challenge.
    Honestly I do not have an answer at this moment since my project still an idea. I have the same problem in my home country (Brazil).
    What we could do is to work with their kids (if they are enrolled in a school) or utilize a community center in order to organize them.
    The beauty is the budget: very low, comparing to any aid program out there and home entrepreneurship is the basis of the program.

    1. Yes, illiteracy is a Catch 22, isn't it? And until ALL governments in the world provide basic schooling for ALL their citizens it will remain the biggest problem. And those are the desparate people that manage to scrape together enough money to pay people smugglers.

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  16. In my particular case I am targeting individuals not systems.
    My project can potentially create wealth without all the hassles from the politics. Of course is experimental but my hopes are high.
    Wealth creation through jobs still a big trend around the world but it reached a limit.

    1. Ed I like your ideas.

      But what are we going to do with all the desparate poor people who can not read and write? They need jobs and what can they do? It's those people that are smuggled into the West and, again, become a problem. That's where abolishing agricultural subsidies come in.

      In a way I would say that those people are a priority because there really isn't much of a way out for them. Until their circumstances aprove there will be a lot of problems with crime, prosititution etc. What can your scheme do for them? 🙂

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  17. true Catarina the world economy is so skewed that prices of food and other essentials bear no resemblance to what economists expected based on supply and demand. Therefore little logic applies these days and people are driven from homes and countries as life on the streets of Mumbai is better than starvation in their village.



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