A Primer

by Amanda Ufheil-Somers
published in MER261

More than 52,000 would-be migrants have landed on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa in 2011. Roughly half of the arrivals are young Tunisian men looking for job opportunities in Europe. Most of the others are Sahelians, sub-Saharan Africans or South Asians fleeing the violence in Libya. In many cases, they were forced onto boats by Libyan soldiers, as part of the “invasion” Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi promised should his rule come under NATO attack. [1] The staggering number of arrivals does not include the estimated 1,500 who starved, suffocated or drowned in the central Mediterranean trying to reach Europe’s nearest shore.

The Clandestine Central Mediterranean Passage

by Naor Ben-Yehoyada
published in MER261

About 78 nautical miles separate the Tunisian town of al-Huwariyya at the head of the Cap Bon peninsula from Capo Feto at the southwestern tip of Sicily. An Italy-bound voyage between the two points, on the straight line headed roughly northeast-east, takes about 13 hours at an average speed of six knots under sail. A speedboat moving at 30-45 knots would traverse the same distance in about two hours.


In the Middle

by Carolyn Nordstrom
published in MER261

A large, sinister pair of eyes stares out from the cover of the February 2011 Wired magazine, above the heading “The Underworld Exposed.” The rest of the face is darkened, melding with the shadows. At the top of the shadows reside the words “Counterfeit Ferraris, Sex Syndicates, Darknets, Secret Societies and More!” At the bottom, between “The Nine All-Time Greatest Cons” and “What’s Inside Heroin”: “How to Buy a Kidney, p. 112.”

Spain and the EC

Sluicegate for Europe's Migrant Labor Market

by Graciela Malgesini
published in MER181

Nearly every day, off the Mediterranean coast of Spain, wealthy windsurfers unfold their multicolored sails and plunge into the waters. As often as the wind invites acrobatic risk taking on the crest of the waves, it turns the Straits into a graveyard for hundreds of Moroccan migrants. More than 200 drowned from January to October 1992 alone. Their journeys occur under conditions of extraordinary risk and with minimal chances of success. Many are captured the moment they set foot on Spanish soil, or even while still at sea. During the first ten months of 1992, 2,000 undocumented immigrants were detained on the coasts of Cadiz. In 1991, 2,500 were captured in Andalusia alone. [1] This risk they evidently prefer to the desperate poverty that motivated their flight.

Yemeni Workers Come Home

Reabsorbing One Million Migrants

by Thomas Stevenson
published in MER181

With its moderate climate and terraced highlands, Yemen is agriculturally the most productive part of the Arabian Peninsula. Yet people, not crops, have been Yemen’s major export. Migrants from the former North and South Yemen are scattered throughout the world. During the last 20 years, the majority of Yemeni migrants have gone to neighboring oil states. With up to 30 percent of adult men abroad at a time, migration affected virtually every household. The earnings of the roughly 1.25 million expatriates, coupled with heavy foreign assistance, fueled the region’s socioeconomic transformation, particularly in the north. This era of prosperity ended abruptly when Iraq invaded Kuwait in early August 1990.

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Migrants, Workers and Refugees

The Political Economy of Population Movements in the Middle East

by Michael Humphrey
published in MER181

The outset of the Gulf crisis in August 1990 saw a dramatic exodus of more than a million Asian and Arab workers as well as some 460,000 Kuwaitis from Iraq and Kuwait. Perhaps a million Yemenis felt compelled to leave Saudi Arabia. During the civil war in Iraq that followed the ground war, a million and a half Iraqi Kurds and tens of thousands of Iraqi Arabs in the southern part of the country fled to Turkey or Iran, or were displaced within Iraq’s own borders.

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Of Principle and Peril

by The Editors | published March 22, 2011

Reasonable, principled people can disagree about whether, in an ideal world, Western military intervention in Libya’s internal war would be a moral imperative. With Saddam Hussein dead and gone, there is arguably no more capricious and overbearing dictator in the Arab world than Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi. The uprising of the Libyan people against him, beginning on February 17, was courageous beyond measure. It seems certain that, absent outside help, the subsequent armed insurrection would have been doomed to sputter amidst the colonel’s bloody reprisals. 

Boys in the Mud

Maghrebi Filmmakers in France

by Alec C. Hargreaves
published in MER211

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