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EU Concerns over Mideast Migrants

Interviewee: Jean-Phillipe Chauzy, Head of Media and Public Information, International Organization for Migration
Interviewer: Aimee Rawlins, Production Editor, CFR.org
April 14, 2011

Thousands of people fleeing turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa are heading for the coast of southern Europe. Italy has borne the brunt of this migration, particularly on the island of Lampedusa, only seventy miles from Tunisia. More than 23,000 people have fled to Lampedusa this year, beginning with the overthrow of Ben Ali's regime in Tunisia, says Jean-Phillipe Chauzy, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). On April 6, a boat travelling from Tunisia to the Italian island capsized off the coast, with more than 250 migrants presumed dead.

The IOM and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) are working together to evacuate and monitor the temporary camps that house these people. While the UNHCR deals primarily with refugees who are seeking asylum from political unrest or violence and natural disasters, IOM focuses on economic migrants, many of whom are "working in the informal sector of the economy." Europe's demand for cheap labor insures a continual flow of migrants. Chauzy says that to mitigate this, Europe must invest to improve the socioeconomic situation in North Africa.

The influx of refugees and migrants into Europe from North Africa promises to remain a significant issue, particularly as Europe's economic situation remains shaky. "We're seeing migration being used for political ends, to gain votes," says Chauzy. "We are seeing a stigmatization of immigrants in Europe, and we're seeing, unfortunately, a xenophobic backlash throughout Europe."


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