Will more than 1 million refugees and migrants arrive in Europe by sea in 2016? (update)

@redacted writes in response to an earlier post:

The physical constraints imposed by the actual watercraft that are required for various routes need to be considered. Longer distances require more substantial (expensive) boats. Rubber dinghies, more or less “disposable,” and suitable for the Turkey-Greek Aegean route, won’t suffice for Libya to Sicily runs, will they? Beside the logistics and manpower involved in transiting the middle of the Mediterranean, smugglers would be losing valuable (and difficult to replace) watercraft assets via confiscation of vessels.

Of course, @redacted is quite right. Smugglers need both labor and capital to get refugees and migrants to Europe. That said, seaworthy craft are relatively easy to acquire on the white market. Hell, you can even buy them on eBay. Okay, don’t take that too seriously. But the labor part of the equation would be, I believe, much harder to solve in the short run than the capital problem, and that’s why I focused on it above.

Of course, what I just said, assumes that [1] the smugglers (Should I call them “Coyotajes”?) would be able to pass these costs on to their customers, and [2] that the customers would be able to pay these costs. I’m pretty sure [1] is correct since this is a clandestine black market transaction, and as a result there wouldn’t be a lot of open price competition. (I lived in Colorado before the new pot laws took effect, and I used to see signs that said “$25/for an Eighth” in some seedy shop windows, but that was pretty rare.)

I’m confident, though not certain, about [2]. There’s _some_ reason to believe that refugees and migrants coming from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan would have more wealth than those coming from the countries that are currently taking the north Africa-Italy route. Approximate GDP/capita –> Nigeria=$6,000, Gambia=$1,800, Senegal=$2,300, Guinea=$1,200, Ivory Coast=$3,000, Somalia=$600 (not a misprint: $600), Mali=$1,700. In contrast, Syrian GDP/capita was about $5,000 before the war began. Iraqi GDP/capita is about 3 times larger. While Afghan GDP/capita lags well behind both Syria and Iraq at about $2000, it is still higher than that of Gambia, Guinea, Somalia, and Mali.

Obviously, GDP/capita is a very, very crude measure of the expected wealth of people who are fleeing for their lives from their war ravaged homes. And it doesn’t take into consideration, for example, the considerable expenses involved with the longer overland passage to North Africa. But reports of, e.g., middle class (by the standards of their situation) Syrians being among the refugees have been common for some time[1][2]. And the reports[3][4] about the absolutely disgraceful practice by some European states of confiscating the wealth of refugees presupposes that they have wealth worth confiscating. One might add to this the fact that at least some bourgeoisie migrants and refugees[5] bring with them professional skills that can be used to generate wealth too. A doctor, nurse, engineer, car mechanic, skilled machinist, etc. would be in a better position to earn a buck than someone from a much poorer country who wasn’t lucky enough to have this kind of training.

So, yeah, I guess I do think that there’s a good chance that if refugees and migrants coming from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan make it to North Africa, some – perhaps even most – will be able to pay higher prices to the human smugglers in order to cover the cost of the capital involved. But not all. And that’s even more reason to think that we’ll see fewer than 1,000,000 refugees and migrants arrive by sea in Europe this year.

NB: GDP/capita numbers taken from the IMF, CIA, and World Bank via https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita

[1] http://www.ibtimes.com/europe-refugee-crisis-facts-wealthy-educated-syrians-risking-lives-leave-war-2089018

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10450787/Rich-refugees-pay-thousands-to-flee-war-torn-Syria-in-luxury.html

[3] https://www.rt.com/news/329736-germany-denmark-refugees-confiscate/

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/26/danish-parliament-approves-plan-to-seize-assets-from-refugees

[5] http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/2/syrias-battered-middle-class-hopes-for-a-fresh-start-in-germany.html


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