Doug Saunders: Busting the myth of a Mediterranean invasion

A typical load of people from Africa heading to Europe: that is, waiting to get close enough to Italy that they will be picked up by their navy ships.

Never have there been so many bodies in the Mediterranean…

And never has a crisis been so badly misunderstood. There is a tendency to describe their arrival as “biblical,” to use the word of one Italian official this week, or apocalyptic – a plague, flood, exodus or invasion.

Or, on the other hand, as something less than human: As hopeless victims, as the starving and destitute.

In reality, they are neither.

They’re not poor and desperate: I’ve spent time on the beaches of eastern Tunisia and both eastern and western Libya – the main departure points – talking to the people getting on the boats (and some time in Italy talking to those arriving). They are not the desperately poor, hopeless and starving of the Middle East and Africa.

Almost all of them are middle class and fluent in European languages, and a considerable proportion are quite well educated.

They’re not substantially different from the people who arrive from these countries, as legal immigrants, at airports…

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Strange about that New York Times article that I posted a couple of weeks ago:

The medics treated blotchy arms, legs and feet — symptoms of scabies — lighting the infected areas with a smartphone app. Nearby, a pediatrician listened to the chests of newborns and toddlers.

The impromptu clinic was set up in an abandoned building on the outskirts of Rome, colloquially known as Salaam Palace, where hundreds of migrants invaders have squatted for years.

Europe’s quickening migration invasion crisis has now left the place overflowing, with most new arrivals relegated to an underground parking garage, sleeping on soiled mattresses on the ground.

The overcrowding of Salaam Palace is a crisis within a larger, nationwide emergency set off by a fresh surge of more than 50,000 migrants to Italy since the beginning of the year — more already than in all of 2013.

The inflow has severely taxed Italy’s resources, spawning miniature Salaam Palaces in cities across the country as asylum seekers are distributed to refugee centers, hotels and makeshift dormitories.

Middle class? Really? I also notice that Saunders is taking a beating in the comments.

h/t D Murrell