Immigration Policy Gone Wrong: Europe’s “Sea of Death”

For visitors, the Mediterranean is a tranquil blue sea with ample boating, snorkling, swimming and more: the ideal vacation destination. But these gorgeous waters hide a dark secret. For all that they seem alive with color, life and movement, they have come to be known as the “Sea of Death” for the desperate immigrants who attempt to make their way across in search of a better life in Europe. They come crammed into the holds and onto the decks of ships with dubious structural integrity, risking their lives to the hands of human traffickers who profit from those who urgently need to escape one place for another.

In the last 20 years, an estimated 20,000 people have lost their lives in the Mediterranean. The stories of their deaths rarely make the pages of the news, unless an event involves a massive sinking with significant loss of life. The rest die unremarked, with the handfuls of survivors picked up by boaters in the vicinity and sent directly into immigration detention facilities. Activist and commentator Flavia Dzodan, who monitors and reports on immigrant issues in the European Union, has trouble keeping track of all the deaths, even with her eagle eye for news: a sharp testimony to how little the European Union cares about the high cost of its dysfunctional immigration policy.

The European Union has found itself in a strange political situation as it struggles with the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment across member nations while also balancing human rights critiques. Activists express concern about conditions in immigration detention in the European Union, as well as the handling of immigrants in general from border patrol to social services. In Germany, several major court cases involving immigrants, discrimination and abuse are underway, while Britain is contending with anti-immigrant signage on mobile trucks.

Meanwhile, Dutch extremist conservative Geert Wilders is proposing a right-wing coalition in the EU Parliament, which would allow him and others like him to gain much more of a foothold in mainstream European politics. With the force of a coalition, they have many more opportunities to shape policy, which could equate to even more dangerous conditions for immigrants and their families. On immigration, at least, European politics appear to be regressing in many nations despite the work of activists concerned about the social implications of laws making it harder to immigrate, harder to find work and harder to participate fully in society.

Positioned so close to regions of social and political unrest, Europe is viewed as a place of refuge by people seeking new lives, but what they find there is often radically different — if they make it there at all. The draconian anti-immigration policies used to keep foreign nationals out of the EU have created a situation where the Mediterranean resembles a grim graveyard much more than a holiday destination, and the EU desperately needs to reevaluate its politics before it’s too late.

The situation across the Atlantic should be a warning sign to the United States. Already, immigrant deaths on and around the border with Mexico are common, between immigrants suffocating in vehicles as they cross the border and people dying in the extreme conditions of the Southwest desert. Like undocumented immigrants into the EU, people with no legal immigration status in the United States are exploited because of their vulnerabilities, with no way to fight back without risking deportation.

If conditions don’t change in the U.S. and the EU, the consequences could be severe for the most marginalized among the immigrant community. Already, hate crimes against undocumented immigrants are on the rise, illustrating that poor immigration policy contributes to poor social attitudes, and these are only likely to get worse. Is Europe ready to rise to the challenge of immigration reform, and will the United States do the same?

Photo credit: Charles Nadeau


Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman2 years ago

Brian F. discusses the long term solution. I'd like add one more point:

The earth is overpopulated at seven billion. So we must enable and encourage women everywhere to control their reproductive lives. Their families and the entire earth will benefit.

Ruth Griffiths
Ruth G3 years ago

continued....entitled to all benefits, education, housing ,child benefit, free health care at the point of need, unemplyment , tax exemptions, . This is even extended to non eu migrants in the uk & prob others.. The EU is even so "kind" & so politically correct, that we cannot even expel muslim terrorists out of the country because the european court of human rights says ,they may be tortured or they have a right to family life!!!!! so maybe europe is just now starting,to get a bit fed up with it all!

Ruth Griffiths
Ruth G3 years ago

This article is extremely irritating & some of the phrases loaded with ignorance ie" dysfunctional immig. policy"," anti immig signage on mobile trucks"",euro. politics appear to be regressing","draconian anti immigration policies to keep foreign nationals out", the " meditterr. a grim graveyard". This is typical of an outsider who relies on snatches of information & sensationalizes it! The EU has been extremely tolerant of migration, too much so!. There is free movement of peoples from 27 countries. There has been 3 million non EU migrants into our countries including 15% from america.. migration has added 1.5 million to our uk populat. in 10 years, 2 thirds from asia & africa, 1000s from pakistan & bangladesh to u & its growing & will at this rate have increase by 10 mill i 2030. The number of brit muslims will double to 5.5mill in 20 years . DRACONIAN, I THINK NOT! We, now have muslims from the violence of the middle east & north africa as well crossing the short but dangerous step over the med to Italy & Greece which has suffered greatly during recession with nearly a quater of its population unemployed.. Is europe supposed to just open its doors to the thouands who would come without adequate preparation. World support should be going to these countries to benefit them there. What you do not realise is that in europe & especially the uk EU migrants are entitled to all benefits in the country they go to, child benefit , housing,

Christina Robertson
Tina Robertson3 years ago

I imagine that I will probably get a lot of negative comments on what I am about to say, but I will say it anyway.
I imagine there are few people who have made comments about this article that have ever lived a year, a month or even visited as a tourist for 1 week in Africa, Somalia, Syria, Libya, Iraq or any of the numerous countries that these "refugees" are fleeing from.
Most of these countries are poor developing countries, overpopulated, corrupt, mostly dictatorships, (even though they might claim to be democratic governments).....they remain corrupt. Most of them are Muslim countries, who by their nature/culture/religion would like to populate the world and force their religion upon any and all nations that they immigrate to. It has already started in the UK, France Germany , Italy even here in Canada. They arrive and almost immediately start demanding religious rights, or refugee rights from a country whose citizens are supporting them and their families. They actually get more benefits and more funding than the senior citizens who worked and paid taxes their entire lives, in most of the countries that they flee to. Big Question : #1) If they arrive with no ID, no papers, nothing but he clothes on their backs , how are we to know who they are, where they are coming from, if they are criminals or if they truly are refugees or if they have alternate motives for claiming refugee status....there is no way of telling whatsoever. #2) where do they get the thousands of d

Sarah Gavison
Sarah Gavison3 years ago

And what about the failure of the countries, from where this illegal immigration originates, to keep a political and economic atmosphere that does not make their citizens to flee by any available ways, even risking their life to leave their homeland????

Ana Marija R.
ANA MARIJA R3 years ago

Thank you for sharing & some comments.

Ros G.
Ros G3 years ago


especially our young men/women that die in foreign lands...are you quite happy with that, Elizabeth?? Are you that afraid..that you want somebodies child to fight to keep you safe??

BTW..Travel..only serves it's true purpose if it makes you more worldly...what you more like a "junket" that our Politicians would take

Ros G.
Ros G3 years ago

No Elizabeth..but our governments have been..why would 97% of those that enter by these means get granted refugee status??? Remember the boats started arriving in the 1970's with Vietnamese "refugees" "asylum seekers" "illegal immigrants" whatever..BTW that's another war that we followed America into. If all these "illegal immigrants" are flying to Indonesia...why has the Australian Government just given a "gift" of two of our older Naval vessels to Sri Lanka to stop the people smugglers??

"It's interesting that double standard that the west faces. The Syrian war has brought this into sharp focus. If we intervene it's western aggression and if we do nothing we are inhumane and unfeeling" This statement I do find interesting as I remember the "outcry" was NOT for the US& Allies to intervene...they didn''s a Civil War..but the US supplied weapons to the rebels instead who could very well be Al Queda insurgents..where is the outrage now???

Our Government projects that the Australian population will be 38million in 2060 that includes all refugees, immigrants, etc we have 23million now..and they still think we have a skills shortage.

Yes I agree with you on Chinese..actually really looking forward them being the next Superpower and us being their Allies..after all..we would not survive without them today they are our biggest trading partner, Japan is our second and the US is our third - who ask so much of us...especially our young men/women that die in foreign

Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez3 years ago


Elizabeth L.
Elizabeth L3 years ago

So Ros you are quite happy that anyone with enough money can pay people smugglers to get into Australia.These people are flying into Indonesia with valid passports and papers which they then destroy. They have bypassed many countries that have much closer religious and cultural ties. They have managed to leave their own countries with enough money to pay airfares, (eg Afghanistan to Indonesia $1230.00 for one person) accommodation, food and general living expenses while they wait in Indonesia. Not just for one but often for whole families with many children. A family of ten will pay conservatively $50,000 usually more to the people smugglers. Then factor in the bribes needed.
Now tell me why having money gives these people the right to sneak into Australia before the people sitting in refugee camps waiting and hoping for a new life.These are the people we should be helping. At least the Chinese investing $5million in Australia have come in the front door. You surely don't think we have the resources to simply accept the world's excess population? If you do you need to get out and look at the fragile land at the centre of this country.
It's interesting that double standard that the west faces. The Syrian war has brought this into sharp focus. If we intervene it's western aggression and if we do nothing we are inhumane and unfeeling.
Maybe you need to do some travelling and take at good look at Europe and see the results of the unfettered illegal immigration that you are pr