Saturday, September 19, 2009

a question

Back in September, 2006, we were talking illegal immigrants and artisanal shipbuilding in West Africa, over at the Fistful.

one of the curious economic details you could notice was how the process was in fact exhibiting an increasing returns type feature, in that the increased demand for boats increasingly meant that a number of would-be migrants were actually not sailing but staying since they could make a reasonable living in the newly developing artisanal shipyard industry, with the consequence that more boats were being built as knowledge and experience (human capital) was being accumulated...

One other interesting detail is that the level of workmanship seemed good. They even use, as I say, 1980s style Volvo teams rather than Adam Smith like pin production lines.
As it happened, the crisis passed, and the big attractor - the Spanish housing bubble - collapsed not long afterwards. So, I was wondering what had become of that sudden industry churning out huge versions of traditional boat designs. After all, there is more than one use for a boat in the black economy.

And you know what? I've no idea. As far as I can make out, that particular route lost salience during 2007, almost certainly because of the macroeconomic crisis rather than the arrival of EU FRONTEX assistance. With that, it's passed completely out of the news environment. I couldn't find anything useful in the way of statistics either; Eurostat is just what you'd expect from someone's dentist,

So, are there thousands of wooden vessels abandoned on the beaches? Does anyone know?

(I'd like this post to grow if possible.)


Jörg Wenck said...

(Most important link at end)
I suppose you did find stuff like the below from the Guardian. You say "almost certainly because of the macroeconomic crisis rather than the arrival of EU FRONTEX assistance." I doubt that to some extent. From reports on it's clear that the economy plays a significant part. Farmers in Italy and Spain have reduced the wages field workers receive by more than 50% and still don't turn a profit. But according to the article, the deployment of the satellite system clearly had a substantial effect, too. A 60% reduction in the numbers of illegal arrivals is rather large.

"Tens of thousands of migrants have reached the Canaries by boat in recent years. Hundreds of others have drowned, or died of thirst or exposure, on the trip, which can take up to two weeks.
Spain has managed to cut numbers since a peak two years ago - mainly through policing and cooperation agreements with west African nations. A radar system has been installed on the Canaries that detects many immigrant vessels well before they reach shore. Spain's interior ministry says arrivals are down 8% this year and by more than 60% compared with 2006. The interior minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, told parliament yesterday that Spain had repatriated 101 planeloads of illegal immigrants so far this year."

If I remember correctly, the UNHCR said a while back that the boats are smaller and less safer than those used in the past. I'd think one reason why small inflatables are used clearly is that they are harder to detect.Also, West Africa is no longer the focus point. That has moved first to North Africa/Spain/Italy and now to the Turkey/Greece-route. Gulfnews: "Greece says it detained more than 146,000 illegal immigrants in 2008, a 30 per cent increase from the previous year and a 54 per cent jump from 2006.
On Samos alone, immigrants arrive at an average rate of 25 a day - a six-fold increase over the past two years - crossing by dinghy, jet-ski, or even swimming against fast sea currents."
More data (ansamed): "The arrival of illegal immigrants in Sicily and Sardinia has fallen by 54% and 56% respectively. The data was collected during operations carried out by the European agency Frontex in the Mediterranean and released today in Rome. The decrease in the number of arrivals, according to Frontex's vice-director, Gil Arias-Fernandez, was also influenced by the agreements made between Italy and Libya. ''From January 1 2009 to July 5,'' he affirmed, ''there were 333 illegal arrivals according to our people in the field. For the same period last year there were 776. As for Sicily, including Lampedusa, the figure passed from last year's 14,806 to 6,760 this year. From May 15 on, that is from when the agreements became effective, our agents noticed even more of a decrease. The decrease in this last month and a half may have even reached -70%.'' A positive vote therefore for the agreements between Italy and Libya. ''Based on our statistics,'' Arias-Fernandez concluded, we are able to say that the agreements have had a positive impact. On the humanitarian level, fewer human lives have been put at risk, due to fewer departures."

Jörg Wenck said...

Yet more (BBC): "'This year, the numbers have more than just stabilised - they're falling,' explains Orlando Ramos Alayon, the coastguard skipper. 'There's permanent vigilance now, both by police and coastguard, at the national and EU level.' The tide of illegal migration peaked in 2006, when 600 boats brought 31,678 desperate people to the Canaries in search of better times. But over the past three years, numbers have been falling steadily. In 2008, 9,181 migrants made it to the Canaries, a 71% drop compared with 2006. And during the first five months of 2009, numbers were down by half again on the same period last year. Under the EU's Frontex programme, Spain's Civil Guard police patrol the waters off West Africa, in partnership with the authorities from Senegal and Mauritania. In the first six months of 2009, these patrols diverted 762 migrants back to their points of departure."
While I'm at it - San Diego Union Tribune: "Getting a job could become harder soon, particularly for immigrants, and not just because of the recession. The federal government is tightening the hiring process to ensure that employees are legally entitled to work in this country. The Obama administration recently began audits of 652 firms in a wide range of industries across the nation suspected of hiring undocumented immigrants, including 39 companies in San Diego County. The administration extended the electronic employee-verification program, E-Verify. Beginning in September, contractors and subcontractors that work with the federal government will be required to enroll in the program." AP 10/7/09: "The Senate wants to force the Homeland Security Department to stick with a proposed Bush administration policy requiring employers to fire immigrant workers whose names don't match their Social Security numbers. By voice vote Thursday, the Senate approved an amendment to stop the department's plan to dump the so-called 'no-match' rule." The Lowell Sun: "As many as 30,000 legal immigrants in Massachusetts will lose state-subsidized health insurance as the state tries to control health-care costs. Lawmakers came to view health care for 'special status' immigrants as a luxury, at a time when other programs and services are being slashed to balance the state budget. Though the cut saved the state approximately $130 million this year, critics see the change as a significant retreat from health-care reform when the nation is looking to Massachusetts to gauge whether its experiment with mandated coverage can be replicated on a national scale."
Causal analysis, NYT: "Europe takes Africa’s fish, and boatloads of migrants follow" 14/01/2008. Link:

Boats that don't serve to catch fish anymore are recycled in efforts of trying to escape - that's the story.

Jörg Wenck said...

To summarize:
1) The economic causes of migration tend to get ignored.
2) The fact that migration usually doesn't have the beneficial effects in the destination countries that tend to get ascribed to it is usually overlooked.
3) The fact that economic problems tend to run far deeper than acknowledged is equally superficially glossed over. As a consequence, some tend to interpret particular routes losing their salience for no other reason than violent repression as more of a positive development than is warranted.

Oh, and there was a line in the original quote on AFOE that should have activated bullshit detectors: "One other interesting detail is that the level of workmanship seemed good. They even use, as I say, 1980s style Volvo teams rather than Adam Smith like pin production lines." Yeah, I can believe that. That's also the way African mechanics maintain those 1950s Volvos. It takes genius - and it's another skill unlikely to prosper for much longer. Of course, the competence and teamwork of African fishermen also didn't leave much to be desired.

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