Flight Risk

Newsweek - - NEWS -

STAND­ING IN FRONT of a packed class­room at a school in Iruekpen, a re­mote farm­ing vil­lage in south­ern Nige­ria, Pre­cious Owens warns teenage stu­dents about the dan­gers of mi­grat­ing to Europe. Re­cruiters trick peo­ple into thinking they can get a good job over­seas, she ex­plains. “They will come and tell you they have a sa­lon abroad,” she says. But this is of­ten a lie. In­stead, mi­grants en route to Libya fre­quently wind up im­pris­oned by smug­glers for months, be­fore be­ing shipped across the Mediter­ranean on rick­ety boats, she says. The jour­ney is per­ilous—as are their lives abroad, where many end up as pros­ti­tutes or in other forms of forced la­bor.

Owens works for a non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion that helps ed­u­cate chil­dren and fam­i­lies in Nige­ria’s Edo state about the risks of il­le­gal mi­gra­tion, among other things. Yet the pro­gram isn’t just a lo­cal ef­fort to help the peo­ple in this im­pov­er­ished re­gion; it’s funded by the Euro­pean Union.

Over the past three years, the in­flux of nearly 2 mil­lion mi­grants and refugees—many from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq—sparked a fu­ri­ous back­lash across Europe. And last year, the num­ber of peo­ple com­ing from Africa to Italy rose sharply. Many came from Nige­ria, where plum­met­ing oil prices have left peo­ple des­per­ate to find work abroad.

In re­sponse, the EU is spend­ing bil­lions of eu­ros to try to re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple who de­cide to make the jour­ney across land and sea. The money, an­a­lysts say, sig­nals an im­por­tant shift. “Mi­gra­tion and refugee is­sues have gone to the top of the EU for­eign pol­icy agenda,” says Jeff Crisp, a re­search as­so­ciate at the Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford’s Refugee Stud­ies Cen­tre.

But as the EU spends more money to try to re­duce mi­gra­tion—through job-cre­ation pro­grams or agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment, among other mea­sures—some an­a­lysts ques­tion whether

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