World

War, Poverty, Repression: Why So Many Africans Risk Their Lives to Migrate

African refugees

Pope Francis lamented the mass drowning of African boat people off the Italian island of Lampedusa on Thursday as “shameful” evidence of human indifference to those in despair.

President Giorgio Napolitano of Italy, where tens of thousands of desperate migrants cast up on remote shores each year, deemed the deadliest migration accident in the Mediterranean Sea this year a “massacre of innocents.

But U.N. officials tasked with protecting those fleeing their homelands put into unemotional perspective the tragic end to a boatload of migrants’ dangerous gamble for a better life: an everyday occurrence.

Poverty, injustice and armed conflict have long been the instigators of African migration to Europe. And in today’s ever more unstable world, where Islamic militants terrorize much of Africa and political instability grips the Arab world, the numbers willing to risk perilous sea voyages for a chance to start over in affluent Europe have exploded.

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