Myth: Those arriving by boat are economic migrants, not refugees.
Fact: Most people arriving by boat are fleeing from war-torn countries and persecution.
According to the International Organization for Migration, 171,635 migrants crossed the Mediterranean and entered the European continent. Some people claimed that most people arriving by boat were economic migrants, discontent with the opportunities available to them in their home countries, who had arrived in Europe simply to find a better job.
Granted, it is hard to disentangle “refugees” from “migrants.” But a closer look at the data shows that the vast majority of people arriving by boat are fleeing from war-torn countries and persecution – economic opportunism is not the force driving migration across the Mediterranean. The Economist demonstrated that 75% of illicit arrivals by sea are from countries that usually obtain legal protection under international law. In fact, in Greece, “81% of those migrants [arriving from the sea] entering Greece can expect to receive refugee status or some other form of protection in the EU.”
It’s also important to remember that there are many other forms of legal protection beyond refugee status. There are also “subsidiary protections” and “humanitarian protections.” These apply to individuals who may not have sufficient legal grounds for refugee status, but reasons exist to believe that they need international humanitarian protections.
Even in Australia, 70 – 100% of people arriving by boat were found to be refugees. Ultimately, the Refugee Council of Australia notes that the simplistic categorization of sea-borne arrivals as “refugees” or “economic migrants” is damaging: “Some people may fear persecution, but they don’t have enough evidence for their claims. The Government may also think they can move to a safe area within their home countries. The situation may have changed as well in their home countries.”