Something I don’t really understand

At least 70 Ethiopians drowned when a boat used by smugglers to transport illegal migrants to Yemen sank in the Red Sea in rough weather, security authorities in the western part of the country said on Sunday.

Human traffickers often use unseaworthy boats to smuggle African migrants to Yemen, seen as a gateway to wealthier parts of the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia and Oman, and the West.


It’s not as
if a seaworthy boat is all that expensive and the people smugglers seem to charge enough for the journeys. What is it that I’m missing here? Why aren’t there people offering to do the trip in something that will actually get there?

51 thoughts on “Something I don’t really understand”

  1. Cheapest to use a rotting hulk – doesn’t cost you if it sinks or is captured and impounded. These are not by and large people concerned with health and safety.

  2. It’s all about separating the gullible and desperate from what little money they have. After you’ve done that, they’re just a liability.

  3. What a pity: think of all the “cultural enrichment” those 70 Somalis and Etheopians would have brought us: like – er – showing us how to brandish AK47s and hijack ocean going ships and then demand ransom for releasing the crew.

  4. I imagine because there is an incentive to have them all die rather than have dozens of punters who can identify you land in a place that might take an interest in chasing you down? Or perhaps they are selling the hope of a better future, rather than the actual?

    Combine that with a degree of fatalism from all involved, inshallah, and such, and no one much cares if the boats are seaworthy, even those who’s lives are on the line.

  5. You are thinking of some James Bond-style seaborne insertion.

    The smugglers never even get on these boats. The boats are never coming back. And since there is a nearly inexhaustible supply of desperate people, anything that initially floats can raise production.

  6. I fear the reality is that you only hear of the unseaworthy boats that sink or need to be towed to land. The thousands that make it through aren’t newsworthy

  7. Everyone else has it, but there is another twist. If your boat is sinking, the Italian navy has to try and rescue you. If it’s not, they can tow it back to where it came from, or confiscate it upon arrival.

    @Ralph, I know a little corner of Manchester that’s been quite genuinely culturally enriched (note absence of scare quotes) by Somali immigration. Obviously there has to be a limit though.

  8. What about the crew? Presumably they don’t get on knowing they’re going to die in an unseaworthy boat?

    Anyway, almost by definition a boat that sinks is unseaworthy but it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a well maintained boat.

    My little yacht is designed for up to and including F8 conditions. If I get caught out in an F9 or F10 I’m in an unseaworthy boat despite having had a recent survey and doing putting right everything that was picked up. Conditions can get pretty hairy very quickly in those areas so the boat may have been beyond its capabilities.

  9. So Much for Subtlety

    Bloke in Germany – “I know a little corner of Manchester that’s been quite genuinely culturally enriched (note absence of scare quotes) by Somali immigration.”

    Says the guy who lives 800 miles away.

    “Obviously there has to be a limit though.”

    And where would you draw the line? A little bit of immigration is like being a little bit pregnant. Pretty soon you have a powerful lobby of people of foreign descent who lobby like mad for more of their countrymen. The choices are basically zero or open borders.

  10. @SMFS,

    I have my honorary Moss Side citizenship based on 11 years residency, and I visit on average 3 times a year. When do you ever leave your living room?

  11. BiG: it’s a long used slave route to Saudi Arabia. I don’t know about Yemen. I wonder how many people in seaworthy boats get sold into domestic servitude at the other end. Tradition dies hard.

  12. Moss Side was a shithole and the most dangerous part of Manchester back in the mid 90s. Which was the last time I visited that city. It maybe that your Somali buddies have improved it. However, if they are, en masse, such a social asset how come Somalia isn’t a paradise already.

  13. At a guess, if the boat is likely to be impounded upon arrival and/or the relevant Navy has a duty to rescue a sinking boat, it may make sense to only use a boat that would just make it, especially as I don’t think a return journey would be planned.

  14. However, if they are, en masse, such a social asset how come Somalia isn’t a paradise already.

    This is the great mystery of the immigrationist position. If they’re so good at expanding an economy, why weren’t they doing that to the one they left behind? How does a Pole generate economic growth in England, if he couldn’t do it in Poland?

  15. “If they’re so good at expanding an economy, why weren’t they doing that to the one they left behind? How does a Pole generate economic growth in England, if he couldn’t do it in Poland?”

    That’s easy. He probably could generate economic growth in Poland, but he’s not trying to generate economic growth, he’s trying to make money. And the pay’s better in England.

    Immigrants are not typical of the country they come from: they’re self-selected from the people who are willing to emigrate in search of a better life. They are, on average, brighter, more enterprising, and harder working than the countrymen they leave behind.

  16. David,

    > there is an incentive to have them all die rather than have dozens of punters who can identify you land in a place that might take an interest in chasing you down

    Also, immigrants who survive send messages home. Traffickers presumably want as few such messages as possible saying “For Christ’s sake, don’t use Jim’s Traffickers Ltd: they nearly bloody killed us.”

    Ian,

    > This is the great mystery of the immigrationist position. If they’re so good at expanding an economy, why weren’t they doing that to the one they left behind?

    Yes, I can see how that would be a total mystery to anyone who didn’t know that underlying social structures such as the rule of law and property rights and independent courts had anything to do with economic success.

    There are, broadly, two kinds of people in Somalia: people content to live in a lawless gangland run by warlords and people who would rather not. I don’t see why people who don’t want to live in a lawless gangland run by warlords are axiomatically the sort of people we don’t want here. Hell, that alone makes them better citizens than some Brits.

  17. I can think of a little corner of London that’s been quite genuinely culturally enriched by Somali immigration.
    The Yardies out of Tottenham are too scared to go there.

  18. @”Immigrants are not typical of the country they come from: they’re self-selected from the people who are willing to emigrate in search of a better life. They are, on average, brighter, more enterprising, and harder working than the countrymen they leave behind.”
    Yes and no.
    I am married to an immigrant, I know lots of immigrants and also British people who are immigrants in other countries.
    I would say that some are like stereotype (1).
    However there are other types of immigrants :-
    2) Accidentals like my wife who come to learn a language and meet someone and stay.
    3) Unemployables in their own country like a friend teaching English abroad who leave because of desperation.
    4) Lunatics (not literally mad) who leave without any idea of how poor their chances are
    5) Benefit seekers I have met single mums who came here because it is a much rewarding career here than almost everywhere else in the world.
    6) Criminals who need a fresh start.
    7) Refugees
    8) People who have to move with their parents or spouse.
    9) Missionaries

    I have met all apart from (6) and types (1,2 and 4) are all related to me. Obviously all apart from (5) and (6) can be beneficial to the UK. I have no idea what the percentage of each type there are. However to say that all wonderful implies that you have never heard of Ronnie Biggs (he was an immigrant) or John Darwin (also an immigrant to Latin American).

  19. SQ2-“-Yes, I can see how that would be a total mystery to anyone who didn’t know that underlying social structures such as the rule of law and property rights and independent courts had anything to do with economic success.”

    So those don’t exist in Poland and eastern Europe west of the Ukraine?.

  20. P.S I missed out type (10) students.

    BTW I am not saying that immigration is bad or good.
    I think both views are wrong, immigration can be good and it can be bad.
    Mass immigration into a country with very generous benefits and restrictive planning controls is obviously not good but of course the planning controls and the benefits could be the problem not immigration.

  21. Low-frequency radars are used to detect the boats used by these immigrant trafficking gangs. The radars can detect any sufficiently long piece of metal (~2M I believe). To evade detection you must use a boat that doesn’t contain much metal, such as a wooden boat or an inflatable one.

    This is true in places with these radars. For example, there is one between Australia and Papua-New-Guinea/Irian Jaya, one of my former colleagues worked on that one. I don’t know if there’s one near Yemen, so it may not be the reason.

  22. @”Squander Two

    There are, broadly, two kinds of people in Somalia: people content to live in a lawless gangland run by warlords and people who would rather not. I don’t see why people who don’t want to live in a lawless gangland run by warlords are axiomatically the sort of people we don’t want here. Hell, that alone makes them better citizens than some Brits.”
    As only 24% of Somalis don’t live on benefits I would say that most of the ones here we would be better if they had never come here.

  23. In support of SQ2: there’s a decent theory that an attachment to rule of law and property rights is partially genetic. Because 40 or so generations of Brits with that attachment made more money & tended to have more kids.
    As an example, my Italian acquaintances speak admiringly of someone who is Furbo (sly, cunning). That’s arguably a useful survival attribute in that beautiful but highly corrupt nation, but an impediment in a high-trust networked economy.

  24. Ralph Musgrave – Given that their country is land-locked, it’s hard to see how you imagine that Ethiopians would be able to show us how to “hijack ocean going ships and then demand ransom for releasing the crew”.

    Somalis yes, Ethiopians no.

  25. “This is the great mystery of the immigrationist position. If they’re so good at expanding an economy, why weren’t they doing that to the one they left behind? How does a Pole generate economic growth in England, if he couldn’t do it in Poland?”

    For the general theory – see ‘The Mystery of Capital’ by Hernando de Soto. He concentrates mainly on the developing world, but does discuss what it is about the West that makes capitalism work.

    But for a quick explanation, consider people who move from the countryside to the city – London, say. What is it about London that makes people richer there? Are the people genetically different, somehow? Are city people smarter? Or could it be the infrastructure, organisation, free markets, traders, middlemen, specialists, availability of information, utilities and services, experience, experts, supply chain depth, finance, transport network, and sheer density of suppliers and customers, etc.?

    Poland is far above Somalia in terms of capitalist organisation, but it is not up to the level of England, just as most of England is not up to the level of London. London does, however, still benefit by people from the countryside moving there. More people equals more trade, and bigger economies of scale, and more trade means more wealth. More people means more customers, wanting stuff, and hence more jobs to supply them.

    Free trade is always for mutual benefit, each doing better by the trade than they could do alone, and the fewer the barriers to it the bigger the benefit that is available. If Poles can make more here than they do back home, you can trade for a slice of that and get their services cheaper than we could supply them ourselves, to our benefit.

    But suppliers with a monopoly always want to keep exclusive access, and prices high – they profit at society’s collective cost. The same principle applies to the suppliers of labour.

  26. @”The same principle applies to the suppliers of labour.”
    Good point, although of course some immigrants are benefit seekers not suppliers of labour.

  27. Lord Exmouth,

    Yes, of course, and I agree that is a problem – but the issue there is the benefits system, not immigration.

  28. Although of course reform of the benefit system would not solve all the problems with immigration. Look at scum like Ronnie Biggs going to live in Brazil – he didn’t get a penny there but he was hardly the sort of person that they should have wanted (sadly they did because of their extradition laws).

  29. Lord Exmouth,

    Yes, of course, and I agree that is a problem – but the issue there is criminality, not immigration.

  30. Jeremy,

    > there’s a decent theory that an attachment to rule of law and property rights is partially genetic.

    The system of enforceable property rights we have in Britain arose in Italy, so that’s not convincing.

    NiV,

    Hernando de Soto used to have two dogs called Marx and Engels. He said, “They’re German, they’re hairy, and they have no respect for property.”

  31. And, of course, some natives are benefit-seekers also.

    There’s no question that some cultures are compatible with a liberal market economy, and some aren’t. However, the question is which causes which.

    (And it’s never any use to compare our middle-class with the under-class from other nations, as people often do).

  32. “However to say that all wonderful implies that you have never heard of Ronnie Biggs (he was an immigrant)”

    “he didn’t get a penny there but he was hardly the sort of person that they should have wanted”

    Why not? Strong net contributor to their pot, and I would be guessing absolute zero trouble whilst there? (Looking at it purely from Brazil’s perspective)?

    I’m not defending him, simply devil’s advocat!

    “Wanted” is probably too strong, but perhaps “not as fussed as they morally might have been”?

  33. SQ2: you’d be very foolish to trust the modern Italian state to respect your property rights; ask any of its unpaid suppliers. And I’m talking about populations rather than processes: try arguing ‘fair’s fair, after all’ with an Italian (Dopotutto quel che è giusto è giusto): they’ll stare at you with amazement.

  34. @PF
    I think modern Brazil shows that not punishing violent crime is probably a bad idea. Have you seen the murder statistics for Brazil?
    (Not that I think Ronnie Biggs is responsible rather the same attitude that let him say created modern Brazil).

  35. Jeremy,

    > you’d be very foolish to trust the modern Italian state to respect your property rights

    Yes, I know. Which means respect for property rights isn’t genetic. Which was my point.

  36. In Britain, Biggs was very bad news indeed. In Brazil, independent, productive, a husband and father.

    I’m sure this proves nothing at all.

  37. In the days of Marco Polo, fugitives would would attach themselves to caravans and have the usual gold coin sewed in the cloak (or up the arse) and a fake *laissez passer” from the local tyrant.

    Nowadays, all migrants are robbed at the first port of call but still retain their mobile phones.

    So obviously it’s the folks back home who are funding the migration. They pay at each step of a complex supply chain.

    Why would they do this? There’s a spectrum of ambition, family reunion, and simply wanting to get rid of a child rapist. Cynically, I suspect that the spectrum is biased to the worse end, But we lack facts.

  38. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    For all you JB Morton ( Beachcomber) fans, perhaps it was that grand old dame of the Navy HMS Saucy Mrs Flobster, released from her berth at Lots Road.

  39. @”Jack C
    In Britain, Biggs was very bad news indeed. In Brazil, independent, productive, a husband and father.

    I’m sure this proves nothing at all.

    Only because his inablity to speak Portuguese and fame made it impossible for him to be a criminal.
    Of course under our system a person like him would have had money, interpreters free language lessons etc.

    I used him as an example of a useless immigrant because I didn’t want to be accused of racism by choosing one who is in the UK.

  40. Is not the point of immigration to de homogenise the local population and so eventually erase nationalism and then the nation.
    Thus helping the EU to have a huge land mass with tractible tax payers in bland provinces.

  41. “Is not the point of immigration to de homogenise the local population and so eventually erase nationalism and then the nation.
    Thus helping the EU to have a huge land mass with tractible tax payers in bland provinces.”

    Given “British” abuse of soldiers, “French” car burning and “Swedish” rapes it isn’t working very well is it?

  42. The immigrants are told to deliberately cause a hull breach when they spot a European patrol boat as they are treaty-bound to rescue and take them in as refugees. Usually they destroy their documentation to make it all but impossible to repatriate them.

    It’s the part noone wants to think about when it comes to immigration: how do you successfully repatriate a person with an ambiguous nationality and zero incentive to tell you the truth? Remembering that it is also illegal under international law to deport refugees to a country they will likely be tortured or killed in.

    I’m with Doc North on this one; address the push and pull factors with canny use of local and international aid policy respectively and immigration will become more manageable.

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