Sunday, 4 January 2015

The So-called Traffickers, Again

EU Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, has referred to the smugglers of people, topical in Italy during the past week or so, as "employing new methods in order to exploit desperate people" (BBC article). I don't know this fellow, but I am willing to bet the much-maligned "traffickers" have done far more for truly desperate people than Mr Avramopoulos is likely to ever do.
Remarkable statement? Not at all. Apply some economic thinking and it will be clear that Avramopoulos is quite the troublemaker compared to the smugglers. According to the same BBC article, Avramopoulos has called for "decisive and co-ordinated EU-wide action" against his moral betters. But if they face greater risks when doing what they do, they must charge a higher price from the refugees or their business is no longer profitable (according to the same BBC article again, the Italian Police calculate that the smugglers "made $3 million from the recent 359 illegal immigrants", but that is counting only revenues and not expenses and risk and the statement is probably made with a view to whip up opinion against the smugglers).
Has Mr Avramopoulos ever brought individuals fleeing war into comparative safety? If he has, the number saved will probably fade in comparison to just one ship full of refugees, and there are of course many ships. Made Avramopoulos objects to the high fares charged, but then he should advocate indecisive, rather than decisive, and uncoordinated, rather than co-ordinated, action so as to reduce the risks faced by the smugglers. The smugglers will still want to make a profit, but competition will force down the price they charge, just like no-one pays hundreds of dollars for a loaf of bread though any baker would want that kind of payment.
Maybe Mr Avramopoulos objects to the rough circumstances the immigrants face during their journey to the EU? But if he does, then he should advocate the same things as are listed above. Then smugglers are likelier to compete on comfort as well as on price. Compare again to other market situations, where one pays less for flying "no-frills" airlines, more for first-class train tickets, etc.
What does Mr Avramopoulos imagine is the best alternative for these illegal immigrants? Where are the shipping companies, airlines, buses, trains, etc., that take them to Europe for less money and with more comfort? If I were in the immigrants' position, I would probably wish to be "exploited" by the smugglers, too. And Mr Avramopoulos would condemn my saviours.

These things are not hard to figure out. So, unless Mr Avramopoulos be either ignorant or just plain stupid, what he really objects to is immigrants. I wish he would just say so, but I don't expect him to, because that would leave the door open for accusations of xenophobia and a lack of compassion with the unfortunate people who flee war-torn countries, characteristics which are true mainly of Bad Men.

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