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Why do refugees migrate? - The case of Eritrea

Have you ever been why refugees migrate? Especially, why Eritreans migrate to Italy but still prefer to continue their journey to Northern Europe? Why do they take the risk and seek asylum in other countries than the first one they came to?

Most of the Eritreans are men between 17-40 years who try to escape the national military service. After the long and arduous journey, they finally reach Italy, where they stay in squatter homes or overcrowded houses, struggling to find a job. Therefore, it is not surprising that they try to reach northern European countries with better welfare systems.

In interviews, refugees compared themselves to gamblers. Migration was seen as a game of life or death - depending on luck. Continuing their journey to northern Europe is considered to be a jackpot.

Why do they see this as a jackpot? This can be explained using the loss aversion theory in psychology wherein individuals make decisions based on perceived gains and perceived losses in a given context. Furthermore, the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. So, in the case of Eritreans, the pain of continuing to stay in Italy's terrible conditions motivates them further to move north to seek a better life. The satisfaction of getting asylum in Italy was not a strong enough psychological driver.

Eritreans have faced so many difficulties during their journey from Eritrea to Italy. They have come so far; they feel 'obliged' to continue their journey (or betting!) to seek a better life. It makes no sense to give up when they have already invested so much time, money, and energy.

It is imperative to consider providing safe, humane living conditions for refugees. Seeking refuge in Europe is just one part of the asylum procedure, but providing them a dignified life to start over is crucial. Refugees do not escape war and poverty to end up living the same way. Maybe instead of restricting their mobility, we should focus more on giving them chances to find a job, learn the language, and invest in better integration policies with society.

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