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The Millionaire Migrants

The New York Times reports on an Afghan family of six which chartered a luxury yacht to illegally enter Europe:

It was a far cry from the rotting fishing boats and overstuffed dinghies that carry so many thousands of migrants precariously to Italian shores.

The family of six had paid about $96,000 to travel from Afghanistan to Turkey. The last leg of their journey, a cramped week’s sail through the Aegean and Mediterranean seas aboard a cerulean 15-meter yacht, the Polina, piloted by three Ukrainian skippers, cost $7,000 a head. It dropped them in Sicily in relative style.

The Afghan parents were both magistrates, and wore leather jackets. They and their four children — ages 8 through 15 — were among 60 migrants who made the crossing.

So, all told, this family of government officials paid $138,000 to get from Afghanistan to Europe. Afghanistan is a very poor country; being able to get your hands on $138,000 certainly makes you the European equivalent of a multi-millionaire (The U.S. government typically pays between $1000 and $10,000 in "condolence payments" when it kills a civilian).

I'm of two minds about this. One the one hand, these people are probably educated and worldly by Afghan standards. It doesn't appear you have to be a lawyer to be a magistrate in Afghanistan, but I'm sure you have to have educational credentials far in excess of what the vast majority of Afghans possess (Afghan has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world, 38.2%). So these folks are much more likely to integrate into German society than the hundreds of thousands of uneducated young male drifters who arrived in 2015-16.

However, they may have some problems adjusting to German official culture. I rather doubt that Afghan magistrates are able to put their hands on $138,000 without getting their beaks wet at least a couple times a day. In 2008 (pdf, p. 31), "the average salary of a judge, of whom 20% had at the most a secondary school education, was about €60 a month!" Afghan citizens recently "rated the judiciary as the most corrupt institution in the country." More cheery findings: "In 2012, half of Afghan citizens paid a bribe while requesting a public service. The total cost of bribes paid to public officials amounted to US$ 3.9 billion."

The other problem, of course, is that these folks almost certainly have no legal right to be in Europe. Even if they did face some sort of threat in Afghanistan, $138,000 would be enough to build a fortress and hire a team of bodyguards for the next 482 years, and to bribe your way out of any legal trouble. Assuming the legal trouble wasn't the result of you getting caught up in an anti-corruption crackdown, that is. Sadly, the UN Refugee Convention specifically denies refugee status to criminals (Article 1F(b)).

So when these folks arrive in Germany or Sweden -- you don't really think they're going to stay in Italy, do you? -- I would unceremoniously kick them out. Don't worry, though, with their level of corr, er, enterprise, I'm sure they'll be able to scrape together another $138,000 and try again within a few years.

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