Libyan stamp depicting the inauguration of the Zueitina Oil Terminal, 1968In an incisive op-ed for the New York Times, Hans Lucht, author of the forthcoming book Darkness before Daybreak: African Migrants Living on the Margins in Southern Italy Today, highlights the perils faced by sub-Saharan migrants who attempt to reach Europe by way of Libya.

To control the flow of migrant workers across the Mediterranean Sea, the European Union offered Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi $70 million; money that was later used to finance corrupt and inhumane migrant camps in Libya. “Now,” writes Lucht, “armed Qaddafi loyalists are forcing migrants onto the high seas to protest the NATO airstrikes in support of Libya’s rebels. African and Asian migrants are the pawns in this brutal geopolitical faceoff.”

Lucht suggests practical and humane solutions for European policy going forward, and points out that “Europe should learn from the situation in Libya that paying dictators to make ‘problems’ disappear is not only morally bankrupt but also short-sighted.”

A Danish journalist and anthropologist at the University of Copenhagen, Lucht investigates these issues at length in Darkness before Daybreak, the story of a group of fishermen from Ghana who took the long and dangerous journey to Southern Italy in search of work in a cutthroat underground economy. Asking how these men find meaning in their experiences, Lucht addresses broader existential questions surrounding the lives of economic refugees and their death-defying struggle for a life worth living. Keep an eye out for the book in December 2011.