If the novel Darkening Island erred in its predictions, it was only in the naive assumption of a nuclear exchange in Africa. Today's sub-Saharan migrants are motivated by the need to make a living, not escape radioactive fallout. Black Africa long ago gave the boot to all European colonial powers, but that boot is now worn through and barefooted Africans are doggedly following the uprooted settlers home. This week a London newspaper warned the authorities of an unprecedented massing of illegal migrants in Libya, and they are about to overwhelm Europe's maritime and customs defences. "New estimates reveal that there are two million migrants massed in the North African country and that half of them plan to sail to the European mainland and travel on to Britain in the hope of building a new life. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), there are currently most have travelled from sub-Saharan states such as Ghana and Sierra Leone, attracted by Libya's reputation as a centre for people smugglers. Most are expected to wait until the spring, when the seas are calmer, before making the crossing on un-seaworthy and crowded vessels."
The British Isles are now very densely populated and reached 60 million inhabitants by August 2006. Worse news, militant Muslim clerics in London are agitating to have the government abandon its centuries old ties with the Church of England, a cunning demand that may prove a fatal blow to the status quo. Unrest within the existing population is already a reality and the Brits seek to avoid even more destabilising events like Tex-Mex style border swarming.
Interviews by the I.O.M. have determined that England is the preferred destination for most of the migrants. Leaven that news with the fact that Libya's paramount leader holds a special animosity for the British. Gaddafi has no particular reason to interdict the migrants at his southern border, even if the European Union pays him to try. If anything, the destabilizing Europe makes for sound Libyan tactics.
According to Laurence Hart of the I.O.M., "It would be accurate to say you've got about a million people in Libya who are looking to get to Europe at some time in the future. The numbers setting sail from Libya are so great that half of the military budget of Malta -- 350km from North Africa -- is spent trying to deal with migrants sailing north."
Christopher Priest discussed only possibilities in his fiction, offering no solutions. It ends on a bleak note. Those Brits who have smirked at U.S. inability to stem the illegal traffic in migrants are invited to enjoy the list of their own diminishing options.