In the past year the Mediterranean Sea has once again borne witness to the atrocities that mankind has committed against its own race. Thousands upon thousands of people fleeing abuse, poverty and impending death chose to cross the Mediterranean despite the unsafe and overcrowded boats, for the uncertainty of the sea seems more comforting than the certainty of their land’s future.
The UN Refugee Agency reports that more than 219,000 migrants have reached European shores in 2014 and considering the deteriorating situation of their region it is likely to double in the future. The majority of migrants come from corrupt or war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East. The Arab Spring whose seeds failed to bloom anything other than a chaotic mess that requires only blood to grow has contributed immensely to the rising numbers of these migrants. These perilous journeys have seen thousands die at sea and many abused on these boats. The European Union is now being faced with the powerful wave of people approaching its shores and the human rights issues involved in their refusal of granting them entry. Predictions show that this problem is likely to escalate taking into consideration that this great migration has made a profitable business for human traffickers.
The powers that be must realise that the instability and destruction their actions have caused are bound to spill over. Geography should be the ultimate deciding factor for every political dilemma, for proximity to an ailing land is bound to result in one’s infection. It is the natural human survival instinct that drives a person out of a burning building and so when political decisions fail to foresee further into the future and choose to burn entire continents in the process, scours of people will flee and head towards the safety of those nations immune to man-made disasters. When an entire segment of the world is burned and reduced to a lawless battleground for thugs and mercenaries, a land where government does not exist, where the slate of history is being wiped out and hope has drowned in gallons of innocent blood, the only respite comes in the form of the open seas and what lies beyond the horizon. So ships are boarded and pain is tolerated just a little while longer.
The EU is looking to increase the number of migrants/refugees granted entry to their countries yet although this is the immediate humane response to the crisis it is another example of governments seeking band-aid solutions based on reactionary decisions rather than long-term ones taken out of a more future-oriented outlook. Taking more people in will not end the increasing flow, as it is the EU is suffering from an ailing economy where bankruptcies and bailouts have become common. Those governments suffering from the war overspill must put pressure on the world to tackle the problem at the source. Taking effective measures to end these raging wars and help these people rebuild their lives is the only permanent solution, for only when the suffering of these nations is lifted these boats will cease to sail.
It is said that for legal purposes governments must distinguish between a migrant and a refugee, the difference being their “motivation”. If one flees a country with the intention of improving their future then he is considered a migrant, if he flees in order to survive then he is a refugee. Governments must label to distinguish, but migrant or refugee, one must not lose sight of the fact that they are people. Men, women and children who board those boats, whatever their motivation, they carry with them hope and considering the risk they are willingly taking it is hard to believe that even one of them does not have the “motivation” of improving their future.
Those 800 who perished when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean were not migrants or refugees, they were not a mere number flashing on our television screens, they were 800 people whose lives were determined for them by a group of politicians whose severing, dissecting and reattaching of their lands has turned their world into a monster that not even its creator can control. Coast guards watched them drown because they were not legally bound to help them and as their bodies sank slowly into the depths of the Mediterranean, the sea took them in knowing that there will be many more to come.
This article was first published in The Gulf Today newspaper June 7, 2015 http://bit.ly/1G3kP26
Arabic version appeared in Al Khaleej newspaper http://bit.ly/1Gszlnu