Tragedy in the Mediterranean

Every time we in the West see yet another video of an atrocity committed by Islamic State or Boko Haram and express our abhorrence, and every time we are shocked to read of a boatload of migrants perishing at sea, and every time we hear of another deadly bombing in Iraq, Afghanistan or Nigeria, tens of thousands of people at the scene of the crime decide to embark on the road of migration. They know they are risking their lives both on the journey and when they reach their destination, where they will not be met with open arms but with apathy or even hate – on this odyssey, there are no assurances that Ithaca will be reached. They know that the likelihood of drowning in the Mediterranean – as a result of their traffickers’ indifference or their sheer bad luck – of being lost in mountains, rivers or deserts is huge.

Yet they go. Because they also know that all they have left is not just the bare bones of living but also the fundamental right to die trying to stay alive rather than fatalistically waiting to fall victim to the next bomb, bullet or knife, or even abject poverty. The issue is that simple. It becomes even simpler when we take into account that in at least half of the countries that are currently major war zones, the armed hand of the West has acted “to restore democracy” or “deal with a humanitarian crisis” – whether out of benevolence or as a new form of colonization. The nations of the West, after all, have never stopped treating the rest of the planet as their own backyard.

Therefore, claims that Greece has just become a major transit point or destination for refugees because of the new government that has come to power are at best naive, if not the product of the opposition’s policy of turning a blind eye to the issue.

The government had no role in placing Greece on the crossroads between three continents, two of which are almost always in turmoil, where people are chased away, sent off, with despair as their only lifeline, into the Mediterranean, a sea of death.

Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat spoke the words that should be expressed by the leaderships and citizens of every country in Southern Europe: “A tragedy is unfolding in the Mediterranean and if the European Union and the world continue to close their eyes, they will be judged in the harshest terms as it was judged in the past when it closed its eyes to genocides when the comfortable did nothing.”

Europe must act. At once. It needs to help the South, reform its legislation.

And it needs to do this if not out of a sense of humanity then because it too has had a hand in creating the immigration waves.

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