The harrowing scenes of bodies and survivors being pulled from the Mediterranean was proof, if any was needed, of the lengths these migrants will go to find sanctuary in Europe. The estimated death toll of those making this perilous journey in 2015 has been put at 1750, with many more expected over the coming year, including families and young children.
The EU must accept some collective responsibility for this tragedy after descending on Libya in 2011. At the time they claimed this was for humanitarian reasons, in the removal of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, however, this also became a profitable exercise as Libya also had the largest oil reserves in Africa, and was Europe’s largest oil supplier, with countries including Britain and France benefiting. By reneging on their promise of post-conflict rebuilding the EU is now paying the price. In the intervening years Libya has become a ‘hotbed of lawlessness’ and a gateway for migrants fleeing economic instability in their own countries. Crammed onto dilapidated boats by criminal gangs with a promise of a better life, they are effectively unwitting subjects in what has become a ‘modern day slave trade’.
Rather than assisting the inhabitants of these countries, the EU has instead sought to discourage them from attempting to cross the Mediterranean to safety with Italy withdrawing their rescue programme, Mare Nostrum, in 2014.
What did they think would happen? That they would just decide to stay put as the risks of crossing the sea were too great? This has been a wake-up call for the EU, who now realise that they are desperate and will go to any lengths, even risking their lives in the process to reach Europe, as the alternatives of remaining in those countries are too awful to contemplate.
Katie Hopkins, a mini-celebrity in the UK with a career built on making offensive commentary, likened the migrants to ‘cockroaches’, which only serves to highlight that this woman will attach herself to any news story as an opportunity to spout more offensive views, as long as it guarantees headlines, and should be treated with the contempt it deserves.
However, these views are not too dissimilar to the EU’s it seems, who’s reaction to these migrants was to consider them pests, and by scaling back their rescue programme, gave them a stark choice between destitution or to possibly perish in the sea.
It is yet another reminder that while they will eagerly give their support to events such as the Charlie Hebdo crisis, a European crisis with a loss of life of 17, and in which almost 50 world leaders turned out for the march in Paris, when it comes to the African continent they have become de-sensitized, as in the case of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, where they turned a blind eye and allowed 800,000 people to be murdered, and did not inspire any real sense of urgency as they had nothing to gain substantially.
As they now scramble to mend their damaged reputation in the eyes of the world, they finally appreciate that slamming the door on a problem partially of their own creation and hoping it will just go away, is an unacceptable and unsatisfactory solution.
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