Death no more

If our leaders fail to put human life before winning elections we can vote them out. But I fear that we’re as heartless as our leaders...

Some migrants are prepared to risk their lives in their attempt to reach Europe because as one Ghanaian migrant put it, “a dead goat doesn’t fear the butcher’s knife.”
Some migrants are prepared to risk their lives in their attempt to reach Europe because as one Ghanaian migrant put it, “a dead goat doesn’t fear the butcher’s knife.”

700, 750, 800, 950… the number of persons who lost their life while attempting to reach Europe by sea oscillates by the hour. We’ll probably never know the exact number, and we’ll certainly never know their names.

What we do know are the names of who is responsible for creating the conditions which bring thousands of people to risk their lives. Not only are European political leaders, past and present, responsible for the death of thousands every year, but they’re also guilty for the short-sighted and misguided policies which bring more misery upon the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Monday night, EU foreign ministers met in utmost urgency to come up with a 10-point plan to avoid more tragedies. But, once again they’re missing the woods for the trees. The 28 EU member states insist in their failure to save lives and recognise and combat the reasons why hundreds of thousands flee their homes.  

While it is worth noting that developing countries host over 86% of the world’s refugees, some migrants are prepared to risk their lives in their attempt to reach Europe because as one Ghanaian migrant put it, “a dead goat doesn’t fear the butcher’s knife.”

The majority of migrants who cross the Mediterranean come from countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan. Most of them seek refuge in neighbouring countries. Some others make it to Libya or Turkey as they seek asylum in Europe. These persons who have the same dreams and aspirations as we do are fleeing inequalities, violence and adverse environmental conditions which Europe is partly responsible for.

They flee war-torn countries were dictators and warlords are propped up and armed by EU and other industrialised countries. What are our dear leaders doing about it? Do they have any plans to stop the sale of weapons used to kill thousands of children? Do they have any policies aimed at blocking funds going to governments, militias and companies who rape and torture girls and women? Do they have a strategy to avoid the dilapidation of natural resources and mitigate the effects of global warming? Are our political leaders committed to help legitimate governments in developing countries build societies where children can dream of a better future?

No. Instead of helping people escape death and create a better world, our leaders are soley committed to maintain the status quo, retain power, strike advantageous business deals and ensure that their sponsors become richer.

Plans to “capture and destroy vessels used by the smugglers” and stem the flow of migration at source reminds me of the failed war on drugs. An attempt to stop the flow of migrants by attacking smugglers is akin to trying to stop the influx of drugs by targeting drug pushers. Smugglers are normally poor migrants who happen to know how to drive a boat. The real masterminds are sitting in their luxurious villas in Istanbul, Tripoli, Rome and probably Malta too.
Stopping migrants from leaving Libya is not that different from the pushback policy operated by the Berlusconi government and, for a fleeting moment in 2013, toyed with out own Prime Minister Joseph Muscat before his Damascene conversion a few months ago.

The situation in Libya can only get worse if more and more migrants are trapped in the mess partly created by Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron. If our leaders really want to stop human trafficking then they must open humanitarian channels and grant humanitarian visas to people seeking asylum.

Otherwise, instead of driving human traffickers out of business we will only drive them to other parts of Africa and the Middle East where they will create new routes. 

But under pressure from xenophobe and racist right-wing parties, our leaders opposed the expansion of search and rescue operations. They chose political pragmatism before human life. They chose to oppose “expensive” rescue operations while they did not bat an eyelid to fork out millions and deploy thousands of troops, including Maltese soldiers, to protect goods and cargo from pirates off the Somali coast.

It is also worth remembering that Cameron, Angela Merkel, Matteo Renzi, Muscat and company are in power because we elected them. This week we were advised to send flowers to Mater Dei to commemorate the tragic loss of life. Ironic isn’t it? We reserve solidarity, flowers and tears for the dead but not for migrants who reach our shores alive.

But we can do more. Apart from helping the leading parties and their leaders grow bigger and stronger by believing and spinning their lies we can also ask them to bring this tragic farce to an end. If you are bored by politics and detached from your leaders do not be indifferent to the death of thousands of people.

By now the bigots have already started typing the now tired line of ‘if you love them so much then take them home,’ but if you are sickened by the death of innocent people and  by the EU and developed world’s hypocrisy then you can pile pressure on MPs,  political parties and governments by joining NGOs, writing, petitioning and organising.

If our leaders fail to put human life before winning elections we can vote them out. However, I fear that we’re as heartless as our leaders but the optimist in me hopes that one day we’ll allow dreamers to weave the present and the future, in developed and less developed countries.

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