(Image courtesy of irinnews.org)
700 people were lost in the sea.
Think about it just for a second……
Whether these were migrants or a boat full of students on holiday, the point is that this event fully demonstrates the need for the international community to stand together and take action. Because 700 migrants perished in the Mediterranean sea early this month, leaving from Libya for Italy while the world stands confused on what exactly to do.
It can seem obvious to lay the blame on the EU for leaving it to Italy to manage solely. Italy launched its Mare Nostrum operation, sending its navy into the sea and rescuing thousands of migrants from being lost under the dark waves of the Mediterranean when night falls. Just as it had done with Ulysses and his crew on their attempt to return to Ithaca in antiquity, the Mediterranean sea still had a reputation for both diverting and swallowing whole those that dared try to master it. Italy attempted to master this sea just as its Roman ancestors had via Mare Nostrum – after all, the name means “Our Sea” in Latin which was the ancient name given to the Mediterranean by the Ancient Romans. However, after one year of the operation, it had to be cut down its operation when the EU failed to back the project fully on a grander – more European – scale. Engulfed in an economic crises and unable to fund the project any further, Italy had no choice but to stop the intensity of the operation as Mare Nostrum depended on European cooperation in order for it to succeed.
In 2015, the EU took on the work of under the new operation - Triton - but keeping it on half the budget of Mare Nostrum and confined in Italian waters (not the EU scale as Italy desired).
It is again easy to blame the EU for its failure to unite with Italian efforts (speculated by some for thinking more about the influx of immigrants than the lives of the migrants) but in the end of the day, the entire world has itself to blame for the tragedies at sea.
There’s chaos in Libya Post-Gadhafi.
The war in Syria has spiraled into a disaster without solution.
ISIS is penetrating through the Middle East with its antiquated and archaic rhetoric and extremism.
Developing countries are making it more complex for refugees to apply for asylum which in the end leaves the burden onto developing countries (such as Lebanon) to take them in. Within my own organisation, I work with the Lebanese Medical NGO SANA, which focuses on providing training in obstetric ultrasound to midwives in rural areas in order to reduce the level of maternal mortality. Now with the on-going crises in neighbouring Syria, refugees are arriving en masse and SANA finds itself both supporting the local Lebanese population while also supporting the influx of Syrians. On all fronts, it’s overwhelming and requires a lot more resources then what was used previously. According to UNHCR (the UN’s refugee agency), this has resulted in emergency situations in countries which already struggle to sustain its own local population.
As long as the current crises in the Middle East continues and as developed countries continue to render it difficult for refugees to apply for asylum, then there will always be a market for smugglers to traffic refugees in Europe.
With the situation becoming dire in Syria and Libya, people will want to leave and that’s inevitable. In order to reduce the boat crossings and to halt the number of deaths at sea, it is vital that the EU eases its asylum restrictions with every country within the EU agreeing to take on a certain amount of refugees which it can support and sustain reasonably. The international community needs to also be more aggressive in finding a peaceful and sustainable solution to the Syrian crises, for the sake of the UN charter which demands that peace and human rights be defended at all costs.
By acting now, the global community can stop or at least reduce the frequency of these tragedies from occurring. “The greatest sin is when good people see bad things happening and do nothing”
Once again, 700 people were lost in the Mediterranean sea. How many more must we lose to realise that our inaction is gold of smugglers?
Think about it…..
SANA Medical NGO is dedicated to teaching midwives who work in rural and impoverished Lebanese communities (in addition to providing quality care to Syrian refugee community in Lebanon). Click on this link to read more about the work they do and the positive aura they spread in spite of set backs.
According to Amnesty International, Mare Nostrum saved over 100,000 lives in its operation. Since it's slow down and take over by the EU initiative Triton, the scale has not been boosted to meet the demand to rescue refugees. To read about the EU-Italian politics behind Mare Nostrum, click here.