Nobody with compassionate blood in their veins should be able to ignore a coffin ship, especially since we sent so many of them from these shores, and yet the wholesale destruction of human life in the Mediterranean is ignored. Nine hundred people drowned the other day in a single incident, with most of the victims locked in the hold of the ship, suffering a painful, agonising death as the vessel rolled over. Their bodies will never be recovered nor mourned by their families.
Each of those desperate people had paid traffickers €1,000 for passage to a new life in Europe, and all of them were trying to escape the desperation of conflict and oppression. They found themselves herded onto grossly unseaworthy vessels, crewed by other refugees with a little seafaring experience, and cast adrift on the Mediterranean with barely enough diesel to get them as far as Greece or Italy.
That’s close to a million dollars a boat for the Libyan traffickers who operate this vile trade. Gadaffy used it during his dictatorship to apply pressure to European governments. When they gave him what he wanted, he choked off the trade, and when it suited him, he launched a flood of immigrants into the EU.
What we’re seeing now is an appalling exodus of desperate people from Syria, Eritrea, sub-Saharan Africa, all seeking someplace to have a life and raise their children in dignity and peace. Many of the conflicts they flee from were caused or exacerbated by the activities of European governments, European companies and the EU itself, just as the activities of American business and political entities did exactly the same.
Syria itself is the product of French and British interference in the Middle East, just like Iraq. Many people escaping from ISIS are running away from a thing created in large part by Paul Bremer, the American pro-consul in Baghdad, following the USA’s pointless and illegal invasion of Iraq.
Western hands are not clean in this appalling surge of human misery and therefore the EU needs to take responsibility for its share, just as the United States does. But at the same time, Italy is not responsible for all the misery of Africa and the Middle East, and should not be forced to absorb the entire stream of immigrants from North Africa, any more than it should be expected to take responsibility for the entire rescue effort.
If the European Union means anything, it should take collective responsibility for dealing with this human disaster, though we can hold no high hopes. After all, this is the same European Union that left member states like Ireland swinging in the breeze when the banking crisis broke. This is the same European Union that ignored wholesale slaughter on its doorstep between 1992 and 1995, when white Europeans in Bosnia tore each other to pieces and inflicted mass slaughter on helpless civilians.
If the EU could ignore what happened in the land of the Winter Olympics, does anyone seriously believe this European Union will care one jot what happens to Arabs or Africans? The evidence says otherwise, as anyone who remembers the Rwanda slaughter will attest.
Lyndon B Johnson once said in the Vietnam era, Get those goddam burnt babies off my TV.
The EU’s only priority will be to make sure the Libyans stop drowning so publicly.