03.07.2017 Feature Article

Mediterranean Migrant Tragedies: Do The Victims Deserve Our Sympathy?

Mediterranean Migrant Tragedies: Do The Victims Deserve Our Sympathy?
03.07.2017 LISTEN

The past few years have seen the Mediterranean Sea turn into a graveyard for migrants seeking to enter Europe through the back door. Coming mostly from sub-Sahara Africa and places like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan among others, and representing a diverse demography that includes men, women, children, old and young people, the weak and the strong, black people and brown people, the migrants desperately want to go to Europe where they believe a better future awaits them.

Unfortunately, the migrants' dream of securing a better and brighter future for themselves in Europe is becoming a nightmare as more and more of them drown in the frigid waters of the Mediterranean as they try to cross it from Africa into Europe. But can the migrants blame anyone else but themselves for their misfortune?

It would be callous indeed for anyone not to understand the motivation of these hapless people, or not to sympathize with them on their plight. What they are all trying to do is to escape the perennial warfare, the political violence, and the oppressive socio-economic conditions prevailing in their respective native countries. Even so, one finds it extremely hard to see the wisdom in the seeming foolhardiness that characterizes their quest to reach the El Dorado.

The migrants persist in doing something that has proved catastrophic time and again for so many before them, something that is almost always likely to lead them either to watery graves on the bottom of the ocean or indefinite periods of incarceration in grim, ghetto-like detention camps in Europe, which is a far cry from the earthly paradise they have been dreaming about.

Since the beginning of the Europe-bound exodus which, incidentally, overlapped with the insurrection that overthrew Muamar Gadaffi, the hero of African migrant workers, in Libya in 2011, hardly a week goes by without chilling news reports or video footage of scores of people who have either drowned or been rescued from their sinking rickety human trafficking boats or rubber dinghies in the Mediterranean. The Italian Coast Guard recently estimated that some 2000 people have died in the sea trying to reach Europe since the migrant stampede began.

Yet the migrants, obsessed with the idea of setting foot in the wonderland of Europe, are unfazed and continue to defy common sense and tempt fate.

Not surprisingly, the Italian government, which has borne the brunt of the migration pressure, appears to have finally grown weary of endlessly rescuing and hosting refugees and has announced its intention to turn away all humanitarian vessels carrying migrants that approach the Italian coast in the future. Should the government in Rome make good on this threat, as it is likely to do, what would be the fate of the migrants? Stuck in the middle of the ocean with nowhere to go, they would simply perish. The humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean might get worse.

Do the migrants deserve our sympathy? The answer would be no if minors and other vulnerable juveniles were not involved. The adults on the boats should know better than to believe that they could just force other countries to open their doors and let them in; it doesn't work that way in the real world. So for the sake of the children caught up in this tragic mess, the world must show compassion by continuing the rescue operations and saving lives.

In order to discourage anymore reckless adventurers in the future, however, those migrants picked up in the Mediterranean should be promptly repatriated, although chances are their own governments may refuse to take them back. But other Third World countries could be enlisted to help with a little monetary inducement and promises of economic assistance. As the carnage in the Mediterranean gets out of hand, every conceivable device must be employed by the authorities to get a handle on the situation.