Humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean

 

A chara, – The European Network Against Racism in Ireland, a network of 47 civil society organisations committed to combating racism, urges the Government and the leaders of our European Union partners to ensure that the response to the ongoing human tragedy in the Mediterranean is one focused on humanitarian, rather than military, solutions.

Ireland, like all European countries, must recognise its responsibility at this crucial moment and do everything in its power to avoid further mass loss of human life. We hope the Taoiseach in his discussions with other European leaders shows leadership in resisting the temptation to opt for populist responses, and instead offer concrete solutions that will, to use Amnesty International’s term, put people before borders.

We urge all European member states, including Ireland, to make financial pledges towards the expansion and continuation of search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean, in a way that is transparent and ensures democratic oversight. This humanitarian crisis is a European crisis, and the responsibility must be borne by all, on a fair basis.

We urge the creation of a Europe-wide programme for large-scale resettlement for people in need of international protection, to be allocated on a fair basis, in line with each country’s GDP.

We have a responsibility to act in solidarity with other EU member states, and we are signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and let us not forgot that nor why it was drafted.

We call for the opening of safe and legal channels to Europe, acknowledging the reality that numerous ongoing wars and crises are displacing huge numbers of people.

Smuggling is not the only reason behind these perilous journeys. The crisis did not start with the deaths in the Mediterranean, rather what we are witnessing is a symptom of a deeper crisis.

It must be acknowledged that this crisis is borne out of years of instability in sub-Saharan Africa, north Africa and the Middle East, instability for which some EU countries bear significant responsibility. If the response of EU heads of state is to push people back into dire situations and conflict, we will not only move the “problem” down the line and perpetuate it, but also fail to understand this as a global problem, one which requires Europe to show courageous leadership.

Let our policy in this area reflect the founding principles of the European Union.

Of one thing we can be sure. people will continue to risk their lives by embarking on perilous journeys across the Mediterranean, not knowing what awaits them but certain that there is no hope behind them.

We need proactive, effective and humane strategies in place now to stop people dying at our shores. We must acknowledge the part Europe has played in creating this crisis and act to rectify it, by whatever humanitarian means possible. – Is mise,

SHANE O’CURRY,

Director,

ENAR Ireland,

37 Dame Street,

Dublin 2, for Age Action Intercultural Nursing Home Project; Akidwa Migrant Women’s Network; Anti Racism Network; Ballyfermot Travellers Action Project; Cairde; Canal Communities Partnership; Canal Communities Regional Youth Service; Canal Communities Intercultural Network; Comhlámh; Community Workers Cooperative; Conference of Religious of Ireland; Cultúr; Doras Luimní;European Anti-Poverty Network Ireland; Galway Traveller Movement; Immigrant Council of Ireland; Irish Missionary Union; Immigrant Parents & Guardians Support Association; Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation; Irish Refugee Council; Irish Traveller Movement; Mayo Intercultural Action; Migrant Rights Centre Ireland; NASC Immigrant Centre; National Traveller; Mabs; National Youth Council of Ireland; Rialto Community Network; ROI Against Racism; Roma Integration Association; Show Racism the Red Card; Sport Against Racism Ireland; Siptu; Union of Students in Ireland (USI).

Sir, – The plight of migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean is not new, neither unfortunately is our inaction – whether due to ignorance or plain lack of concern for the “other” – and most Europeans have done very little so far but pay lip-service to the problem.

At its closest point to Gibraltar, north Africa is less than 15km from southern Europe. North Africa has a geospatial impact on Europe and vice versa, whether we like it or not. Unlike Ukraine, Europe cannot presume that the US will row in; this is our problem and on our doorstep.

The plight of these desperate migrants has shone a light on the fallacy of unity within the EU. African migrants have been seen as a problem for southern states; northern Europeans were happy to let Italy, Spain and tiny but hugely significant Malta bear the brunt of this problem. The attitude is that what happens on the periphery can stay on the periphery.

This crisis has left European Politicians with no option but direct action. Having lived under the umbrella of US security since the end of the second World War, Europeans have decided that expeditionary action is something done by the US. As much as Britain and France may espouse the idea of European self-assertion, their defence cuts in particular say otherwise. While it may not be to everyone’s liking, the most suitably equipped and trained personnel that Europe has available to deal with the sea-borne portion of this emergency are its militaries.

Europeans must look to our duplicity in circumstances like this. We will shed tears for drowning Africans but do we ask what causes these people to risk their lives and those of their children? We must accept that approximately 70 years of independence has not gone very well in many African states. Some of this is down to the after-effects of European colonialism.

This issue alone has hamstrung us in two basic ways – while some of us still feel guilt over the white man’s legacy others are still involved in Africa for their own gain, the latter being particularly damaging when it comes to aiding or propping up ruling elites.

Lastly there is the contentious area of trade and advantages in production. Africa is not entirely barren, and sub-Saharan Africa has immense agricultural potential, so why is it that it cannot seem to compete on the world stage? Agriculture in the EU, US and Japan is so heavily subsidised that there is little chance for an African farmer to produce and sell at market prices.

As long as there is economic and political turmoil in Africa, the people of that continent will seek a better future in another homeland.

I wonder how long this problem will stay in the current news cycle. We will shift focus to the next big thing, but desperate people will still be drowning.

I urge Europeans to take the problems of north Africa seriously, if not for a humanitarian reason then for a selfish one. We need a secure and stable north Africa. – Yours, etc,

ANNE QUINLAN,

Clondalkin,

Dublin 22.