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Europe’s sea of death for migrants is a result of war and escalating inequality

Seumas Milne, “Europe’s sea of death for migrants is a result of war and escalating inequality“, The Guardian, Thursday 9 October 2014.


The carnage on our borders will only grow without a radical shift from an iniquitous and failed system

The Mediterranean has become Europe’s sea of death. More than 3,000 refugees and migrants have already been killed this year trying to escape war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East and break into the continental fortress to the north. That is more than four times 2013’s grim tally and makes up three quarters of a new annual global death toll of migrants. By any reckoning, this is a humanitarian disaster on Europe’s borders: the direct result of a system that favours the free movement of cheap European labour over providing refuge for victims of conflagration and destitution on our periphery.

These are the Syrians, Palestinians, Eritreans and Libyans, many of them children, driven into the hands of people traffickers to be drowned in overcrowded fishing boats, or sold to corrupt officials as European coastguards patrol off the sun-soaked beaches. Since the beginning of the century, more than 22,000 are estimated to have lost their lives trying to reach Europe. The annual cull reached a crescendo last month when a boat carrying refugees and migrants from Egypt to Malta was rammed and sunk by traffickers after those on board refused to transfer to a smaller vessel. Five hundred people died.

One of them was an Egyptian 14-year-old who wanted to earn money to pay for his sick father’s treatment. Others had survived Israel’s summer onslaught on Gaza and used money given to rebuild their homes to escape the siege for good. Imagine the resources that would have been poured into the investigation if 500 white Europeans had been deliberately killed in the Mediterranean — far more, clearly, than the 298 who died in the Malaysian airliner shot down over Ukraine two months earlier.

But when it comes to the Arab and African victims of Europe’s watery killing fields, the rich world establishment shrugs and moves on. At least the Argentinian Pope Francis visited Italy’s frontline island of Lampedusa off the north African coast soon after his election to call for a “reawakening of conscience” over the scandal.


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