Reading about hundreds of innocent refugees perishing during their efforts to reach Europe, one wonders why the European Union and the international community are unable to prevent such blatant loss of lives. It’s not such a herculean task, preventing these deaths, but what has been lacking is a will and proper coordination between various international agencies and countries.
In this context, the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso’s decision to provide an aid of $40.5m to Italy to help the country deal with an influx of African refugees is a positive step, but not enough to deal with the severity of the problem. The decision comes after the drowning of more than 300 refugees near the Italian island of Lampedusa. And on Friday, a boat carrying more than 200 refugees capsized off the coast of Sicily, leaving more than 30 people dead. According to reports, more than 20,000 migrants have died over the past two decades trying to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe. The deaths are only likely to continue. Such is the desperation of people fleeing conflict and poverty that they will risk anything for a better life. The fact that thousands of people have died during their efforts are no deterrent for those embarking on a similar journey again. This means the responsibility for preventing migrant deaths in treacherous seas lies with the international community, especially Europe and the United Nations. They haven’t discharged their responsibilities so far, and unless this happens, precious lives will continue to be lost in rough seas.
With the world becoming more unstable every month, the number of people seeking refuge is likely to go up exponentially. The revolutions in Middle East have only added to the problem. With instability in many Middle East countries, especially in Syria, thousands of people are trying to flee to Europe. At the same time, Europe is not only not in a position to absorb these migrants, their arrival is disturbing peace in their territory. There is a rise in xenophobia and racism due to the presence of migrants. With several European countries suffering from economic turmoil, throwing tens of thousands of workers out of their jobs, the governments are struggling to deal with the migrant issue. This is also contributing to the increasing influence of far-right parties. For example, Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front party, controversially said in 2011 that the only solution to prevent these migrants from reaching Europe is to force them back before they could reach the shores.
While the European Commission’s aid to Italy is good start, the commission needs to do more. The refugees must be stopped at their origin and coordination must be increased with African countries•