European officials were meeting yesterday to discuss steps to curb the menace of illegal migration that threatens to destabilise coastal zones in member countries, which are already suffering the pangs of unemployment and a decline in economic growth. On the same day, the Italian navy said that it had found 24 corpses in the sea after a fishing boat with 400 migrants from Africa capsized.
Migrants from Africa and regions of the Middle East being buffeted by insurgencies have been lashing the shores of southern Europe like myriad tsunamis. These migrants have nothing to lose in their home countries and so risk life, limb and entire families to cross the Mediterranean in search of better living conditions and a stable life.
Can such migrants be faulted? Thousands of families with infants and toddlers in arms are regularly rescued by the Italian navy off the island of Lampedusa in Italy. There have been protests against such migrants in Italy, Greece and Spain. Right wing parties have been protesting for quite some time against what they call the menace of illegal migrants. There have even been attacks against migrants in some countries.
The magnitude of the problem can be gauged from the fact that more than 300 would-be immigrants have been killed and another 4,000 rescued at sea since Friday. The Ukrainian conflict has killed close to 2,000 people till now, but some 2,000 people have died trying to get into Europe since the start of this year.
In earlier days, it was the lure of distant shores and the glitz of a better lifestyle that drove people to risks hitherto unknown to many. Now it is desperation that drives people to get into a ramshackle boat or dinghy and take to the high seas with their families in order to cross the Mediterranean. Most to-be immigrants know that they are taking a huge risk, but they don’t have an option.
Earlier,it was sub-Saharan Africa that sent the bulk of migrants into Europe by sea. Now, it is North Africa and the Middle East. Many migrants also know that the situation in Europe may not be suitable to lead a comfortable life. But back home it is more uncomfortable for them.
The TINA — there is no alternative — factor is so strong that would-be immigrants are overwhelmed by it. They have no other choice but to take the plunge.
European leaders have to understand that the problem of illegal immigration is not only the problem of south European shores. It is incumbent upon all European Union countries to join hands and find a solution to the problem, not only because they are a common entity but also because uncontrolled influx of migrants will one day affect the entire bloc•