They are coming by the hundreds. More than 8.500 migrants were pulled off the Mediterranean Sea in one week alone on April 2015. More than 1.750 people have drowned in the same waters trying to reach European shores from January to April 2015. This is 30 times the number of migrants who died in the Mediterranean during the same time period in 2014, according to the International Organisation for Migration. Greatly overcrowded, the vessels carrying frightened, desperate families easily capsize and sink.
Italy does not have the power to save thousands of lives. And as an international crisis grows in Italian waters, one question arises: what to do with the lives of those who are saved?
Basic rules of courtesy state that you must make your guests feel welcome. But can Europe welcome all these migrants, when they are coming in such great numbers? A growing number of people believe that the solution for the impressively high immigration rates in recent times is firmly closing the borders. No more people should be let in. European ground is for Westerners and Westerners alone. This is our home; our space; our food; our jobs; our freedom. Or so it seems. Nevertheless, we must ask ourselves: why are these migrants coming here? What makes them so desperate to reach European soil?
The answer is simple. They are running. Running from wars, running from famine, running from desolation, oppression and violence. These people are so scared and desperate that they endure horrors during their long journeys North, all in hope of having a better life somewhere in Europe. They are tricked by human traffickers and led to believe that Europe has jobs for them. That they can get new lives here, and the means to provide for their families or for themselves. When you are faced with a country at war – your own home -, with no livelihoods and no freedom for you and your family, and you are told that there are countries in the North where there are no wars, there are jobs, there is religious and ethnic tolerance… What would you do?
Would you not be willing to cross land and sea, to risk your life and to plunge into the dangers of the unknown… if that meant you could, perhaps, save your family and yourself? We must put ourselves in others’ shoes before judging. If we were the ones being haunted by suffering, hunger and persecution, would we not try to reach salvation?
Public discussions seem to approach two main alternatives on how to deal with this major crisis. Let us reflect on both scenarios:
1) Europe entirely closes its borders. Setting a straight line of military ships across the Mediterranean Sea and stopping any more vessels from reaching European soil is becoming a popular idea for many people. But what are its consequences?
If we close the borders, millions of people will die. Essentially, we will be leaving Africans to kill Africans. Countries will go into civil wars, more innocents will be slaughtered, human rights will disappear in the midst of chaos and destruction. For some of us, this might not seem like such a bad idea. For others, it might seem like a sad, yet unavoidable outcome. However, we have a responsibility, as human beings, to defend those of us who cannot defend themselves – and we have, too, a responsibility from a historical, colonial point of view. Most of the conflicts African countries are currently going through are closely related to Western nations. If we do not have political interest in an African country, we will leave Africans to deal for themselves. If we are interested, we can fund wars, dictators and terrorists… all in order to profit from the situation.
2) Europe takes in every migrant who reaches its shores. For the contrary, if we welcome our new (un)welcome guests into European soil, how long will it take until we run out of resources? Standing in the middle of our very own political, economical and social crisis, we are not properly prepared to accept thousands of new people into our countries. Overpopulation being an ever growing issue, if we accept even more individuals and families into our nations… how will we all survive?
It seems, then, that both these scenarios are infeasible. How can we change the game? The only logical answer – which doesn’t make it the least bit easy – is changing the conditions of the countries in conflict. Attack the root of the problem, instead of only cutting down the branches and wait for them to grow back. If we change the conditions and make life better for the migrants, they will no longer need to run away from war and famine towards Europe. But there is a strong lack of political interest in ending these conflicts, because, of course, we profit from them.
So how can we solve this? Public pressure over Governments is, as with many other problems, the best chance we have got to change this paradigm. With numbers growing indefinitely, it is becoming ever more clear that immigration will be the grand social issue of the 21st Century.
Some of you might argue that the entire “Public Pressure” plan is “very nice in theory, not so achievable in practice”. It is, indeed, a piece of advice we have been told over and over again… But maybe that is because this is actually a good piece of advice. Even more: it is quite probably the best way to deal with an international, humanitarian crisis of such dimension. Just like Global Warming. Just like Economy, Politics or any other affair that involves multiple people… that involves the entire world. Once again I state: we must stop viewing ourselves as individuals, and start realising that we are all one. One species thriving to survive in an endangered world. When will we stop seeing some of us as disposable, and start seeing all of us as having the same rights to live equally and fairly on this Planet?