The Price of Focus: shifting the western lens

It has been said that to drown is a peaceful death. For many of the more than 800 people fleeing violence and poverty in north Africa and the Middle East, peace may have been a stranger in their lives, but death was not. 

When a boat smuggling more than 850 migrants overturned off the coast of Libya Sunday, the world took notice. The majority were fleeing Syria, while others came from Iraq, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia. Survivors reported that a few hundred people in the over-crowded boat were forced to travel in the hold, locked in to prevent them from climbing up. There were only 28 survivors.

This occurrence is hardly singular. In April alone, the deadliest month on record, more than 1,300 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe by way of Italy and Malta. In 2013 more than 500 people from Eritrea, Somalia and Ghana drowned as a result of the Lampedusa shipwrecks. In 2014 migrant deaths crossing the Mediterranean topped 3,000 individuals.

Now that the world has taken notice, something must be done. The EU, encouraged by Italy for years to take action, has created a 10-point plan to tackle the crisis. 

The plan includes maritime patrolling operations, the systematic destruction of smuggling vessels, a program to “rapidly return” migrants, fingerprinting of all migrants, regular meetings, “considering options” for emergency relocation and deployment of support teams and liaisons.

The question now, aside from efficacy, is whether this plan treats the symptoms or the disease.

There is no quick answer to making the home regions of these refugees habitable, but the rapid return of “irregular” or “illegal” migrants to their home countries is discouraging, to say the least. Destroying smuggling vessels will surely be one of the more effective steps, but smuggling human cargo is lucrative, and those who turn to the work are often unable to find work elsewhere. The chance to safely find work in a stable country would be a more effective long-term solution.

Refugees and migrants may be seeking asylum in Europe, but this deadly crossing is hardly the problem of the EU only. The UN, though historically toothless, was created to deal with international issues such as this. What will the US do to aid these refugees, who are fleeing from regions that the US has so often had a hand in destabilizing?

Then there is the issue of attention span. How long will Western eyes linger? It shouldn’t take the progressive loss of thousands of lives before we start problem solving. Compare coverage by western media to the lives lost year after year. The numbers just don’t add up. 



Mediterranean migrants crisis: EU triples funding:

The real reason for the Mediterranean migrant crisis:

Factbox: EU's 10-point plan to tackle Mediterranean crisis:

Rising Toll on Migrants Leaves Europe in Crisis; 900 May Be Dead at Sea:

IOM: Mediterranean death toll could top 30,000 in 2015:

The death toll in the Mediterranean rises while Europe looks the other way:


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Jen JacksonComment