Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 6:52 PM

African Migrants Turning Mediterranean into Vast Cemetery

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

article-2596907-1B3F569900000578-306_634x505History is replete with episodes of people migrating in droves from one place to another in search of a better life. And, in far too many cases, their migration challenged them to make it through a known hell to get to an uncertain heaven. Hispanics and Haitians migrating to America blighted the twentieth century in this respect. Africans and Arabs migrating to Europe seem destined to blight the twenty-first.

I have written a fair amount on both. More to the point, though, I wrote a foreboding lament, in “Lampedusa Tragedy Highlights Europe’s Haitian Problem,” October 7, 2013, after 300 Africans drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to make it to Europe.

Here is an excerpt.

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As tragic as this event was, political dysfunction, economic stagnation, and civil strife on the Dark Continent are such that Africans will continue to risk life and limb to seek a better life. For, just as no legal barrier or risk of drowning in the Caribbean Sea has stemmed the tide of Haitian migrants setting off for America, no legal barrier or risk of drowning in the Mediterranean Sea will stem the tide of African migrants setting off for Europe.

I should clarify here that I’m using Haitian migrants in this context because of their obvious parallels with African migrants. But I hope it’s self-evident that migrants from Mexico, Central, and South America constitute the vast majority of those who populate America’s “migrant streams.” Haitians are just the most tragic … and undesirable (i.e., from a U.S. immigration perspective)…

In a similar vein, even if less evident, migrants from Turkey, the Middle East, India, and Pakistan constitute the vast majority of those who populate Europe’s migrant streams. Africans are just the most tragic … and undesirable (i.e., from an EU immigration perspective)…

It speaks volumes that Europeans are ascribing no blame for this Lampedusa tragedy to the African governments that have failed their people so abysmally. This failure, after all, is the only reason so many Africans, utterly bereft of hope at home, are fleeing to Europe in desperate pursuit of peace, prosperity, and happiness. But I suppose this self-recrimination among European governments demonstrates how difficult it is for them to sever that umbilical cord of colonial obligation.

I just hope the damning irony is not lost on any proud African that, 50 years after decolonization, hundreds of Africans (men, women, and children) are risking their lives, practically every day, to subjugate themselves to the paternal mercies of their former colonial masters in Europe.

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Now comes this:

Some 300 migrants, who tried to cross the frigid Mediterranean in open, rubber boats, were reported missing Wednesday by survivors as the U.N. refugee agency and other aid groups sharply criticized the new EU rescue operation as insufficient and costing lives.

(Associated Press, February 11, 2015)

38484305migration500_enBBC World News reported yesterday that 3,500 migrants died trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2014. One wonders how many others perished without a trace….

In any event, this latest tragedy affirms my foreboding that the bobbing crucible at sea will never deter Africans from trying to escape their living hell at home.

The slogan “African solutions for African problems” has gained considerable currency in recent years. Well, no African problem needs an African solution more than living conditions that compel so many Africans to migrate, come what may. The abiding shame is that African leaders show no interest in even trying to solve this problem.

Meanwhile, European leaders are accusing each other of not doing enough to rescue African migrants adrift at sea, fleeing the abject misery African leaders have wrought.

Pope Francis addresses the Council of Europe in StrasbourgIndeed, no less a person than Pope Francis has entreated all European leaders to do more — the enabling specter of neo-colonialism be damned. Here, according to Reuters, is the edict summoning their noblesse oblige, which he issued during an address before the European Parliament on November 25, 2014:

We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery.

Alas, the Mediterranean has already become a vast cemetery … where many others seem bound to meet their maker.

Related commentaries:
Lampedusa tragedy

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