Averting mass deaths on the Mediterranean: a global challenge
The number of deaths, in the Mediterranean Sea, of people fleeing from economic and political difficulties has reached such an alarming dimension that the world must rise now to put a stop to this callous occurrence. Almost daily, the death tolls arising from ship wrecks of asylum seekers and economic refugees struggling to cross the Mediterranean Sea and enter Europe for greener pastures continues to rise and grow in very frightening quantum. As a result of the desperation of the fleeing migrants, boats are unconscionably over filled with people beyond capacities, thus increasing the rate of sea accidents and mishaps.
Last week alone, the number of people believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea for Europe-bound asylum seekers was put at about 700. The deaths reportedly took place after more than 13,000 people had set sail from Libya for Italy. The United Nations Human Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) described the death as the highest weekly death toll since April last year when more than 1,300 died in two separate incidents off the Libyan sea. Rescuers at last week’s tragic shipwrecks said there were bodies of mainly motionless young men, women and children, including a couple hugging each other, floating the sea.
The UNHCR said most of the dead were escaping dictatorship, wars and poverty in Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Southern Sudan and Cameroun. Besides the Mediterranean Sea, there are also refugee crisis in Athens, Greece where dozens of mainly Syrian asylum seekers flood the place seeking to enter various parts of Europe.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), a Switzerland-based Non Governmental organization that is concerned with migration issues in its recent report on, “Missing Migrant Project,” published in its website, there were a total of 2,443 cases of missing migrants by the end of May this year. This figure contrasts with 3,770 missing migrants for the whole of last year 2015 and 3,279 missing migrants for 2014. Going by this statistics and current pattern, if concerted and urgent actions/steps are not taken by the world, before the end of this year, the current number of missing migrants would have doubled.
No doubt, most of the migrants come from the crisis-ravaged Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, with African countries, particularly Sudan, Somalia, Nigeria, Cameroun, amongst others accounting for the rest of the population. The migrants head mainly to Europe and in some small instances, America. These are people fleeing from civil war and terror, and in other cases, driven by economic hardships, occasioned by bad governance. Statistics also shows that more than one million migrants and refugees crossed to Europe in 2015, while 280,000 were recorded the year before in 2014. In the first two months of this year, a total of 135,000 had already arrived Europe.
Given the growing and alarming number of people losing their lives in the high seas, as they risk to cross over to Europe and America in search of safety and better life, the need for a global solution becomes more imperative and more urgent. Incidentally, this dire situation was happening at a time the UN was hosting the first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey.
Europe and America, and indeed the entire humanity cannot continue to pretend over the grave danger these incidents pose. That the majority of the casualties from these boat wreckages come from Africa and Asia does not diminish the fact that it is human lives that are involved. The point must be made that all lives attract equal value no matter whether they are black, white or indeed, any other colour.
We believe that the best approach to curtailing the growing deaths arising from the risky migrations in the high seas, is to address the fundamental factors that appeal to people to venture to flee their countries of origin. In Africa, the citizens must begin to take the issue of participatory democracy, respect for human rights as well as good and accountable governance seriously. This way, leadership is held accountable to judicious application of public resources, which in turn ensures that developmental goals are met, and subsequently guarantees good lives for the people.
In the crisis-ravaged countries, which account for the greatest number of the migrants, humanity must realize that the world has a daunting challenge at hand. It must unite to ensure peace in those troubled places. This is because crisis in one country is threat to peace in another. The West, the greatest beneficiaries of the sale of arms and military equipment that sustain the crises, has a moral responsibility to lead the peaceful initiative. The citizens and people of the troubled areas must also appreciate the fact that prosperity can only thrive in a peaceful atmosphere.