The Mediterranean Sea Death Trap: A Humanitarian Overview
Posted on 6th June 2018 at 14:23
By George Tizirai-Chapwanya
Solicitor at CB Solicitors
The World watches daily at the unending humanitarian crises happening in the Mediterranean Sea. There is no doubt that world leaders are acutely aware of this human tragedy. Conferences have been held where the Mediterranean Sea death trap has been discussed. There have been suggestions to block the migrants from attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in the first place. Others suggested not to rescue migrants who get stranded in the dingy boats as this supposedly encourages more to follow suite.
Still other suggestions have been to deal with the human traffickers who facilitate these crossings. However what is apparent is that the migrants who cross the Mediterranean Sea are determined to find their way into Europe for want of a better life; be it economic or political. It will thus need a different approach from their European hosts and those they flee from to stem this tide.
Human Rights Watch in its 2015 report notes that:
Migrants and asylum seekers have been crossing the Mediterranean for decades. The numbers have fluctuated over the years due to a variety of factors, including conditions in countries of origin and transit, geopolitical developments, and EU policies.
The Mediterranean is the world’s deadliest migration route. The International Organization for Migration estimates that 22,400 migrants and asylum seekers have died since 2000 in attempts to reach the European Union, many of them at sea. Over 3,500 died at sea in 2014, making it the deadliest year on record. With at least 1,850 estimated deaths in the Mediterranean in the first five months of 2015, a new high record may be set this year.
The EU has recently taken important measures to step up search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean. This is a welcome, if belated, response to the immediate humanitarian imperative to save lives. However, robust search and rescue operations need to be accompanied by sustained efforts to ensure the right to seek asylum enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and guaranteed in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The Independent (UK) of 16 November 2016 reported that:
At least 240 refugees have died in 48 hours of boat disasters in the Mediterranean Sea as asylum seekers continue desperate attempts to reach Europe in worsening weather. Only 15 people survived one sinking off the coast of Libya on Monday, telling rescuers around 135 people who had been packed into their rubber dinghy drowned. At least 95 others died in a second disaster on Tuesday, with just nine bodies recovered from the water so far, pushing the death toll for 2016 over 4,500.
The UNHCR report of 25 October 2016:
Expressing alarm at the situation, UNHCR reported that 3,740 lives had been lost so far in 2016, just short of the 3,771 reported for the whole of 2015.
“This is the worst we have ever seen,” UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler told a press briefing in Geneva. “From one death for every 269 arrivals last year, in 2016 the likelihood of dying has spiraled to one in 88.” Spindler said the high loss of life takes place despite a large overall fall this year in the number of people seeking to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Last year at least 1,015,078 people made the crossing. This year so far, crossings stand at 327,800.
“Between Libya and Italy the likelihood of dying is even higher, at one death for every 47 arrivals,” he added, referring to what is called the Central Mediterranean route.
Recent statics show no end in sight to this tragedy. This year (2017) the numbers are even going up and it appears whatever strategies are in place (if any at all), are not holding. What happens to those that make the journey into Europe? This is where one would expect the relevant United Nations Conventions and European Conventions to be activated. However it appears very few European Countries readily accept these migrants. It is nonetheless expected that any migrant who finds himself/herself in a European country should seek assistance at an early stage in the country he/she first arrives. Unless of course there is a reasonable explanation as to why a claim cannot made in the first European country the migrant arrives. For those that make it to United Kingdom it is important that they immediately seek help from the Home Office upon their arrival. It matters most to make early contact with the Home Office rather trying to live a quiet life in the United Kingdom and hoping to regularize your stay at a later stage.
However it is an indictment on the African political leadership for those African migrants that daily endure the dangers of crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Why should so many of Africa’s peoples perish running away from their own countries of origin? The African Union should be a platform for self-introspection by African leaders. They should at least come up with solutions to this seemingly never ending human tragedy. Is Africa waiting for Europe to solve the Mediterranean Sea death trap? Whilst the work of humanitarian agencies and other rescue efforts in the Mediterranean Sea are commendable, it is now incumbent upon the African political leadership to show maturity. Calls for global responses to this tragedy aside; the culture of wars, political dictatorships, human rights abuses and self-interest by politicians must come to an end. Of course, whilst Europe has meddled in African countries thereby creating power vacuums, (which human traffickers take advantage of) in certain areas, e.g. Libya, it is because Africa has been complicit, as it has always looked to Europe to solve its own problems. It is indeed a shame that African migrants would rather die trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea than to live in the own countries; where in most cases they face perennial poverty, disease, and wars. Amidst all this African leaders live in opulence and appear oblivious to the daily struggles of their populations.
In the meantime international humanitarian law should be upheld so that those migrants who make it to Europe are able to pick up their lives and live meaningful lives. For African leaders this continuing tragedy should be wake up call to action. Europe will not solve Africa’s problems. It is up to Africa to end the unnecessary wars, dictatorships, poverty and human rights abuses, all factors that are associated with the human tragedy we are witnessing in the Mediterranean Sea today.
George Tizirai-Chapwanya, BL (Hons) LLB LLM is a Solicitor with CB Solicitors. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit CB Solicitors’ website at www.cbsolicitors.co.uk; Mobile: 07950529478
Disclaimer: This article only provides general information on immigration law. It is not intended to replace the advice or services of a Solicitor. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. The writer will not accept any liability for any claims or inconvenience as a result of use of this information.
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