From a World to Win News Service:

Mass Deaths in the Mediterranean: a “Non-event”

May 2, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


A man and child try to reach shore after falling from a boat on which they crossed a part of the Aegean sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, Jan. 3, 2016. Photo: AP

April 25. 2016. A World to Win News Service. No one knows exactly how many refugees drowned in a shipwreck somewhere between Libya and Italy in late April. The 41 known survivors, who drifted in a small boat for days before being picked up by a freighter, said that between 400 and 500 died.

These hundreds of deaths of Somalis and other East Africans barely made it into the news. This was not only because they were born in countries where the common people have no right to expect to stay alive, in some Western eyes, but even more because these deaths are part of a shameful situation that all the Western powers have conspired to bring about.

A similar shipwreck in October 2013 left hundreds of bodies of adults and children floating off the shores of the Italian island of Lampedusa. At that time, only fishermen and other local people bothered to try to save them. With its legitimacy and the “normal” functioning of society at stake, the Italian government launched Mare Nostrum, a naval operation to rescue people.

Though many people drowned, about 150,000 people were pulled out of the water during the following year. Many European governments considered that a problem: the chances of death had to be drastically increased to keep out migrants. Mare Nostrum was replaced by Operation Triton, with police vessels that are not equipped to rescue and safely transport people. Italy’s participation is called “Mare sicuro” (“Secure Sea”) because the aim is to “secure” the European coastline from non-Europeans.

Leading European politicians and their media stooges bang on about how “traffickers” are responsible for these deaths. Yet if these traffickers say, we don’t have the facilities to rescue anyone when boats accidentally tip over and at any rate we’re not in the business of saving people—isn’t that exactly what NATO and the European Union are saying? And these traffickers, unlike the Western powers, are not responsible for the situations that make risking death at sea the best option for whole populations.

The European authorities have had to go back and forth on this, sometimes trying to emphasize their “humanitarian” values so that the indifference to human life of their states and system does not stand naked. Almost exactly a year before this latest criminal tragedy, after 800 people drowned under similar circumstances, Europe also launched Operation Sofia, which has rescued 12,600 people. Almost four times that number are believed to have drowned since then. Amnesty International said that Operation Sofia was “bound to fail” because saving people is not the mission it is meant and equipped for.

Right now, there is not a single government-owned ship in the Mediterranean meant for that mission. The only such vessel has been the Aquarius, operated by Medicins du Monde (Doctors of the World) and SOS Mediterranee. Financed mainly by donations on the Net, this former German Coast Guard patrol boat rented by the NGOs is fitted to carry up to 500 people, equipped with a clinic and staffed by medical personnel. Without emergency treatment, many people found floating in the sea will die. After the latest drownings, Medicins Sans Frontieres [Doctors Without Borders], whose three ships halted their work in January, resumed operations, finding and rescuing hundreds of people immediately.

The Aquarius has been stationed just outside Libyan territorial waters. It is this part of the sea and, perhaps, the Libyan coastline, where NATO and the EU (European Union) are now discussing sending their warships—not to rescue people, but to stop them.



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