Tuesday, 21 April 2015

After the latest disaster in the Mediterranean

the European Commission has put forward a "ten point plan" to "tackle the crisis".
I have just read it - and I despair. It's meaningless. They use words like "will reinforce" and "extend their scope", "make a systematic effort" and "will meet regularly". Here's the list from the SBS website: 
"Here are the 10 points put forward by the European Commission and backed by EU foreign and interior ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg:
1. The EU will reinforce the EU's maritime patrolling operations in the Mediterranean, called Triton and Poseidon, by giving them more money and equipment. The EU will also extend their scope to patrol a wider area of sea.
2. The bloc will make a systematic effort to capture and destroy vessels used by the people smugglers, using the EU's counter-piracy "Atalanta" operation off Somalia as a model. EU officials said it would be a combined civilian and military operation but gave no more details.
3. The EU's law enforcement, border control, asylum and prosecutors' agencies will meet regularly and work closely to gather information on how the smugglers operate, to trace their funds and help investigate them.
4. The European Union's asylum support office will to deploy teams in Italy and Greece for joint processing of asylum applications.
5. EU governments will fingerprint all migrants.
6. The EU will consider options for an "emergency relocation mechanism" for migrants.
7. The European Commission will launch a voluntary pilot project on resettling refugees across the EU.
8. The EU will establish a new return program for rapid return of "irregular" migrants coordinated by EU agency Frontex from the EU's Mediterranean countries.
9. The EU will engage with countries surrounding Libya through a joint effort between the Commission and the EU's diplomatic service.
10. The EU will deploy immigration liaison officers abroad to gather intelligence on migratory flows and strengthen the role of the EU delegations."
These points are not the answer of course. Nothing is going to stop people trying to seek refuge. Nothing is going to stop people trying  migrate to Europe. For them Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, France and Germany are seen as desirable destinations. The streets are "paved with gold".
At present there are also people fleeing violence. They are fleeing from places like Syria and from groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. They genuinely fear for their lives. There are women and children in the groups. Far too many of them have lost their lives trying to reach safety. Others can't. They have no money to pay the people smugglers.
Stop the warfare and the violence in their own countries? Make it safe to return and many of those fleeing violence would want to go home and start rebuilding their lives? If it does ever become possible then they are going to need new and different sorts of support.
That list above is nothing more than vague waffle from those who have no idea what to do about the multiple crises and problems which cause people to want to move on. How do you remove those who cling to power against the will of the people they have control over? How do you stop those who want power and claim to have "God" or "Allah" on their side?
I would be happier if the list acknowledged that there are two groups of people here. There are first those who are seeking asylum, those who are genuinely in fear of their lives. The women and children are the ones in that group who should be given priority. They are the future of any society. The very old need to be cared for. Many asylum seekers hope to "go home" one day. They dream of returning to their towns and villages and their old lives. Even when they know that their old lives will never be possible again they want to return if it is safe to do so.Home is home.
There is also a second group of people, people who are simply seeking to migrate. They believe life in another country will be preferable. Some believe that they will get rich and be able to support their families or bring their families to join them. Others abandon their families. 
The European Commission, the EU, other desirable destinations (and I include Australia) and - most of all - the United Nations need to recognise these two separate groups. Until we do that those who are most in need of help are going to take second place to those who simply want "a better life" somewhere else. 
I sympathise with the desire for a better life - but I would rather see children out of reach of the bombs and snipers. I would rather children were fed and going to school and getting ready to rebuild their countries. 
Isn't it time to start thinking about that?

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