“They were looking for a better life.”
April 19, 2015 4:43 PM   Subscribe

Hundreds Feared Dead After Boat Filled With Migrants Capsizes in Mediterranean [New York Times]
"For the past several years, Europe has been confronted with hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving illegally from Africa and the Middle East, many of them fleeing war and poverty. Italy has been in the vanguard of rescue efforts, with its Navy and Coast Guard ships rescuing more than 130,000 people last year in a widely praised program known as Mare Nostrum."

Related:

- Italian PM calls for emergency summit as up to 700 migrants drown. [The Guardian]
- Pope Francis asks world to help Italy with migrants. [Aljazeera]
- A Magnet For African Migrants, Italy Seeks A New Approach [NPR] [March 12, 2014]
- Libya migrants: Boats with 1,150 refugees head to Italy in wake of Mediterranean drowning disaster. [International Business Times]
- Italy downplays, Obama mum on drowned Christian migrants. [Washington Times]
- Muslim migrants 'threw Christians overboard during row on boat from Libya to Italy', say police. [The Independent]
- The deaths this week are a wake-up call. We need a change of direction. [New Statesman]
posted by Fizz (37 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
From the NY Times article:
"The rising death toll is renewing criticism of the European response, especially the Triton program, introduced in November to patrol the Mediterranean and rescue migrants. United Nations officials and humanitarian groups have argued that Triton is too limited in scope and resources and thus is placing migrants at grave risk."
posted by Fizz at 4:44 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


Either Mare Nostrum should never have begun, or it should never have ended. That migrants will be picked up is part of the traffickers' pitch--the boats they use are not meant to reach Europe, if they could. It is almost crueler to keep on with Triton for all the false hope that it gives migrants, at least they would not plight themselves on rickety boats if they knew nobody was coming to save them.

Talk about moral hazard.
posted by Thing at 5:02 PM on April 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


Thing, this NPR story also paints a bleak outlook on the program:
SIEGEL: Well, are the European Mediterranean countries getting help from the rest of Europe? What's the attitude of the Northern European states?

FRAYER: Italy had to cancel its search-and-rescue operation, unfortunately, because it was paying for it alone and simply couldn't afford to continue. They appealed for more money from Europe, and that didn't come.

So what we now have is Operation Triton. It's run by the EU border agency called Frontex, and it involves navies from many EU-member countries. But Triton has a smaller budget than even that individual Italian operation. It has only one helicopter.

It's a border-control operation, which is very different from search-and-rescue; and that's what countries like the UK, for example, actually want. Britain doesn't support search-and-rescue missions it. It believes that more migrants will actually attempt the dangerous journey, perhaps even die en route, if they believe they'll be rescued - sort of like a safety net.
posted by Fizz at 5:10 PM on April 19, 2015


Someone on Twitter said they knew someone who had taken the Lampedusa route. She'd tried twice and failed and succeeded on teh third time. Today has an Italian passport and a shop and is building a house for family back in the African village. She can't read or write. When asked if she would do it again, she said yes.

Death is a risk and a trade off is made. Its beyond my comprehension. I don't know what to say.
posted by infini at 5:10 PM on April 19, 2015 [11 favorites]


My family was among the many Vietnamese boat people who fled during the early 80s. I can't tell you about what these immigrants were thinking, but I can share our perspective: it's true that our boats were never intended to reach Australia, and that we were counting on being picked up at sea. But it's also true that there are things worse than death, and short of chaining is to our native lands, nothing would have stopped us from trying. The desire to prosper and be free is a basic human trait; our forefathers set out on boats not even knowing if there was another shore to reach. So you can try to crack down further, but I guarantee that people will keep trying no matter the death count.
posted by snickerdoodle at 5:13 PM on April 19, 2015 [59 favorites]


That migrants will be picked up is part of the traffickers' pitch--the boats they use are not meant to reach Europe, if they could. It is almost crueler to keep on with Triton for all the false hope that it gives migrants, at least they would not plight themselves on rickety boats if they knew nobody was coming to save them.

Worse still, the underlying causes within the broken refugee policy of the EU, which has been dangerously inconsistent for decades. Disastrous journies such as this are a direct effect of a system in urgent need of reform.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:57 PM on April 19, 2015 [2 favorites]


For the past several years, Europe has been confronted with hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving illegally from Africa and the Middle East. Italy has been in the vanguard of rescue efforts, with its Navy and Coast Guard ships rescuing more than 130,000 people last year in a widely praised program known as Mare Nostrum.

Wow, I didn't realize it was that many people being rescued in a single year.
posted by rosswald at 6:07 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


The sad fact is huge areas of Africa are plagued with war. Those areas free of outright war either have tough border control or are still quite rough places to live and make a legitimate living. Europe, even it's cold streets can look pretty inviting. Closer and a more attainable goal than the US, and in some ways better.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:17 PM on April 19, 2015


With Greece and Italy insolvent, and the Nordic countries overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of asylum seekers, what is to be done? We're seeing a resurgence of right-wing parties such as Sweden Democrats, Front National, Jobbik, and others, which are promising to stop mass migration and tapping into fears of ethnic Swedes, French, Hungarians (and other Europeans) of being displaced in their own lands.

One thing is for sure - this is going to get messier, and uglier, before it gets better.
posted by theorique at 6:36 PM on April 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


The sad fact is huge areas of Africa are plagued with war. Those areas free of outright war either have tough border control or are still quite rough places to live and make a legitimate living.

And meanwhile in South Africa, there's been a wave of anti-immigrant violence.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:06 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


That migrants will be picked up is part of the traffickers' pitch--the boats they use are not meant to reach Europe, if they could. It is almost crueler to keep on with Triton for all the false hope that it gives migrants, at least they would not plight themselves on rickety boats if they knew nobody was coming to save them.

Talk about moral hazard.


Smuggling is a reaction to border controls, not the cause of migration.
posted by migrantology at 7:23 PM on April 19, 2015 [6 favorites]


That migrants will be picked up is part of the traffickers' pitch--the boats they use are not meant to reach Europe, if they could. It is almost crueler to keep on with Triton for all the false hope that it gives migrants, at least they would not plight themselves on rickety boats if they knew nobody was coming to save them.

Australia has been conducting the experiment of "turning back the boats" and although the government has been uncommonly secretive about it, even they admit that the boats haven't stopped departing. The government has spent a lot of money advertising throughout Asia that boats do not make landfall in Australia, and that even those few fortunate enough to do so will be sent to detention offshore.
posted by gingerest at 7:32 PM on April 19, 2015 [5 favorites]


No matter what the official policy, it seems the boats are just going to keep coming. It is long past time for a response which goes beyond "send them back", but there is so little political will in Europe right now for anything except economic stability I cannot imagine this happening. The center is really worried about the draw the extreme right has for the European working class already.

Immigrants are nothing more than a convenient scapegoat for the problems in Europe, but an increased influx of refugees could not happen at a worse time. I've been chatting online with my friends back in Amsterdam about the sinking and there's a real sense of helplessness and despair. I read in the Dutch papers this morning that the poor souls will be buried in unmarked graves in Malta.
posted by frumiousb at 9:05 PM on April 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


.
posted by librarylis at 9:19 PM on April 19, 2015


There's an added dose of lurid-ness about this in the UK, as the tragedy was reported a day after this openly fascist opinion piece appeared in The Sun. The author is now (predictably) claiming she was misquoted and is the victim of a Twitter hate campaign.
posted by Sonny Jim at 11:56 PM on April 19, 2015 [1 favorite]


"This American Millionaire Is Using Drones To Rescue Migrants In Africa"
Since 1993, 20,000 people have died in the Mediterranean Sea while fleeing war-torn Africa for the safety of European shores. Now, the world’s first private maritime search and rescue operation is doing everything it can to help them. And they have already saved thousands of lives.
posted by jjwiseman at 12:42 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


From the Guardian with my emphasis:
The drama unfolded in the watery darkness of a Mediterranean night. Coastguard officials said the vessel probably overturned when the migrants caught sight of a Portuguese ship and all moved to the same side of their boat. Only 28 people were rescued, along with 24 bodies.

General Antonino Iraso, of the Italian border police, said those small numbers make more sense if hundreds of people were locked in the hold, because with so much weight down below, the boat would “surely” have sunk.

“They wanted to be rescued,” said Barbara Molinario, a spokeswoman for UNHCR in Rome. “They saw another ship. They were trying to make themselves known to it.”

The toll, if confirmed, would bring the number of Mediterranean drownings this year to more than 1,500 – more than 50 times greater than at the same point in 2014, which was itself a record year.
A good place to get some understanding of the situation would be Illegality, Inc by Ruben Andersson, 'Employing an ethnographic approach to analyse the clandestine migration routes which connect the Sahelian nations of Senegal, Mauritania and Morocco to southern Europe, his first book, Illegality Inc. provides a comprehensive and eloquent depiction of the business of illegal migration.' Research included hundreds of interviews with people involved at all levels, which he conducted with the angle that he was trying to understand operations.
In Senegal, local police are partners – and beneficiaries – of the European border regime, monitoring the migrant situation on the ground. At the same time, aid agencies and governments routinely convene to push the need for funding sensitisation workshops about the dangers of migration and for support to returned migrants. Controlling migration has become a business that survives on its own failure; every new illegal migration crisis brings further funding commitments and justifications for its continued operation. For example, the Spanish government’s decision to double aid to sub-Saharan Africa from 2006-2010 was influenced by the 2006 influx of migrants.

Andersson moves on to critique three absurd aspects of this migration industry. Firstly, European borders are guarded by some of the most high-tech surveillance, which is entirely disproportionate to the perceived threat. Secondly, physical barriers that have been erected to protect borders – six-metres high barbed-wire fences around Spain’s Moroccan enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla – exist in a world where such delineations are increasingly irrelevant. Finally, the threat posed by ‘illegal’ migrants is overstated: they make up less than 1% of migratory flows to Spain.

He argues that deterrents are not only ineffective and expensive but actually “generate more illegality”. Money would be better spent in addressing the push and pull factors that encourage migration at source. Until the root causes are addressed, the migrants will keep coming.

...In short, Andersson argues for a dismantling of the “illegal industry” and for the reader to see and understand migration for what it is, nothing more than people on the move. I would highly recommend this debut book. It is accessible to readers with a general interest in the subject but still offers plenty for those at the policy level to consider. In offering a challenge to conventional thinking it delivers an argument that is politically powerful.
posted by asok at 2:27 AM on April 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


What's horrible is that this shipwreck is notable only for the large number of deaths; like a post not too long ago where alarm fatigue was discussed, there have been so many of these tragedies on the news that it has almost become background noise, blurring all together.

Indeed that Independant article confused me, because I couldn't find anything about this wreck; turns out it was about a different wreck earlier in the week.

I haven't seen much if any mention in the English press about the connection to the Roma mafia scandal; in short, the mafia has decided that immigrants are more profitable than running drugs. This morning they've arrested a cell of 24 people in Sicily in connection with human trafficking (link in Italian).

IMO there needs to be a two pronged approach that cuts off the hydraMafia's head at the same time that a EU mare nostrum is implemented.
posted by romakimmy at 3:09 AM on April 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:54 AM on April 20, 2015


With Greece and Italy insolvent

Far as I know, Greece is insolvent, Italy isn't.
posted by Baldons at 4:15 AM on April 20, 2015


Finally, the threat posed by ‘illegal’ migrants is overstated: they make up less than 1% of migratory flows to Spain.

Thank you. I would add that there is hardly an unsustainable number of asylum seekers in northern Europe. Why? We can thank the Dublin Regulation for that, which gives countries the authority to deport asylum seekers back to their previous point of departure within Europe. This is why we see large numbers of refugees gathering up in countries like Greece and Italy - the refugees are coming from two directions at once. Some countries have recognized the cruelty of the regulation and have suspended using it, but most haven't. Even the UN has come been critical of its implementation. Getting rid of this regulation would be a good start.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:55 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


It always surprises me just how much of an outlier the US Coast Guard is. As far as I can tell, the scope, breadth, and effectiveness of similar programs in Europe is far smaller than the (relatively unheralded) USCG.

Admittedly, the USCG rarely ever needs to deal with this sort of situation, although this incident and the Costa Concordia seem to indicate that the EU nations are woefully underequipped for responding to (or preventing) maritime disasters along their coasts.
posted by schmod at 7:05 AM on April 20, 2015


There's something wrong in a world where people must risk their and their children's lives to escape danger.
posted by DZ-015 at 7:15 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


"the EU nations are woefully underequipped"

Er.. I don't think so. EU nations are very well equipped. It's just that the great and the good who govern the EU countries, with the exception of Italy, recently choose not to save people. Saving people is, you know, what UK prime minister David Cameron calls the "pull factor". So no one, with the exception of the Italians is now currently saving people.
posted by Mister Bijou at 7:23 AM on April 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


General Antonino Iraso, of the Italian border police, said those small numbers make more sense if hundreds of people were locked in the hold, because with so much weight down below, the boat would “surely” have sunk.

Huh.

Putting weight below deck vs above deck isn't going to do anything to affect a ship's buoyancy. In fact, if you have a ridiculously crowded ship, you want to concentrate the load as close to the keel as possible, to reduce the risk of capsizing (effectively using the passengers as ballast).

If you have people running around above and below deck, you might be able to produce a sort of free surface effect, although that seems just as unlikely as the current explanation.
posted by schmod at 7:32 AM on April 20, 2015


.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:32 AM on April 20, 2015


Admittedly, the USCG rarely ever needs to deal with this sort of situation, although this incident and the Costa Concordia seem to indicate that the EU nations are woefully underequipped for responding to (or preventing) maritime disasters along their coasts.

Odd. I was under the impression that the Costa Concordia was full on due to that fucker Schettino lying to port officials about the severity of the situation. The courts seemed to think so too, although he is naturally appealing the verdict.

posted by romakimmy at 8:57 AM on April 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


.
posted by quadrilaterals at 10:52 AM on April 20, 2015


Oh, hurrah, they're proposing military action.

...that's ... that's just going to go terribly. Blowing up ships in Libyan ports, what could go wrong?
posted by aramaic at 2:13 PM on April 20, 2015


Death toll now "at least 800".

.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:11 AM on April 21, 2015




stupid things: our politicians have found racism is a free ticket, so it's immigrants out, UKIP and so forth. But when i'm due to retire, half the population will have - there'll be no workers to pay taxes to pay my state pension (they looted the investment that's supposed to fund it a long time ago). Nobody wants pensioners to die in penury, nobody wants to work till they die, yet nobody wants immigrants! UK is full of people who refuse to think. Countries are groaning with a youth surge they can't handle, we've got an ageing population (alright if you're 20 or under, as drop isn't directly below you), perfect match - no, can't happen.

Population movement has happened throughout history - no language in Europe is where it started, that includes you, Celts, who killed off the previous natives, despite what your whole tourism and 'history' are based on. If you want to combine that with static sovereign states, not the previous war and annihilation method, you have to have immigration like the modern USA. Anyone in favour of immigration in the UK favours - rich people and highly skilled! The snobbery that ruins our education system - 'middle class: someone who complains a plumber earns more than a lawyer and who bust a gasket if little Henry decided to train as a plumber not a lawyer' (who?) - means everyone thinks it's okay to import endless architects and lawyers and would never tolerate Australia's immigrantion on a points system that rewards hairdressers over dentists if that's what they're short of. (They often say they support 'points-based immigration' but they think this would rank dentists and lawyers highest.) Same way all our education is funded by how posh and glamourous it is, not how much we need it - decades out of date engineering equipment for instance. As for the rich, really? They come over here, push house prices up so we can't afford them, making us renters and bankers rich, and shop at Harrods, who really need the money. Given that only workers pay taxes and only people who rent, buy food etc really contribute to the economy, the blind nonsense that rich people contribute but eastern european workers who come and pick vegetables don't is ridiculous. Not to mention that we might need the food they harvest...

Final ridiculous thing: plants, money, rich people can cross borders, but we're penned and labeled for one piece of mud and how dare we leave. I look and think 'how dare you rich politicians say it's okay for you to move around freely but i mustn't!' Everyone else seems to think it somehow only applies to browner people...

drives me nuts. Wake me up when one british politician addresses real issues and stops playing to the gallery and telling barefaced lies. Occasionally (Hurricane Katrina mainly - that was the moment USA looked like the third world - not the accident, the weeks after) it feels snob-better to be british, but usually, no

nb funny, your border was deadly because of no water and ours is because of too much

nnb italy, greece etc have been drowning in afghanistanis etc for years, the whole treaty is wrong, but for some reason the press and uk stick their fingers in their ears and claim they didn't hear. Yet the information is everywhere
posted by maiamaia at 9:12 AM on April 21, 2015


A Lybian smuggler's take.

italy [has] been drowning in afghanistanis etc for years

Citation? (You were rightly denouncing rhetoric, so...)
posted by progosk at 10:10 AM on April 21, 2015


When will the day come that we will see all human beings as our own brothers and sisters?

I'm sorry, but there are so many lives being completely overlooked as unimportant because we don't know the names and the stories behind them - I'm old and tired and it just breaks my heart.
posted by aryma at 8:38 PM on April 21, 2015


We've created networks of corruption that siphon off infrastructure investment funds, both at home and abroad, so I'm dubious about the Lybian smuggler's take, but..

We've could aim all this fancy western spy gear towards the rich and powerful both in North Africa, as well as those who do business with them, like Berlusconi. We normally use that information to aid western business wishing to do corrupt deals there, but instead lets secretly feed the media interesting corruption tidbits.

We'd simply expose corrupt business practices throughout North Africa, thus making them riskier. If a more equitable distribution of local resources arose, then illegal immigration would decline. We should call it Operation Chelsea Manning in honor of one significant contributor to the Arab Spring.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:07 AM on April 22, 2015


This is an old article (2009) looking at the situation of refugees arriving via boats in Australia. But I think it's still relevant in that it illustrates the very small effect that domestic policy has on the decision of someone to pay their way onto an overcrowded and barely-seaworthy vessel and risk their life to flee their home country.

The 'problem' may be in Italy or on the Med, or in the Timor Sea and Christmas Island, but the 'cause' is the war and persecution that these refugees are fleeing. Trying to fix this issue with domestic immigration policy is futile (not to mention a huge waste of taxpayer money) but despite this politicians continue to sell tougher border controls and inhumane deterrents as the only solution. And the electorate keeps lapping it up. With the result that we're currently keeping children in detention, in substandard conditions, with devastating and sickening results.
posted by joz at 6:22 AM on April 23, 2015




« Older Opting out.   |   Happy Bicycle Day! Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments