The deaths of 39 migrants in a freezer container has shocked the country. Basic humanity allows us all imagine how horrific it must be to watch someone you know freeze or suffocate to death.
We do not the know the reasons why people were willing to risk their lives to travel to a different part of the world. It could have been for political reasons – it could have been in the hope of a better life. We simply do not know.
And is it really important? Do we have to categorise people as ‘economic migrants’ or ‘political refugees’? These categories are an artifact of the modern Western world, where it is assumed that people cannot legitimately enter wealthier countries unless they first suffered political persecution. That is unless, they are highly skilled and needed by corporations.
The full horror that underpins this philosophy was revealed the day after the deaths in a debate in the European Parliament.
After news of the migrant deaths came through, politicians like Simon Coveney and Boris Johnson expressed their sympathy with the families. But during the European parliament, a different attitude was in evidence.
A resolution called for the “EU Member States to enhance proactive search and rescue operations by providing sufficient vessels and equipment specifically dedicated to search and rescue operations and personnel, along the routes where they can make an effective contribution to the preservation of lives”. It also asked “to step up their efforts in support of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean”.
The reason the resolution was tabled is that thousands of people are dying each year in the Mediterranean. Already, this year 1,000 people have lost their lives.
You would think that after the freezer deaths and in the certain knowledge that more people will drown, any half decent MEP with an ounce of humanity would vote for the resolution.
But, in fact, it the Centre Right parties united with the Far Right parties and it was defeated by two votes. Among those who voted against were four Fine Gael MEP. Let’s name this list of shame:
- Mairead McGuinness
- Maria Walsh
- Frances Fitzgerald
- Sean Kelly
Why would politicians, whose leaders express sympathy with the families of the 39 dead migrants, vote to stop rescues of drowning people?
The reason: they will let people die so that there a deterrent against migrating. Dead bodies floating in the Mediterranean is supposed to put poor people off coming to Europe.
Basic humanity demands a different approach. Europe should open its doors and welcome migrants. We should replace right wing politicians who trade off coded racism, with a political outlook that celebrates human diversity and freedom.