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Challenge Of Mediterranean Migrant Crisis (2)

The Mediterranean migrant tragedies have amplified the need for developed countries to show unity and resolve in helping to address the sad condition in different parts of the so-called Third World, particularly Africa

Okechukwu Emeh, Jr

So far, it is delightful that the EU has called on such European nations to take in 40,000 asylum seekers from Eritrea and Syria who landed in Italy and Greece after April 15 of this year over the next two years. There is much hope that this directive would help relieve some of the pressure on southern European states like Italy, Malta and Greece, which are kindly disposed to receiving vulnerable migrants.

Remarkably, Italy has borne the burden of Mediterranean migrants by doing incredible work trying to rescue as many as possible with her navy and coastguard, as well as accommodating most of them on her island of Lampedusa, which is closer to North Africa. It is also expected that member states of the EU would reconsider the more comprehensive search-and-rescue mission launched by that country last year for Mediterranean migrants, known as Mare Nostrum.

Other European states like the UK, apart from dismissing the mission as encouraging people smugglers who take illegal immigrants to Europe, said they could not afford to fund it, hence its replacement with the EU’s Triton surveillance operation, run by Frontex, the union’s border-control agency.

As an essential anchor for controlling the Mediterranean migrant boat crisis, the EU would need to enter into cooperation with the UN in the area of identifying, arresting and prosecuting the proliferating human smuggling operators from Libya blamed for exacerbating the crisis.

Interestingly enough, the world body has a binding protocol prohibiting the smuggling of migrants, which can enable law enforcement and judicial institutions of member countries to take concrete and immediate action against criminal gangs involved in such nefarious activities – as being contemplated by Niger, which her northern region of Agadez, home to drug traffickers and armed Islamist militant groups, some of them loyal to Al-Qaeda, is used to take would-be immigrants from West Africa to Libya for onward transportation to Europe.

No doubt, the Mediterranean migrant tragedies have amplified the need for developed countries to show unity and resolve in helping to address the sad condition in different parts of the so-called Third World, particularly Africa.

Of course, there is a dismal record of inaction and lethargy on the part of the West (Europe and North America) in terms of responding to heartrending events like monumental hunger and starvation in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia and Somalia) in 1984/85, genocide in Rwanda in 1994, subsisting brutal armed conflicts in the DR Congo and abysmal human rights violations in Isaias Aferwoki’s Eritrea that ought to shock and shame its civilisation.

In the light of this, former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain had warned during an international conference on Commission For Africa (CFA) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2004 that failure by the developed world to take urgent and firm action to help Africa escape bad governance, political instability, vicious conflict, economic collapse, debt overhang, extreme poverty, misery and despair would negatively affect the world by creating weak or failed states like Somalia.

Admittedly, such states could contribute to international insecurity through trans-national crimes like terrorism, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, fraud, counterfeiting of hard currencies, drug peddling, human trafficking and trade in contraband, artefacts and endangered species. Therefore, it is hoped that the UN, EU and other relevant international bodies would be actuated to contribute their quota towards formulating long-term workable development programmes for unstable and backward countries where most of the Mediterranean migrants originate.

These would include conflict resolution, peace-building, political liberalisation, democratic consolidation, good governance, the rule of law, human rights, institutional and structural reforms, viable economy, debt reprieve, foreign direct investments (FDIs), technology transfer, fair trade, poverty reduction, job creation, human capacity building, sustainable development and environmental conservation.

‘Such development programmes are of urgent necessity because a positively changed developing world would contribute to changing the face of the global system through international peace, stability, security and prosperity’. On the part of the countries that are the largest sources of Mediterranean migrants like Eritrea, Somalia and Libya, they should build momentum for tackling the factors earlier mentioned to be at the root of the crisis.

The imperative of doing so is imperative. In the first place, most of the migrants, apart from risking their lives to make the crossing to Europe, can encounter terrible predicaments like discrimination and abuse abroad.

Secondly, the mass emigration of Africans and those from other developing regions like Middle East is as damning indictment of their home governments for not showing moral responsibility to protect and provide for them.

Last but not least, such untoward development is tantamount to loss of much-needed human resources, which are often exploited for cheap labour and illegal jobs abroad like terrorism, scam, prostitution and drug trafficking.

In view of the foregoing, those countries whose citizens are involved in the dangerous sea crossings to Europe should be deeply concerned about this horrific situation that could impinge not only on the dignity of the human person of their citizens overseas, but also their image and reputation as caring and protective national states.


• Emeh, a social researcher based in Abuja, wrote in via okemehjr@ yahoo.com, Tel: 08036895746

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